Beta Reading Process Part 3: The Data

This is the final part of an ongoing series about the beta reading process. To read the previous entries, visit Part I and Part II.

All right. You’ve wrapped up the beta reading process, and depending on the number of beta readers you had, you might have a lot of data to pore over. It can overwhelming, particularly if there is a lot of constructive comments. Heck, it might also have you seeing red because your manuscript is your special baby. That is why you, dear writer, need to take a deep breath and step back. Sure, browse the comments, read all of them from each beta reader, but don’t act on them, at least not yet. Continue reading

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Writing, waiting for a diagnosis and Grant

I don’t have a diagnosis. I just have a swelling thyroid that has nodules. And it sucks.

My doctor for the past few years has always commented on my thyroid, that it looked big to her. Blood work, however, has always come back stellar and I’d felt normal. Then this last time (this past April) in addition to blood work, she wanted an ultrasound. I heehawed about the ultrasound, thinking largely of the expense, but then my thyroid did something it hadn’t done before — it swelled. Suddenly, I’m having trouble sipping from a straw; of course, panic probably didn’t help.

I instantly scheduled the ultrasound, but couldn’t get in until after a work trip to Tampa, FL  — joy, right? So here, I was waiting and dreading. Continue reading

Beta Readers, A Method

Beta readers provide feedback prior to querying or before self-publishing. They often provide invaluable pointers regarding a manuscript, though some might also be slackers. It happens.

Currently, I’m wrapping up additional revisions to my sci-fi novel, Heritage Lost. This has been a long ongoing project that undoubtedly, if you routinely follow my blog, you’ve read about and might be wondering “How long is she going to ticker with it?” Well, after continuing to hit a brick wall in querying process, I dialed back and decided to complete a portion of the writing process that most writers complete: aka the beta reader process.

I skipped over this not because I hadn’t seen any value to the process, but due to some personal hang-ups (I’d been burned once) and my alpha readers had all been extremely positive. However, when I received a string of basic form letter rejections, I decided I needed more eyes on it — specifically reader eyes. My alternative motive was I’m deeply considering self-publishing. It is still my goal to query more agents and a couple of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, but I’m also viewing self-publishing as more viable, and I wanted an idea of how my book might be received by a variety of readers.

So I embarked on the beta reading process and gleaned quite a bit from the experience, with some readers confirming some of the concerns I harbored on a few points after my last read-through. I also learned a lot about the beta reading process, and what I’d do differently next time. Continue reading

I’m not dead yet!

There's still some life in me, even after this summer!

There’s still some life in me, even after this summer!

 

Whew! It’s been a long time since my last post–about three months, actually. But don’t fear, there’s still life in me; it’s just that summer is always hectic at my place of employment. Luckily, it is wrapping up, and we are now down to two special insert tabs, so there aren’t a lot of extra assignments to worry about on top of my normal assignments. With this in mind, I feel positive that I will be able to resume posting regularly again.

For this return post, I figured I’d update everyone on my current projects and what else I’ve been up to before returning to the regular writing-themed posts. Continue reading

The mobile writer

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Even though I'm at a market, I'm connected ... always connected.

I often find myself marveling at how wired in I am as a writer. There’s the various Google apps that connect me to my writing no matter where I’m at; Evernote allows access to my writing notes no matter what device I have; and, of course, I have my social media and email apps.

As a matter of a fact, I’m currently writing this post at a farmers market while helping out my dad: completely connected in even when not at home or on one of my traditional device,  aka the desktop or netbook.

And recently I’ve been considering adding to my plethora of apps and software with Scrivener. Back when they had the Windows beta, I was one of the testers. I liked, and this is despite it not having all the bells and whistles.

Yet, when the official version came out,  I never got around to buying it,  probably since I failed to capture the NaNoWriMo discount. Still, I’ve continued to eye it,  especially after continually hearing such great things from my peeps on Twitter.

However, I then get to thinking: why? Between Evernote, Word and Google Drive, I have a pretty good thing going that allows me access and productivity in a variety of scenarios. Is it really worth it? Sure, Scrivener would organize everything into one location,  but really, my spread across various apps is not too messy.

Am I missing out by not using Scrivener? Is there something that it offers that I’m really not factoring into my equations? Please share your experiences with Scrivener below, particularly features that you really love.

A writer’s reflections . . .

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My silly boy loves the binder

I’ve buckled down the hatches and have really been polishing up my SciFi manuscript. My printout revisions are complete, my rewrite of chapter one is done, and now all that remains to be done is implementing the printout edits into the electronic master copy. At this rate, I’ll be on schedule to finish and submit by the end of May/early June.

So far, the working title is “Heritage Lost,” and at this moment, it looks like that title will stick through to the submission process. I have to say I am relieved. To date, this project has been perhaps my most challenging. It was my first foray into SciFi; I started it after coming off my longtime fantasy series, meaning the characters were strangers to me; and did I say it was my first time writing science fiction! SciFi is hard. I don’t think enough people appreciate all the hard work writers of the genre put in to their pieces in order to create good science fiction.

Now don’t get me wrong, my novel is no where close to being hard SF (I admire writers who can pull off that category), but I still had to put in several hours to create believable planets, species, politics, cultures, technology, etc. that would not go beyond my readers’  suspension of disbelief.  And believability is something I hope I’ve achieved, though I will always second guess myself on that.

No, “Heritage Lost” finds itself squarely in the the soft SF category, focusing on societal issues and characters. Of the subgenres, it probably best fits social science fiction and feminist science fiction. It addresses some challenging topics, particularly loss of cultural identity, expansionism, war, terrorism, radicalization, and gender issues — particularly as the series progresses. They are topics I hope I handle well and with the gravity they deserve. One of my main aims when tackling them is to do so in terms that nothing is black and white. People make varying decisions for varying reasons: One person’s wrong is another person’s right.

“Heritage Lost,” as its title hints, deals more with the loss of cultural, even personal, identity than the other themes, which grow as the series progresses. The main character’s personal and cultural identity is a mystery to her, lost in a war she’s too young to remember. Her lack of a past, which she’s ignored for a long time, is dredged up after she rescues a toddler who now finds himself in a similar situation. Along the way, she finds herself losing another identity, her home, her career, and her future.

I’m very hopeful this novel will be able to break into the publishing world, but I realize luck and timing will have to be on my side. I plan to try the traditional route, but I am also intrigued by the indie approach. Stories of success, like “Wool,” make self-publishing seem very tantalizing. “Wool,” for those unfamiliar with it, started as a standalone short story written by Hugh Howey, who later expanded the premise into a series. It became widely popular and was eventually picked up by Simon & Schuster while its movie rights were purchased by 20th Century Fox. And topping it off, Howey still retains full rights to his work, meaning he can still distribute it online. Who wouldn’t want to maintain rights and creative direction of their book?!

Creative freedom and maintaining full rights is very appealing, and I think that would be my main reason for choosing self-publishing, if I go that route. However, I have eight potential leads for the traditional method. First I’m going to submit the book to one of the biggest publishers of the genre. I probably have a snowflakes chance in hell of being accepted there, but I figure shoot high. My list also contains some smaller presses, too.

 I don’t know how many I will query, especially since the draw of self-publishing is growing. But I figure, take one step at a time: It will all work out in the end.

Rethink rewrites

Rewrites are just taking the imperfect and making them into beautiful birds.

Rewrites are just taking the imperfect and making them into beautiful birds.

Rewrites have a negative connotation in the writing world, and when listening to some writers talk about them, you’d suspect they were on par with a root canal! I’m well up to my head in revisions for my SciFi novel right now, but you won’t catch me griping about them. Revisions and rewrites are just a natural part of the writing process. They are only as bad as you make them.

That is why I encourage fellow writers to rethink rewrites: They are your friends! Part of my equanimity toward rewrites comes from the fact that I had to literally rewrite most of my fantasy novel. I had made all my revisions, polished it up, and then BAM! My flashdrive died taking all my hard work with it. After that, rewriting small sections or even chapters is nothing. One of the things that got me through that crisis was this thought: It will be better than it was.

“It will be better than it was” should be every writer’s mantra when facing revisions and rewrites. No first draft is ever perfect. Mine are laden with spelling errors, incomplete thoughts where my fingers jumped ahead along with my brain, redundancies, repeated sentence structures, and other general errors. I type fast, and when doing that, there are going to be errors. That is OK! That is what the writing process is all about: getting words on page. And conversely the editing process is about polishing your story, catching errors, expanding on themes that you started to explore but didn’t fully give them their due, and so much more.

However, writers need to be honest with themselves when approaching revisions and rewrites. They have to accept their baby is imperfect, that sometimes they have to kill their darlings. This can be tough for some writers, particularly those new to craft. So instead of imagining yourself as a murderer, picture yourself as a momma bird; sometimes, you just have to push your babies out of the nest in order to ensure their survival and ability to thrive in a cruel world. You don’t want your book wallowing in its own filth: You want it to soar.

Perhaps, the best way to achieve that goal is to bring in an editor and beta readers. They can root out issues with a manuscript, which in turn can spark rewrites. For instance, I will be performing a partial rewrite on my first chapter. When three beta readers (one of which is a professional editor) say it’s slow, it is slow and needs addressed. Heck, when I went through my printout, I knew they were right. There are other areas that I will be addressing, too, many of which I knew were problem even before I sent out the manuscript to my beta readers; however, I knew they would offer suggestions that would get my brain fluids going and provide me with a new viewpoint: the viewpoint of a reader.

Beta readers and editors have a tendency of opening our eyes to aspects of a work that don’t work while also providing valuable insight into possible fixes or alternative directions. Without a doubt, they are valuable tools in the revision process; however, some writers take things too far and do everything beta readers say to an extreme.

To those writers, I provided these sagely words: Take all advice with a pinch of salt. Not all advice or critique will be something you want to implement into your final draft. With that said, take all critique, the good and the bad, courteously. Then, when it comes to final revisions, consider whether certain advice works with the story you are trying to tell.

The main key to rethinking revisions remains the need to switch your mindset. Editing and rewrites can be fun! They allow you to tweak or play with sections of your novel — to try something new. I will be playing with one of my later fight scenes in my SciFi novel. While rereading it via printout, it struck me as being flat, especially compared to another fight/flight scene earlier in the novel. I hope to try out several different changes in the scene to hopefully make it more exciting and suspenseful. It truly will be fun, not painful — and that is all about mindset. I know when I’m done it — not just the scene, but the novel — will be better.

So rather than focusing on the present and all the effort, which can be daunting, involved in revisions, focus on the outcome: a piece that tells a good story, is actually enjoyable for the reader, showcases your talent, and possibly gets you noticed by a publisher.

So godspeed on your edits.