Tag Archives: Novel

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.


Story A Day May #7 (Here Be Pirates)

Two years ago, when I attempted May’s writing challenge, one of my posts included a pair of characters belonging to the world created in my fantasy novel (and subsequent books planned in the series). I decided to do another one with these two characters, plus one or two others. Where my first novel currently sits, the minority of pirates left have turned into (mostly) legitimate businessmen, but, of course, that was not always the case. If anyone feels like searching back through posts, I think it was May 2 or 3, 2013 that first featured Margaret and William. Luckily, I fell off the face of the blogging world, so there’s not a hundred posts to wade through. Enjoy!

May 7, 2015

Word prompts: bounty, tooth, remonstrance

Edward Dupree squirmed in the chair. He banged the palm of his hand on the seat and let out a shout.

“Hold still, you moron,” Margaret growled.

He shoved away her arm when she let go of his jaw. “If you’d pull the damn thing instead of inflicting more pain.”

“I like inflicting pain.” She half-turned and grabbed a bottle of wine. As she brought the bottle to her lips, she said, “On you especially.”

“Give me that.”

Margaret walked a few steps away while Edward sucked at the bottle. She pushed open the door of the hut, staring at the darkening sky. While she couldn’t see the ocean, she could hear it; the comforting sound of the place she called home. Normally so vigilant and alert, she let her mind be lulled by the sound of waves and birds. William startled her when he appeared in front of the door, and she gasped.

“What are you doing in here? I could hear him down the beach.” Her brother pushed past. She noticed the folded paper he carried.

“New bounty?”

William shrugged.

“How much this time?”

“For all of us, or just you?”

“I told you it was a bad idea coming here,” said Margaret. She pulled the door shut and returned to the middle of the tiny structure. Picking up the forceps, she jabbed them at her brother. “We should have gone to La Suo. We should have gone there a bloody month ago, but no, you said we would be protected here. That woman is not going to help us. Kera was Dresden’s mistress. Was, William. He left her a year ago, sitting in jail in Fandor, and she owes him nothing. Why would she want to help us?”

“Kera. What a woman,” said Edward.

“Oh, shut your mouth,” Margaret snapped. She grabbed his jaw with her left hand. “Not literally.”

“Fok you,” he managed while she tightened her fingers.

She could hear the squeamish sound William made while she forced Edward’s head back and gripped the broken tooth with the iron forceps. “One … two … three.” She pulled back in a straight line, and the molar finally came free.  Blood flowed from the empty socket. Margaret picked up the bowl from Edward’s lap, shoving it at his chest. “Spit in here.” For added effect, she dropped the chunk of tooth into the wood bowl.

William stood near the cutout section of bamboo which served as a window, arms crossed over his chest. Margaret joined him, wiping her face with a rag.

“You still think Eamon Ward is coming?”

He gave her the look of surety that only an older brother could. “You worry too damn much, Mags. He said he’d meet us here.”

“And half of Sertha’s navy is tracking us and him. That correspondence is months old. Probably he’s been killed or arrested, or he ran.”

“Not everyone runs.”

“Yes, they do,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. “Eventually.”

“Is that what we’re doing? Running?”

“You’re Gods’ damn right that’s what we’re doing,” said Edward. He spit out another mouthful of blood. “Have a little faith in your friends, Maggie. If Eamon said he’d come, then he’ll come. So what if it is later than expected?”

“It matters if Kera turns us in,” she said.

“She won’t for another week.”

Edward and Margaret stared at William. He dropped his arms to his sides. “That’s where I went earlier.”

“By the Creators, William!” said Margaret.

“I need to know to what degree of safe we are. Kera might hate Dresden, and while she’s not a fan of Ward, she agreed not to turn us in for a full week. The navy keeps coming here and searching her home and tavern, threatening her with imprisonment. They’re searching the whole town every few days. She’s got children to think about.” Her brother pulled one of the rickety chairs over to the window and sat. “Lucky for us, Kera has no grudge with you. Or Edward.”

She shook her head, but said nothing further, turning away from her brother. A bottle of whiskey, a pair of scissors, a large roll of gauze, and a small bowl sat upon the table on a metal tray. She reached into the bowl to retrieve a thin, short strip of whiskey-soaked gauze that she rolled. She gave it the barest of squeezes and took it to Edward.

“Head back.”

“I fucking hate you,” he said.

“I know. Head back.”

The younger man did as she said. She noticed his knuckles whitening as he gripped the edges of the seat. She caught the look in his brown eyes. Sometimes she forgot that he was only twenty. Practically a child. When she was his age, she’d already lived through three years of horror.

“Take a deep breath, Edward.”

When he sucked in a long breath, she packed the wet gauze into the tooth socket. His shouts were muffled when she pressed a hand against his lips. “For the love of all things, Edward!”

Tears brightened his eyes. “Please, stop,” he whimpered.

“The last thing I need is to cut out an infected, pus-filled piece of your gum,” she said. “Keep that stuffed in your mouth, and when it dries, I’ll replace it.”

William still sat by the window. Head propped against the wall, eyes closed. The man could sleep anywhere. She felt hot and closed in, so she left the hut, walking a through the trees and brush until she emerged at the edge of the beach.

The wind cooled her body and her temperature. She wanted to be on her ship. She wanted to be a thousand miles away, free and unworried. They were both right—she was running. She felt old, tired, and worn of running. Building an empire of piracy had its price, and maybe this was the beginning of the payment.

Margaret stepped out of the dark shelter of the woods. She bent down to scoop up a handful of sand, closing her fist tight against the flowing grains. Staring up the sky, she whispered, “Please, Creators. Let me get out of this one. Let this be the last one. I’ll quit. I’ve got a spot in mind already. And a garden plot. The sea was your home first, Goddess, and one you used to seem content to share. Not anymore. I can feel it. I swear I will leave it forever if you help me.”

A crack of a tree branch had her whirling around, sword drawn before she fully turned.

“Your remonstrance has not gone unanswered.” The man smiled, showing an impossible set of straight, white teeth. She noticed he’d shaved his head, but kept the beard. “Ward sent me.”

Margaret narrowed her eyes at her husband-to-be.

Quote Day #12

A little more Thomas Wolfe for everyone. 🙂

“All things belonging to the earth will never change-the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of lovers long since buried in the earth-all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth-these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever.”

― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

Quote Day #10

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

–Virginia Wolfe, A Room of One’s Own.


“There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them.” –Eliezer ‘Elie’ Wiesel


Quote Day #7

Two quotes today, one of which comes from my first novel. It may not be published, but I got the phrase stuck in my head the other day, so what the heck. 😀

“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated from it.
Death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can spirits ever be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas;
They live in one another still.”

–William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude

“Idle hands make mutineers, Miss Forristar.”

–Jessica Paul, Destiny Seekers


The ah-ha moments are what get me. I like having them in my writing. I like good surprises. Admittedly, in most cases of my writing, I wish they would happen earlier, but I’ll be grateful when they happen.

Recently, I was editing a chapter on my first novel. I wasn’t setting out to do anything major. (I have comma issues.) I went over a chapter I knew well, which was a conversation between two men about a third. Let’s say Man A, B & C. So Man-A reveals something to Man-B about Man-C.  Both the first two men know the third and have for many years, and I did a little tinkering with the conversation, though not much. I went onto the next chapter, where I did have to fix a plot point to match a change I had made further down the line. But the conversation I left behind stayed in the back of my mind. Something has always bothered me about the scene. It’s a necessary scene, revealing a few things about Man-C that will be important, but one plot point always seemed wrong.

I have strange reactions to my ah-ha moments. I can remember some of them so well, it’s like I re-live them. This one happened as I got home from work last week. I parked the car, opened the door and wham! Like a literary realization walked up and smacked me. I absolutely knew why the scene bothered me, and how to fix it. It wasn’t that the information I was revealing was unimportant, but that it absolutely did not belong in said Chapter. The reason was that both men would know such an occurrence happened in their friend’s life. Some events change people, and this tidbit is one such event. Why wouldn’t Man-B know this already????? was pretty much what came screaming into my mind. So today I sat down and deleted a small chunk of the scene, added a few sentences here or there to tighten it up, and hit save, satisfied in my work.

What really excites me is that I get to hold onto this information for when it will make the biggest impact. Fingers crossed that if my books ever hit shelves, e- or real, then my readers will like surprises as much as me. 🙂

Today’s House Special – A Hodgepodge.

I’ve been trying to be better at keeping up the blog, but as I have no inspiration today, I’m just gonna wing it.

Chapter 22 on Book 2 is nearly complete! The last time I wrote about book issues was May (re: Do As I Say), the pair of characters I was wrestling with were not cooperating. Glad to report they have been since, and I am enjoying their ‘feeling each other out’ phase. Granted, they are going to have a backslide soon, but since I write sporadically on occasion (timeline wise) I already have most of that put to bed. I love connecting sections, although it is a writing habit I am trying hard to break. I used to write on whatever part came to mind, and then I got stuck on the middle bits. About two years ago I sat down and made myself write in chronological order, and I have to say, it’s worked out better for me than I thought it would. I’m sure many people would think it only makes sense to go from point A to point H without skipping any in between, but I’m not many people. Knowing and doing – two different things.

Tim feels I should blog about the strawberry-peach cobbler I did Not make today, but that would be a short post. He might be a little upset about the lack of desserts in the house.

The work front is, uh, business as usual. 🙂  This morning a co-worker told me that she went to see The Dark Knight Rises with her boyfriend. She was mad about going and then sat through the whole movie, completely enthralled. This is the same woman who made fun of me for wanting to see that movie over Magic Mike. A movie about male strippers??? Kill me now. That was a fun conversation in which I was the only woman in a group of four who wanted to see Batman. The term nerd got thrown out. Turns out, she luuuuuurved it.  Said, “It’s the best movie I’ve ever seen.” She hasn’t even seen the previous two in this trilogy. More and more I’m under the impression that people with kids, especially younger ones, don’t get to watch grownup films. Yet another personal validation for not having kids. 😛  I love a good Pixar flick as much as the next person, just not all the time.

To finish off for the night, I offer you an in-game screenshot of a druid in tree form, with a disco ball in a box. Why? Why the hell not.

Disco anyone?



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