Tag Archives: Fiction

The priceless value of beta readers. 

Last October I finally nagged two beta readers for my fantasy novel. I’d had a couple of people on and off, but, as we all know, life tends to get in the way, and it is hard for people to read things for pleasure when they are going into nursing school or going back to school to get their masters degree, no matter trying to digest and critique something that isn’t scholarly, and work a full-time job. But, as luck would have it, one of my original beta readers graduated last year and I approached her again about reading. She jumped at it, being really excited the first time she started reading my novel. She ended up asking her cousin as well about reading, and after I made sure they not only had the will but the actual time to devote to this project, we started. 

I sent ten chapter increments. My friend’s cousin asked me about editing, and I told her to edit to whatever degree she felt comfortable, because a) I’m poor, & b) I wasn’t going to load more work onto someone that they didn’t want to do.

My first reader is one I’d kind of wanted for a while, which is someone to read just for the entertainment value. I’m pretty sure that my second reader is going to be my editor for the rest of my life, 😉 and I love having these two ladies in my corner.

For me, at least, having two types of personalities and two types of readers is hugely beneficial. Just as there are different types of authors and writing styles, so are there readers. Some people like to get into the mechanics of it all, and some people merely want a book to read on the beach, and don’t always care if point A leads to point B to point C, and I think that’s true no matter the genre.

The other immensely valuable thing about beta readers is the honesty. Placing your work in the hands of someone who has no emotional attachment to it is a big step for an author. Digesting everything they come back with is another BIG step. I admit that while I agreed my betas’ points on a lot of things, there were sections that I kinda bristled at the comments. I had to remember that this is what I was asking for.

What works, what doesn’t. Is there something out of character for someone ten or fifteen chapters in, after you’ve gotten a good sense of the character? Are they believable little creations, in a believable world? Does Point A go to Point C without skipping Point B, because in some novels, especially the ones more on the ‘epic’ scale, it can be hard to remember some minute detail that happened twelve chapters ago that comes back into play and having it work. And when you’ve read your own writing a hundred times, it’s easy for your author brain to fill in a mistake without it actually being on the page.

So if you’ve written something, anything, and you think one day in the future you might want five people or eight thousand people to read it, go find someone else to read it first. Preferably more than one. Give them a purpose in reading, and don’t be afraid to ask for the feedback you need, which is not the same as what you want. And, yes, I know that most professionals advise against using family or friends as ‘honest’ readers, because I’m sure that some people’s family would gush praise no matter what. Thankfully, I have a best friend who will always gush about what she loves and will absolutely not on everything else. In, like, all aspects of our now twenty-five year friendship. 

It’s been several months since my betas and I finished the first read through, and I got a bit sidetracked (stuck! Damn you Chapters 22 & 42!!!) in my editing/revising, but I’ve gotten back on track. I know it can take me longer to get some of this done than others, but I am accepting that fact more and more, and that’s allowing me to not beat myself up as much on my writing progress.  

As for those sections that weren’t not working for my in-depth editing beta—it will happen to you. It’s fine to be a bit taken aback, or to even resist changing something you think works. But take a few deep breaths, or a day or week even, and go back to those concerns. I now have some much-improved and truer chapters than I did, and in a couple of those, I really didn’t have to change as much as I thought. Sometimes, the smallest solutions have the biggest impact.

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Story A Day May #31

Woo hoo! Totally did it! Even with the six days I missed, I’m pretty darn happy with how the month went. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in my created fantasy world writing that I forgot, or more often feel, that I have no other stories inside me. It has been refreshing to let go of that space and get out of my head, and it has given me the added bonus of boosting my much needed final revision/editing of the last six chapters of my novel. Thanks so much to everyone who has been following along this month. I’m sure many of you already know how amazingly (and needlessly!) scary it can be to throw your fiction out into the world, which is what makes these past four weeks even more wonderful. Enjoy the last story of May, and I’ll have a progress report in the next couple of days on whatever I feel like writing about. 🙂

May 31, 2015

The kettle whistled. She turned the burner knob off quickly, knowing that the louder it became, the more likely the dog was to bark. The dog did not care for the high-pitched, insistent squeal of steam.

A lavender teabag lay nestled at the bottom of the ceramic mug. It wasn’t a small mug, although she had one of those brown hotel mugs, taken once out of a want to always have one of the plain, almost Middle Ages looking item. Apt to drink out of it while reading fantasy novels or imagining fantastical characters who carried swords. So simple, the shape of a mug or teacup. Simple and pleasing. This one wasn’t over sized either, not that she didn’t have plenty of those kind.

A red glaze, warm in tone, colored this mug. She liked it for its reminiscent upside-down bell shape and the smoothness of its surface. She liked the art of making hot tea, and the vessel must reflect the mood.

This particular evening, she felt contemplative. Settled and content. A long day after little sleep turned less exhaustive by a simple yet delicious dinner, and time spent playing tug-of-war with the dogs in the cooling evening air. She’d picked a sprig of lavender from the garden, just to rub the leaves so she could smell it on her fingers. The fresh sprig rested on the kitchen windowsill, reminding her again of her imagined world and all those characters swirling about her head.

She added sugar to the mug, and poured steaming water from the red kettle. The fragrant tea begging to be tasted, though it would have to wait a few minutes. There is simply no rushing tea.

Photo May 31, 10 00 03 PM


Story A Day May #30

Two bitty bits of flash fiction today. I’m currently in a crazed state as I was cleaning up my iTunes and decided to go ahead and update my phone as well … and now my phone is in recovery mode, so I’m going to post this and then continue to quietly freak out. 🙂 Enjoy!

May 30, 2015

Rush Hour Traffic

             “Wow! Look at that!”

I pointed with my right index finger. My husband followed the line of my finger as I stared at the sculptured shrubbery of the high end jewelry store parking lot.

“Yeah, that’s been there.”

“I’ve never noticed it. I thought it was a giant butterfly before I noticed the horse. That’s cool,” I said, still peering out of the window while we sat in traffic.

“Yep. It’s a Pegasus. I think it’s a Pegasus. Or a unicorn? No, because Pegasus’ don’t have horns, do they?” he said.

“Uh, nooo,” I said.

“”Cause unicorns fart rainbows and vomit cotton candy and all that crap.”

“Yes. That’s exactly what they do. Gosh, honey, everyone knows that.”

 

Strange Beliefs

             “Elyssa thinks that mice grow up to be rats,” said Ann.

“She does not,” said Erin.

Ann nodded, laughing. “She really does. I’ll prove it.”

She walked to the phone and paged for their coworker to come to the cosmetics counter. Ann started telling Erin different stories about their manager. It was a few minutes before Elyssa made it over to them, and by that time both Erin and Ann were laughing loudly.

“What’s up?” asked Elyssa.

“You seriously don’t think mice grow up to be rats, do you?” asked Erin.

“I don’t care what you guys say, I still believe that,” said Elyssa.


Story A Day May #22

I had a long and weird conversation with a customer at work today, (the things random strangers will say!) so that is the reason for today’s bit of fictional exchange. 😄


May 22, 2015

Thud
Jonathan looked up from the screenplay he was reading. He glanced at the new one that had just landed on his desk, then glanced at his partner.

“What’s this?”

“You wanted a different screenplay for our next project,” said Adam. “Here it is.”

Jonathan set the one in his hands aside and grabbed the other one. “‘Rejection Slip’. This doesn’t sound like sci-fi.”

“It’s a comedy.”

“Okay, and I clearly remember saying that I was tired of doing crass comedies. I want something with substance.”

“This has substance,” said Adam. “It’s about a single professor who gives out rejection slips after bad blind dates instead of telling the girls he doesn’t want to see them again.”

“Oh, well, that makes it sound so much better,” said Jonathan. He tossed it to his partner. “Lemme guess, guy meets girl, guy gives girl a slip, but she rejects his rejection, or she gives him one at the same time, they try to one-up each other, and eventually,” he gasped, “they fall in love?”

“Okay, okay. But sci-fi? Ugh.” Adam’s face lit up. “Wait … what if the guy in this movie is a robot?”

“That’s stupid.”

“No, it’s not. Robots are funny. Haven’t you ever seen a robot?”

Jonathan stared at him. “Have you? Besides your Roomba?”

“That thing is hilarious.”

“So what’s your problem with science fiction? Or for that matter, fantasy or drama?”

Adam waved his arms around. “Sci-fi always has bugs. I hate giant bugs. Dramas are too dramatic. What do you want? The next goofy kid with a magic wand movie?”

“Abosultely. Go find me that.”


Story A Day May #21

Using the

www.writingexercises.co.ukwebsite again today, as I’m again writing on break at work and have just a little time to knock something out. (I might be a bit of a procrastinator.) I guess it’s good that I don’t get off work until 12:15am, and actually have the office to myself unlike if I worked early. 🙂

And, not really knowing the exact mechanics of water wells, besides digging a giant hole and fishing water out of it, we’ll all just pretend that the following bit of fiction is ‘technically correct’.


May 21, 2015

Random First Line Prompt:

There was a legend about the well in the garden. All the children knew it. They grew up hearing about it from Old Mother Mabel. She used to speak in hushed tones, telling the tales of the nymph and water elves that lived at the bottom of the well, deep underground. Every child knew that you had to toss a coin in for good luck every time you passed. The nymph blessed their village with rain and good crops.

Old Mother Mabel picked her way over the worn forest path, knobby walking stick tapping on the ground. She soon reached the clear spring that ran along her property. The woman stood on the bank, and grinned at the coins shimmering among the rocks. No one ever knew that the well was fed by her spring.

First Line of Dialogue Prompt:

“You embarrassed me this evening.”

Sally trailed behind her mother, who was walking with quick steps, the click of her heels echoing on the marble floor. Sally carried her shoes; her tiny feet hurt, and papa had said that she could take them off.

Papa waited at the bottom of the steps, speaking with their driver. He was finishing a cigar. Mother didn’t let him smoke in the house. He glanced up, smiling at them, but then caught the look of misery on Sally’s round face. When her mother met him beside the car, she proceeded to tell him how his daughter completely embarrassed her and the family. In front of Everyone!

Sally walked over the gravel driveway, not caring that her white tights would get dirty. Papa came over and picked her up. He peered at her in only the way a father could.

“What did you say that was just so awful, my baby?”

“Auntie Clementine asked mother what she was doing Sunday morning. She said they should go out for brunch. I said that mother couldn’t.”

“Oh? Why can’t your mother have brunch?”

“Because Sunday is bloody mary breakfast day.” Sally’s little face wrinkled in hard thought. “Papa, what’s a bloody mary?”


Story A Day May #20

Well, this one might be inspired by a conversation that took place where I work. Maybe. Possibly. 😀

If you’ve never worked retail pharmacy, count yourself lucky. If you visit one regularly, those people work harder than you’ll ever know. 
May 20, 2015

I’d been running around all day. Seven hours down and two to go. I’d barely sat down, and one of the three times was to pee. I heard the click of the intercom system and cringed, holding my breath. It clicked off after a second on indistinguishable noise, and I breathed out in relief. The soda delivery driver grinned at me.

“One of those days?”

“Every day is one of those days around this place,” I said. I finished scanning in the merchandise, signed for the delivery, and once he handed me a copy of the invoice, I headed for the office to drop it off in the recieving paperwork bin. I still had to get change for one of the registers, call the help center about the coupon printers in the pharmacy, and … ‘Manager to the pharmacy.’

I grumbled under my breath at the page. I told someone else to get change and headed for the pharmacy. I knew when I saw the seven people in line what they wanted. I didn’t even ask as I stepped into the black hole that was that area of the store. I could see the technician was busy at the counter, and another on the phone with a patient, so I went for the drive-thru phone.

After ringing the guy up, I thanked him and went to hang up the phone when he said, “Excuse me.”

“Yes?”

“So this is a generic drug.”

“Yes.”

“But my doctor wrote the name brand on the prescription I dropped off. Why isn’t it name brand?”

“We are required, by law, to fill your prescription with the generic because it is cheaper than the name brand.”

“But, what if I want the name brand? My doctor wrote the name of the drug on the prescription.”

“Okay, then we can fill it for the name brand, but your insurance won’t cover it because there is a generic available. It will cost you much more since you’ll have to pay cash price and not a co-pay.”

“Okay, but why won’t they cover it if my doctor wrote it that way?”

“It doesn’t matter how he wrote it. Now, if he wrote as no substitutions then we would fill it as the name brand.”

“Isn’t that what he did?”

“No. He has to physically write ‘Name Brand Only’ or ‘No Generic’ on the paper you dropped off.”

“But the name brand is written on there already. Why can’t you fill it as that?”

“Like I said, if you want name brand, your insurance won’t cover it. If you doctor writes you a new prescription and writes ‘Name Brand Only’ then your insurance still won’t cover it. They will require a Prior Authorization from your doctor, which means we fax your doctor, he tells the insurance company why he wants you to only take the name brand of the medication, and if they approve, they send the paperwork back to him and he sends it back to us.”

“Can we do that?”

“No. He didn’t write it that way.”

“But he wrote the name of the medication on the paper.”


Story A Day May #18

Confession, I really felt like doing anything else than writing, at all points of this day. However, in the spirit of the challenge, and challenging myself, I knew I’d feel worse for not posting a tale, and like I’d let everyone who has been kindly stopping by down. I apparently also needed some extra sleep, since I did not get out of bed until noon, on my first day of having two off days in a row from my job. I also didn’t leave work until 12:20am and got to bed at 2am, with a house full of animals morning feeding in between sleeping for eight hours, so that might have had a little effect on sleeping late. So without further procrastination, enjoy today’s entry!

May 18, 2015

The sound beyond the silence, she was once told in her lessons. If you wait long enough, concentrate long enough, push past the barrier, then you will hear. It won’t be quiet anymore.

Too many times she had come to the circle of trees. So many that she’d lost count. The first time she failed to hear the spirits, she felt the hopefulness of the recently initiated. After a dozen times, she began to feel dismayed yet kept coming. There were times she cried. Times she raged. How could she be worthy of such a gift? The ancient spirits were cruel, or laughing. Both.

She’d never be good enough. Never be blessed enough. But still she came. Each day, an hour before sunrise. When the world was painted in that strange bluish tone, and the nocturnal creatures were preparing for sleep, and the diurnal ones were preparing for the day.

She stood among the trees, eyes closed, on what she didn’t know was her ninety-ninth morning. She felt worried on the walk here but the moment she broke the circle, it melted away like snow on the coming of spring warmth. Something felt different inside, so she waited.

Waited.

Waited.

The moment she felt peace with not hearing the spirits became the moment the world stopped. Silence like she never experienced. She couldn’t even hear her own breathing.

She heard the whispers.


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