Lightening strikes and hoards: the critical role of beta readers

I wrote this article on my author site after being inspired by some surprising (infuriating, actually) discoveries by my beta readers. When I sent out the manuscript for THE PRINCE OF GRAVES to the brave souls who volunteered to read it, I had an idea of the problems they might find: some passive voice, some tense inconsistencies, and the occasional typo. Yes, they did find these, plus some errors that I cannot explain how I put them in there in the first place. 

So if you’re wondering about using beta readers, here’s my two cents:

Lightening strikes and hoards: the critical role of beta readers

It’s been about four months since I finished up the edits on my first completed novel, CHASING AFTER VANITY. I can tell you that I am still extremely proud of that accomplishment, and I’ve also very much enjoyed the experience of searching out an agent to try and get it published.  As I’ve said in a previous post, I look at the search  – to include the unavoidable rejection letters – as a rite of passage for the aspiring author. However, the fact is four months and 12 rejections have prompted me to review my work again, and I am really glad I have.

I re-read my manuscript cover to cover for the first time in a couple of months, and I was surprised by what I found. Technically the manuscript is pretty tight, although to my annoyance I have found a few typos.  Okay, so they’re fixed.  But what’s worse is that some constant criticisms that I received from my beta readers have now just leapt off the pages. Allow me to explain.

Article continued on The Weathered Journal.

How well, do you edit you’re wurk? Are you sure?

If you’re not familiary with Twitter, there is something on that called Sample Sunday. You basically mark a Tweet with something like a tag (in this case #SampleSunday), and you link to some of your writing that you want to let others sample. Last Sunday I decided that I needed to toss my trepidation aside and participate in #SampleSunday.  I wasn’t ready to throw my novel work in progress into the ring just yet, so I thought I’d share a short story I wrote last year.  Personally, I like the story, and for the most part the reviews I’ve received have been positive (though the positive feedback hasn’t been universal).

The story itself was published through Associated Content, and has been out on the web for eight months or so.  Since posting it, I’ve released the story on Sojourner Mountain and I’ve submitted it to TriggerStreet.com.  To my dismay, every time I’ve released it, I’ve discovered bone-headed mistakes that simple proof-reading should have caught, but didn’t.  And to add insult to injury, when I posted the story to my Short Stories tab on Sunday, I discovered a horribly awkward sentence in the teaser paragraph…the same paragraph that’s been sitting out on Associated Content for eight months. So what gives?

When the story gets close to completion, and we want to get it out the door and in front of our readers, we are contending with a perfect storm of circumstances that may blind us to basic editing mistakes:

Click here for the rest of the article!

Published your book? Almost ready to publish?  What next?

First things first: celebrate. Whether you’ve managed to get your book through the herculean ordeal that is the journey to traditional publishing, or you’ve decided to go through the increasingly exciting self-publishing route, you’re now a published author.  Congratulations are in order!

But after the celebrations, then what?  You have to sell your book.  Regardless of the publication method you’ve taken, you are still your biggest cheerleader and salesperson.  So at some point, particularly as a newly emerging author, you’re going to have to sell your book.  Time to prepare for book reviews, interviews…you may even create a book trailer (I’ve only recently heard of these movie-live video trailers being used for books. But I now see it more and more, and some are surprisingly sophisticated). You’ll need to figure out how and where to devote your time.  Where do you begin?

Here’s a suggestion: take a look at Novel Publicity (http://www.novelpublicity.com/).  What is that?  Put simply, it’s a tool that will make life selling your book a lot easier.  (Disclaimer: I’m excited to be a consultant for this company, so I’m going to be saying a lot of nice things about it.) Novel Publicity is a new endeavor made up of writers and multi-media consultants who, under the energetic leadership of Emlyn Chand, are ready to help writers leverage the power of social media and emerging publicity tools such as the book trailer. By crafting a careful package of book reviews, twitterviews, blog tours, and strategies unleashing the power of Facebook and Twitter, Novel Publicity seeks to propel your work, and your name, to a new level of recognition and publicity.  

It’s ok if you haven’t actually finished your book, by the way.  Novel Publicity also offers services (such as line editing and pre-publication advice) for writers who are still working towards publication.  I encourage you to check out the client testimonials (http://www.novelpublicity.com/category/testimonials/).

So take a look…there’s plenty of free resources to make it worth your while.  Since March 1 was the official kick-off for the company, there are a ton of free giveaways (including a chance at a free book trailer). You may just find that the services offered there are just what you’ve been looking for.

WEL

iainbroome:
Here’s a nice example of how to show not tell in your writing:
You might, for example, write: Sarah felt a sinking feeling as she realized she’d forgotten her purse back at the cafe across the street. She saw cars filing past, their bumpers end-to-end. She heard the impatient honk of horns and wondered how she could quickly cross the busy road before someone took off with her bag. But the traffic seemed impenetrable, and she decided to run to the intersection at the end of the block. Eliminating the bolded words removes the filters that distances us, the readers, from this character’s experience: Sarah’s stomach sank. Her purse—she’d forgotten it back at the cafe across the street. Cars filed past, their bumpers end-to-end. Horns honked impatiently. Could she make it across the road before someone took off with her bag? She ran past the impenetrable stream of traffic, toward the intersection at the end of the block.
The article is about fiction, but the principle applies to all writing. Don’t use unnecessary words. Let your sentences breathe.
 I am often guilty of this…

Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction?