Young Adult Dark Urban Fantasy Author ~

Posts tagged “Writing Advice

What’s in a Beta Reader? Part 2

My eye

My eye (Photo credit: neuroticcamel)

“I rolled my eyes around the room, searching for her.”

My beta red-flagged this sentence, and made her remarks in the margins.

“Unless your MC is physically removing her eyes from their sockets, she can’t roll them around the room. Or is that what you mean? Can she?”

Um, no.

No, she cannot physically remove her eyeballs, and roll them around the room. I had to laugh, and then rewrite the sentence. These are the tiny errors that we as writers, all caught up in our story, usually miss.

I write fantasy, so the MC removing her eyeballs from their sockets wouldn’t be too far-fetched. But, no, she can’t. Nor is that what I meant to say.

I meant to say that she gazed around the room. Looked around the room. Eyed the room.

Our betas are useful for finding a wide array of issues. This was one of my funnier ones. They aren’t always funny. But that is something to keep in mind when reading comments from a beta (or proofreader, or editor). Humor. Don’t hold so tightly to your story that you become blinded by what others tell you is wrong. They are supposed to find problems. And we are supposed to fix them.

Have you tried to roll your eyes across the room lately?

WRITE ON!

*Related Posts: What’s In A Beta Reader?


Don’t Think, Just Do.

My son, the skateboarder, is also a football player. Little league. He plays defense. Really well. On occasion, he plays on offense. Wide receiver. He’s a great receiver—in the front yard. On the field however, during a game, it’s hit or miss. 50/50. I told him it was in his head, and I believe that. He thinks too much. It’s all psychological. “Don’t think,” I told him, “Just do.”

I ran a post the other day, The Transitions, and talked about the need of an outline. Any kind of outline really. Something to lead you along incase you run astray, and lose your way. I am a pantster at heart. I believe in outlining loosely. Although I like having a guide, I feel it’s important to not rely too heavily on what you think your story should be.  So..in that light, this post may sound a bit contradictory. It’s not.

My issue with traditional outlines is the feeling of being ‘locked in’ to an idea. For me, writing becomes the most difficult when I feel like I am trying to force the pieces of this massive novel-puzzle into holes that don’t fit. Sometimes even your best ideas, dialogue streams, and world building skills, simply don’t work. Sometimes you need to loosen the grip and let the story carry you. Let your imagination run wild. You would be amazed at what your mind can create when you let go of the boundaries.

Three Worlds

Image via Wikipedia

When you get to know your characters—really know them, they will lead you, not the other way around. Everytime I feel myself getting stuck, hitting a wall, I ask myself, “What would Layla do? What would she say?” Layla is the main character in my novel—something I haven’t mentioned until now. I know her very well after almost two years of writing. Well enough that after my 6th draft, banging my head against the wall, and wanting to pull my hair out—I stopped thinking so much, and let her do the talking. Some writers think that sounds insane. While others, know exactly what I’m saying.

When stopped thinking so much, and let Layla start talking, the whole scope of my story changed, and became alive. It wasn’t me telling the story anymore, it was her showing her world—leading the way. And….it became easier to write. Yup. Sure did.

That’s not to say that I went completely astray of the ideas I had loosely outlined for my story in the very beginning, only that I allowed those ideas to stay fluid.

There is a negative with being locked in to a specific idea when you write. Well….I should rephrase that. There is a negative when you write fantasy and paranormal. These stories aren’t built on traditional ideas. They are built on wild imaginations. In order to create alter universes, planes, and worlds—we need to let go of what we think the story should be, and allow it to be what it can be. Big difference. Let your thoughts take you, let your characters take you. Writing is about allowing yourself to be transported.

“Don’t think, just do.” Then edit. 😉

WRITE ON, WRITERS.

(**after drafting this post on Saturday morning, my son caught a 30 yard touchdown pass. His team won the league championship.)


A Week In Links

I invest a ludicrous amount of time reading. Whether I read novels, blogs, craft books or research material, I always try to find useful or inspiring bits of information each week. And then I save them. Publishing is the topic of conversation this week. Here are the must reads:

J.A. Konrath has an insightful MUST READ post up on his blog, A Newbies Guide To Self-Publishing. His post:  Amazon Will Destroy You

Kristen Lamb’s post over on her blog, Warrior Writers, talks about The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm–Bracing For Impact

And how could I leave out Chuck Wendig? Check out his take on whether or not FREE is truly FREE in the world of E-books. Is Free A Price We Can Pay? On his blog, Terrible Minds. And be sure to read the plethora of comments that follow.

Good Day Writers 😉


What’s in a Beta Reader?

Everything.

Writing

It took about four months before I mustered up the courage to let anyone read the first chapters of my current novel. That was back in August of 2010. I’d been writing since April of that year, and my book was nowhere–and I mean nowhere–near ready for viewing. Even if that viewer was my mom. Now, I realize that everyone says they let their mom read their book first because, of course, our mothers will go easy on us if it sucks. Not my mom. I’m not saying she flat-out told me it was awful, but she didn’t tell me what I was hoping to hear either.

I wanted my mom to read it first because I needed real feedback from an avid reader. My mom also happens to do a lot of editing. The first reviews weren’t good. Looking back, she was 100% correct. The book was a fledgling written by a poet and short story dabbler, not a seasoned novelist.

I tucked my tail between my legs, swallowed my pride, and listened to everything she had to say. And then I used it all. I studied and researched and let the ideas in my head germinate and flow.  I wrote and I wrote until I was sick of it. Until I almost gave up.

It has been a year and a half since that time and my novel has gone through at least eight drafts. Easily. After I’d tweaked, edited, hated it, and loved it, I put it back in my moms possession. And cringed a little.

I have three beta readers now, all doing slightly different things, all slightly different viewpoints, coming from different genre preferences and widely different age groups. I think the wide scope is necessary for a real perspective. I was terrified to let my words, my characters–my world, go. Everything in those pages is me. Everything in all our books as writers, is us. Our imagination, our thoughts—our creation. What if my betas hated my story? What would that say about me? I let it go, despite my trepidation, and faced the fear.

If they did hate the story, if my characters were whack and my voice was worse–I kind of needed to know.

What’s in a Beta Reader? If you’re lucky, a trusted reader who will give it to you straight.

I waited a long time after the initial beta read back in 2010 to release my chapters again. I was afraid to hear the critiques–to hear I wasn’t any good after close to two years of sweat and tears. But how would I ever know, if I was too afraid to let go? And if I was awful at writing novels, well…there was only one way to change that— keep writing, keep learning, and keep putting myself out there.

What’s in a Beta Reader? Your audience. Who without, you have no readership. So ask yourself, who are you writing for? I can say with all my heart, I write for myself. But when you decide to go live, and publish your work, that changes a bit. I write because I love it. And somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to do more than write stories to myself. So, I would be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t also writing for my readers. And they, as well as I, deserve the best book I can put out. That’s where the Betas come in 😉

WRITE ON!


A Week In Links

I invest a ludicrous amount of time reading. Whether I read novels, blogs, craft books or research material, I always try to find useful or inspiring bits of information each week. And then I save them. Here are this weeks must reads:

One of THE BEST pieces of writing advice I have ever read is written by Chuck Wendig.  His blog, Terrible Minds, is a must read. Here is his incredibly inspiring post:

25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing: Terrible Minds

Wendig’s blog is R rated, so if you are easily squeamish look the other way. He is however, an amazing writer and accomplished author, and his writing advice is second to none.

J.A. Konrath has an excellent post up on his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, The Myth Of The Bestseller. You can read it here: A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing

Konrath’s approach is direct and to the point. He is a numbers guy and a known name in the world of self publishing. Check out his thoughts if you haven’t yet.