I Love Beta Readers!

I mean it so much, that I’m going to be redundant: I love beta readers!

Wow. My three beta readers have completely IMPRESSED me!

I write so people find enjoyment in what I’ve written. I write to share ideas and thoughts with others. I write because it’s fun. Well, it is fun, until I find myself in an endless sea of a single task. Here is how my novel has gone so far.

  • I’m so frustrated with my OUTLINE. I wish I could just figure out the climax.
  • I have so much more to do on my FIRST DRAFT, when will I be finished?
  • REVISING is so tedious. How did I write this piece of crap anyway?
  • Who truly knows how to EDIT? Grammar? I must have slept through that class.
  • But BETA READERS? I LOVE THEM! I LOVE THIS PROCESS!!!! I’M IN NO HURRY TO FINISH THIS STEP (for once). BETA READERS bring the fun back into writing! That is, if you are willing to listen and take their feedback as constructive.

So back to my three beta readers. They are amazing. Each one of them have been spending so much time helping me turn my strung together plot and half-baked characters into something with feeling and meaning.

What amazes me the most, is many beta readers do this for nothing in return. Purely out of the goodness of their heart. It really makes me all warm and fuzzy with hope for humanity.

I have beta read and it is fun! I’ve critiqued some great stories that I’d never have read otherwise. I’ve helped authors (I hope) identify plot holes and character flaws. PLUS, I’ve given encouraging feedback.

I urge you all to try beta reading. If you’re at all interested, you can find an author who is looking for help and answer their ad. Start here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/group_folder/220415?group_id=50920

Happy reading and writing!

–Joy

 

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Love, Lies, & Clones – Off to Beta Readers!

Oh, what a feeling!

My first “readable” draft of Love, Lies, & Clones is off to three beta readers. I feel like I’m alive again! The sun is shining. The air is fresh. The birds are chirping.

Life is good.

I love writing though. I really do. I just am a little (okay, a lot) obsessive compulsive on getting things done that I can’t stop until I’m finished. Urgh. That’s hard when you work full time and have a 11 & 13 year-old at home. But I’m not making excuses. I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.

I’m done with a draft that I’m not completely embarrassed to show a few people.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Outline (1 week): Completed in the middle of February when there was 2 feet of snow on the ground and I didn’t want to go outside anyway. Why not write a book?
  • Draft Zero (45 days): My skeleton draft. This had about 50K of words. I set my alarm for 4AM every morning and committed to writing 1 scene. 45 days/scenes later and I completed it.
  • Revisions & Fleshing Out (40 days): April was Camp NaNoWriMo and I committed to adding 30K to my novel by fleshing it out and working on revisions. I read through it twice and made a ton of changes, but only managed to add about 20K to the document. This process continued until this week… When I can finally say…

Official First Draft Compete!!! Yay! Off to beta readers after 3 months of work!    Here’s a really exciting photo of a pile of paper — but it’s all there!  (With some changes already.)

WIN_20160520_172639

Still to do:

  • Revise again! With feedback from beta readers.
  • Beta Readers Round 2
  • Revise again!

Then I don’t know what to do. Query an agent or self-publish. I’m really leaning towards self-publishing…  But I’ll obsess over that (and post a blog entry) when the time is closer.

It’s early yet. My novel may flounder in the hands of the beta readers with no possibility of reviving.  (But I’m determined not to shove this one in a drawer.)

Next week: More on Beta Readers! Now that I have three looking at my manuscript, I’m in LOVE with the process.

 

New Image

Here is a quick blurb about the novel (in case you have no idea what its about yet):

June Taylor is a clone. She thought she was the only one until her estranged father showed up on her doorstep, insisting she get out of town. At that moment, her orderly life began to crumble.

Now, her father has disappeared and June is the only one that can find him, since she’s the only know that knows about the illegal human cloning he performed thirty years ago. How can the police help when they don’t know the truth?

June’s plan is derailed when a military man, currently AWOL, insists she help him search for his brother.

Can the two learn to trust each other for the sakes of their loved ones?

They’ll need to now that the bad guys are after them.

 

Who Would Read My Writing? (Part 2)

Last week, I posted: Who Would Read My Writing? (Part 1). As Part 2 of this post, I’m sharing my experiences in utilizing a few online resources for obtaining beta readers of my work. Most of my experience has been with short stories and I am just recently branching out to obtaining beta readers for a novel length work.

Of note, if you plan on traditionally publish a short story or novel, you need to be careful not to post your work in open domain – such as on blogs, Wattpad, or online forums. (I learned that the hard way with some short stories.) The below options only allow registered users to read your work, which protects it so the traditional publishers don’t freak out.

I’m using the terms critique and beta read interchangeably here.  There are differences between the two:  (Critique partner is a fellow writer and a beta reader can be a reader or a writer.  A critique is more thorough where a beta read is supposed to be a readers perspective on the story.)

WWW.CRITTERS.ORG

I’ve been using this free critique forum for a while now with good success. For short stories, I get a ton of critiques (my last story received over 20 critiques.) This is great… BUT there are two major problems I have:

  1. It’s REALLY hard to sift through these for the comments that matter. I’m guilty of taking everything written in these critiques and changing my story to make the critiquer happy. What happens then, I fear, is my story loses its meaning. I start with a 700 word piece of flash fiction and when I’m done it’s over 2000 words. (And sadly, this has happened to me THREE times this year already!).
  2. My biggest issue: when I make a stupid grammatical error and it is pointed out over and over again. I wish I could go back and revise it before others read it, but with this site, you can’t. (I believe you can do this with Scribophile)

So with Critters, you need to do about one critique per week, and in exchange, you get to put your work in the queue. It usually take about 3-4 weeks for your writing to make it to the top of the queue for review. Then, the members have a week to provide feedback before your writing leave the queue. Of note, Critters has multiple forums for many different genre’s – my experience has only been with the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror forum. The other ones don’t have as many members.

Now for novels, Critters says you can post sections through the usual queue (as described above), or they will do a request for dedicated readers (beta readers).  I tried this ten years ago by posting my first novel (which by the way, was TERRIBLE and is in a drawer. I’m still working up the courage to revise it into something readable.) I didn’t obtain any beta readers this way (they probably read my first chapter and ran the other way). I’ve beta read one author’s work and he says he normally obtains about 4 readers of his novels through Critters.

WWW.SCRIBOPHILE.COM

Then, I recently discovered Scribophile. I just started dabbling in it and LOVE IT so far. You earn credits by doing critiques and once you have 5 credits, you can post a 3000 word or so piece of writing. You can post a short story or chapters of your novel. I like this because you don’t have to wait for your work to enter the queue and you don’t have to commit to a critique a week – you can just do as many critiques as you need to “pay” for your piece. The hidden gem with Scribiophile though, is a novel swap group I joined. You team up a few times per year and swap novels around (no critique credits needed). It appears you end up with 4 critique of your novels (in exchange for doing 4 critiques of others work.) If you can’t wait for the novel swap, you can request dedicated readers through this group as well.

Now that I have a novel that is nearly complete, I’m in need of beta readers. So what will I do?

First, I’d like one person to read it to point out the obvious plot holes and other issues before I hand it over to others.  I’d hate to have the same problem pointed out over and over again. I was lucky and found someone on the Goodreads Beta Reader Group

GOODREADS BETA READER GROUP

There are four options on this site.

  1. Ask for a beta reader: Post a quick summary of your work and wait for someone to reply. I’ve been stalking this site for a few weeks now and it appears to be hit or miss if you have any takers. There are a lot of people offering paid services, but there are definitely some legitimate volunteer beta readers as well. (I want to publically thank them right now for doing this. WOW! There are so many good people in this world!)
  2. Find someone to swap your novel with: Pretty self-explanatory.
  3. Pay someone to read your writing: There are plenty of ads for those that will read and provide you with detailed feedback for a fee. Some are real cheap… $20-30. Some are more expensive… $125. BUT still much less than an editor – but you’ll probably still need one of those someday.
  4. Answer a post for someone wanting to beta read for free. I just did this yesterday and hopefully it all works out.

I imagine there are plenty of other fantastic options out there. (Hey, I wrote almost 1000 words on just 3 of them!)

So, how do you all get feedback on your writing?

I’d love to hear.

–Joy

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Who Would Read My Writing? (Part 1)

Getting feedback on your writing is like going to the dentist:

Yeah, a scary dentist with huge fingers and bad breath…

Where you find out your X-rays are out of date and they usher you in before you can protest. You cut your cheek on the bite plates, then they point out your cavity. No, wait! Not one, but five cavities! Oh, and by the way, you also need a root canal. BUT the good news? They can fix you all up in an hour — you just need to wait in the crowded waiting room and let your anxiety take over.

An eternity later, you find yourself in the sticky vinyl chair enduring the needles, drilling, scraping, and bleeding gums. You tell yourself that it’ll be over soon and you’ll end up with a much better smile.

For me, the process of receiving feedback on my writing is like visiting the dentist. Like the smile you leave the office with, the story you produce from the feedback is invaluable. As I’m nearing completion of my writing/revising/editing portion my novel, Love, Lies, & Clones, I’m trying to sort out the best way to get a few beta readers and some initial feedback. There are lots of choices:

  • Online vs. in person
  • Strangers vs. acquaintances
  • Paid vs. free
  • Writers vs. readers

Online Vs. In Person

Well, this may be obvious. Online gives you more anonymity, but in person gives you more of a conversation and ability to ask questions. I think it’s really a matter of what your options are where you live and what you are most comfortable with.

Online options like critique forums (www.critters.org , www.scribophile.com , etc.) are great resources. I’ll discuss these more in part 2 of this post (coming next week).

In person ideas are a local writer’s group or hitting up your circle of friends and family. I’ve thought about putting out a Facebook post: Is anyone willing to read my novel/story/etc.? I imagine, I’ll get a taker or two.

Strangers Vs. Acquaintances

Another matter of personal preference. I personally feel a little odd asking a friend or family member to give me their honest feedback. I feel it puts them in an uncomfortable situation if they didn’t like what you wrote. (So, I’ll probably never write that Facebook post.) Plus, there is the “mother effect”. I’ve given my writing to my mom and she always says the same thing. “It’s great! I liked it! Keep going!” As nice as this is to hear, it doesn’t help further develop the story or improve my writing ability.  I feel strangers are a good choice.  They don’t know me and aren’t afraid to be honest — keep in mind though, some of them can be brutally honest and you need thick skin.  (Not like me who quit writing for nearly 10 years after my first experience with a critique forum.)

Paid Vs. Free

Who doesn’t want everything free? Getting a quality reader for free takes some leg work and even if you find someone, they may not even complete reading your piece to give you feedback. I think that’s why there is a growing community of beta readers who charge to read your work. Prices between $25 to $100 seem to be common. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but now if you want a few people to give you feedback, it adds up. Especially if you then fix some issues and want to try again.  I can see some value if you can find a quality/legit paid beta reader for an initial read through before asking for more people.  I may do this, but I don’t know yet.

Writers vs. Readers?

I really think you get much different feedback from a fellow writer opposed to a reader only. Having BOTH read your work seems to be the most helpful. A writer will point out how you can make something better, but might also derail you from the intention of the piece/paragraph/scene by giving you suggestions on how they would have done it. Readers are great for giving you believability, plot holes, and pointing out the boring parts. I know that many writers are also readers, but the difference is interesting when it comes to feedback on your writing.

* * * *

So, for me…. Due to geographical location and my little bit of social anxiety, I enjoy having a stranger read my writing for the first time and gravitate towards internet resources. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post with a focus on different online resources for critiques/feedback. It should be posted next week.

How do you like to share your first draft?

I’d love to hear your thoughts of strangers vs. friends, online or in person, free or paid, or writers or readers?

As always, thanks for reading!

–Joy

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