Fiendish Friday: Beta

Have you ever noticed when someone likes you as a person they never want to come right out and say your book sucks. They use phrases that when you boil them down sound like:

-I hate your characters

-Your plot is boring

-the sex scenes are pointless

-and I don’t like that you made the girl a bad guy.

wow. thanks. Would have been shorter just to say: I hated it.

So I get this feedback from my first beta reviewer and I tell my husband I just got my first beta feedback on the spy novel.

“Oh how was it?”

I rattle off what I typed above and he says, “Babs?”

Holy crud how did you know that? Did I tell you she was betaing for me?

No I just thought who you might ask and who might say that if you did.

Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off.


What’s the most unusual way someone has told you your work stunk?

Wednesday Writer’s Update 6/29

I decided to stop calling this Writer’s Cafe since my chances of making it regularly this summer are slim. The work around for the no Wednesday sitter issue will be to go after my husband gets home from work I think. But since some weeks he’s home by 640, which would make me an hour late-not too bad, and some weeks he’s home at 815-LOL. Yeah. It’s hard for me to have things be so up in the air. I am a planner. That’s how I handle all that I do, by having a plan.

Which now that I write that, makes me laugh as I am a huge panster when it comes to my writing. LOL. Maybe that’s all the spontaneity my life can accept. hrm…file that under things to mull over when I have the spare time. cough. right….moving on…

I usually tell a funny story that happened at Cafe but since I don’t have any of those right now….Monday morning my hubs shaved his goatee off. My son told him it was weird. Then later in the car I was explaining an idea to my son and he says, “That’s weird mom. Not like dad without his goatee weird, but weird.” bwahahahahha

I’ve decided to report on my stated 2016 goals each Wednesday for a little prod of accountability.

– Participate in one flash fiction challenge per month.

√ Negatory. And June is almost over. Sigh. Well, no one is perfect. And Friday is another month. LOL

– Prepare and teach “Nano to Publish”.

√ Yup. I’m super proud of this little group that’s ripped the band-aid off and are moving forward. It takes guts to put your work out there to be critiqued, then beta’d, then to publish or seek a publisher, but they’re doing it.

– Any time I am not actively working on my 2015 Nano Novel, write 2500 words per week on my spy novel until it is done. (After four years, it’s time to put this mess to bed.)

√ So first draft is done and out to Beta. I have four readers this first go round and a couple of people already asking to be in the second one. I’m breaking it down, first go round is for other writers who want to give me writerly feedback instead of reader feedback. Second go round is for the reader experience. If you want in, let me know.

Non writing goals

– Prepare and teach two classes at the coop for the 2016-2017 school year.

√ Actually working on this, reading a non fiction book which may or may not be applicable. Have to wait til I’m done. LOL

– Take better care of my body, ie. stop compulsively painting, crocheting, and writing until my back or shoulder is so tore I can barely use either.

√ Sadly I have had almost no time to compulsively do anything this week. The Club. Oh, the Club. LOL

– yoga daily.

√ No way, not even close. Right now I’m at some sort of three times a week 2 1/2 hour work out situation, which is so not ideal but what I can get on the schedule right now. I keep thinking another couple of weeks and the club will be all reasonable and manageable again. Another couple of weeks and I can spend 30 minutes a day on club business instead of what I’m averaging now which is four hours. Yes, FOUR A DAY. Bleh.

Wednesday Writer’s Cafe 6/22

There is no point in waiting til tonight to post this, I’m won’t be at Cafe. Once again I am dealing with stuff for the club, compounded by my lack of baby sitter. I need to find a solution to that little kerfluffle at some point.

In the mean time, I have stupendous news. I finished my spy novel. Yes, you read that right, after 4.5 years of work, I am done with my first draft. ROFL

It will not be another 4.5 years til publish. With a little luck, how about 4.5 months til publish. Like that?

Want to help? I need two rounds of beta readers. I know what you’re thinking, critique partner, hello? Ok, so for my first book that was my hubs. That worked pretty well except he’s slow as hell to get it back to me, he has a full life and a demanding wife, oh wait…

It was him for my second book too. Which didn’t work well, he knew all the twists ahead of time because he knows how my brain works which led to me dropping that book. So, skipping the hubs til later in the process.

First round of beta, I want writers, mostly. I have a great reviewer all queued up to sink her teeth in. So my fellow writers, who wants to tear it all to pieces?

Don’t worry my lovely readers, your turn is coming. Soon, I promise.

I’ve decided to report on my stated 2016 goals each Wednesday at cafe for a little prod of accountability.

– Participate in one flash fiction challenge per month.

√ Nothing for June, but hey I finished my Spy Novel, cut me some slack. LOL

– Prepare and teach “Nano to Publish”.

√ Rolling ahead. We got a new guy last time. But that’s going well. I was able to get him a critique partner and he’ll just be five months behind the rest of us. No worries. I’ll post about the class this upcoming weekend.

– Any time I am not actively working on my 2015 Nano Novel, write 2500 words per week on my spy novel until it is done. (After four years, it’s time to put this mess to bed.)

√ I did it, I did it, I said that I would do it and indeed I did.

Non writing goals

– Prepare and teach two classes at the coop for the 2016-2017 school year.

√ Yeah, yeah, I’ve done jack all on this this week.

– Take better care of my body, ie. stop compulsively painting, crocheting, and writing until my back or shoulder is so tore I can barely use either.

√ Check.

– yoga daily.

√ Er, getting back to that. I got a little side tracked last week.

Weekend Workshop – Nano To Publish

The Nano to Publish workshop happened in April even though I was busy posting for the A to Z Challenge. We talked mostly about how to find beta readers and what kind of readers we should be looking for.

First thing to consider, writers will give you write it better feedback. They might even give you feedback that focuses on how they would have written the novel. This is marginally beneficial. Another set of eyes is always good but don’t get all writer feedback on your beta, that’s what your critique partner is for.

Get readers for your beta. Ie, People who READ. In a perfect world you’d have two who read your genre and at least one who doesn’t. Readers tell you how they as a reader experienced your novel and that’s ultimately your focus.

You also need at least one eagle eyed, anal retentive line editor to catch every oops. Every double space, wrong punctuation, misspelling, incorrect word choice, etc.

I also spent a bit of time talking about your mom. Your Spouse. Your best friend.

They all love you. Ergo their feedback is less useful. Why? Because they will like your book because you wrote it. And even if they honestly think its the best thing ever, will you believe them, give the whole love thing? And if they do hate it, and they’re honest, how will that effect the relationship long term? Think carefully before using this avenue.

So where to find these bastions of honest virtue? Well if you have a blog, you can try asking for readers there. Your followers already like your style. At least a couple of them might like to read something longer from you.

How much beta do you like as a writer? Do you use the same readers every time? Where do you find them? Inquiring minds want to know.

Weekend Workshop: Sunday Edition

I didn’t like the scene Lucey wanted me to rewrite for Chapter 11 of Story Sense. If you’re interested it’s about immigrants moving across America on a train. Bleh.

Instead I spent some time rewriting my own novel, the one I am aiming to publish this year, in about oh 6 weeks. Gulp.

I have 4 sets of Beta feedback. Three give some measure of major issues wrong. One is a full line edit. I am combining each of these with my work. So I read word for word the line edits while double checking the other three for their comments on a particular chapter. It takes a varying amount of time. Some chapters fly by in half an hour. Some take eons. At the same time I catch little mistakes that even my line editor missed. LOL. I’m about 31 chapters in, if you’re wondering.

All of this has given me a weird problem. Everyone seems to really like the book. um….It’s my first novel. Everything I have read has prepared me for my first novel to suck. To need major rework before I could even consider publication and yet….

Should I just file this under first world author problems and shut up you bleep bleep or….do I need more critical beta readers? Thoughts?

Weekend Workshop Saturday Edition

Thanks for tuning in after my weekend off. In the mean time I have skimmed through Chapter 8: Writing for the Camera, Chapter 9: Writing Stage Directions, and Chapter 10: Script Format. I have decided to skip all three chapters here as they are very specific to script writing for film and television and this is very definitely about writing novels. So onto Chapter 11: Rewriting from Story Sense by Paul Lucey.

I am sure most people have heard for the first 100 pages an editor/agent is looking for a reason to say no, after that they are looking for a reason to say yes. Which means as writers we have to spot the weaknesses in our work and rewrite in until they hang in there to page 101. Novels are not written, they are rewritten.

Seek critics who want to help you more than they want to please you. You want your beta readers to be honest, not gloss over the yucks and emphasize the positives. You want the opposite. You want someone who wants you to write the best novel you can and will be unfailingly honest about everything they see.

Is there excessive or repetitive dialogue? Is your dialogue sharp and witty?

Do all the characters serve a purpose in the story?

Do you have thoughtful content about something or is it feel good entertainment? There’s nothing wrong with either direction but it helps to know who you are trying to appeal to.

Is the conflict productive, moving the plot and prizing secrets from the characters?

Chances are if you were intrigued enough by your story idea to spend weeks or months (dare I say years?) working it into a novel, other people will be intrigued too. Stop flitting from idea to idea and devote yourself; time, energy, and passion, into the work. It shows.

If your characters are boring, give them something to work with. Get to know them better. Give them the flaw that makes you hate your mother in law or love your best friend.

Is the story boring? Did you over explain? Are you telling or showing?

Are your characters predictable, known, stereotypes? Are you trying so hard to do the opposite of a stereotype that you become a predictable stereotype anyway?

If nothing is working….take it apart, down to the nuts and bolts if you must, down to chapters, down to separate scenes in chapters. Then throw out what is troublesome and put whats left back together with scenes that work. It’s a ton of work, but if your story idea is really important to you, invest the time and trouble.

In the end, someone will always be a naysayer. Someone will tell you it can’t be done. You can’t do it because x, y, z. And you’ll be tempted to give them some example where it has been done. Don’t bother. Save that witty repartee for your novel.

After all, if living well is the best revenge, then publishing is the best stinging comeback.

People are strange, when they’re friends

and you’ve asked them to beta read,

people are strange when they are readers,

reading your work that you love, they are straaaannnnge.

I love people who volunteer to beta. Love them. Sometimes I don’t so much like what they say. And not always because it is so true it stings. Sometimes….it’s just….painful. I’ve been thinking a lot about something I heard a panelist say sort of under her breathe to another panelist at Norwescon “There is nothing worse than a beta reader who’s comments are all designed to make your voice as a writer more like their voice.” I don’t think she meant this comment to be heard by everyone but I sure heard it in every sense of the word.

I want to give some beat feedback examples, and I’m going to exaggerate to make the points clear.

-I got feedback once where the reader thought I should remove all the footnotes in my book. Now that is clearly a stylistic choice, one that I embrace. One that plays a seminal role in what defines me as a writer. To remove that flattens my work.

-“It is the worst thing I have ever read.” Really? Fabulous. Why? “It just is.”

This tells the author NOTHING. It is the worst commentary ever. It just is.

Remember when your mother told you if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Yeah, try this, if you can’t say something specific, don’t say anything at all.

-“I hate this. It’s horrible.” um, ok, can you tell me why? “I hate spy novels.” or “I hate smut.” or “I hate romance.”

I don’t know about other authors, but I can assure you, I warn every person who is beta reading for me what the novel is about, in general. Don’t say yes if you hate that genre of writing. You’ll just hate my book and waste both our time.

Ok so those were some pretty heavy simplifications. But all have happened to me in one form or another at some time in my writing career. So it happens, a lot.

Let’s talk about how to give good beta.

First, what did the author ask you for? Do they want a full line by line edit for grammar and punctuation, plot overview, time line correction, character assassination, etc?

I have two superb line editors. I never ask for that, except from them. I ask for where the story breaks the flow, places you were confused, things that seemed out of place, when did you fall out of the story and why.

Second, are you criticizing their voice, their style, their way of writing, or are you finding issues that interfered with your suspension of disbelief?

Third, do you seek to find fault or do you seek to help them produce the best novel they can write?

Actually this last one is not bad for life in general.

I need a caffeine IV

It’s just one of those mornings. Nothing really went wrong. But time was having a good laugh at my expense. And there simply wasn’t enough coffee, in the state to make it all work.

I’ve been staying up way too late in the last few days. I finished my novel for beta last week. I have six beta readers, which seems adequate but I could take one or two more (Deb?). But the void in my ambition laced stress caused me to fall into a Hawaii Five O binge. Yeah I know the show is mindless. That’s the point. Pretty, pretty boys, running around shooting guns and blowing things up. It smooths out my mind when I have brain hole due to project wrap up.

Immediately after that I began staying up too late to beta read the cutest little novel by a ten year old I have ever read. Trust me, people, this kid will be getting a publishing contract before I do. He has a quirky unique idea. Plus he’s a kid. YA is so hot right now. At least I will be able to say I knew him when and more over I introduced him to Nanowrimo. sigh.

So my new conundrum is this. While I wait for feedback I am planning to dive back into my half drafted spy novel. The one I worked on for about 18 months before I hated the characters so much I was forced to send them on vacation for a few months. Yep, 18 months and it’s still not done.  So I’m picking it back up. But should I plan to write it for Nano this year? (Third time is a charm?) Or accept the glaringly obvious truth, this spy novel is just not good nano material. If I plan to write something else this nano, I need to figure out what that might be and research it. And there’s the rub, what might I write this November?

Oh, Glorious Finale

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen it is so. I have finished editing for Beta.

This is not to say the book is finished. I fully expect to have to make many, many changes after my Beta readers get done with me. And I need to fill in a few more bits here and there, names and what not. But for all intents and purposes, I am done.

So here it is, the first five people to comment and tell me why they want to beta this glorious mess get a copy.

Keep in mind this is a click lit/romance set it 1946 England. If that isn’t your cup of tea then don’t beta this book, you’ll hate it and the feedback will be less than useful.

If you think you might like that but aren’t sure, check my posts from last November. I put clips on each one and that should give you a bit of flavor. A taste teaser so to speak.

I am moderately proud of this work as it is the first novel I have finished. Also moderately embarrassed as it’s romance chick lit. But I think it’s funny. And really it’s only meant to be a happy little vanilla pudding for your brain read. So eat up or read up. I’m all a twist in my metaphors now aren’t I?

Did I mention I still need a name for this opus?