How to make sure your book is ready to read.

If you are an author you need beta readers. I dare say you cannot do without them. So what the heck is a Beta Reader? For any author that should not be a question popping to mind. If you don’t know what one is you gots some splainin’ to do. But in case you are a new author, beta is simply short for beta test. You gamers out there should get that. So think beta test reader. That should give you an idea where I am going with this. Yes, you are going to have people test read your novel.

For the first time novelist the idea of handing over your work to someone that may be a person you only know online is a frightening thing to do. Don’t hand it over to just anyone. I do beta reading and I do it for some scary people. Friends. Online friends. (Looks around at the walls to see what blog friends are reading this. Not naming names.)

Who can be a beta reader for you? Friends, former teachers, a neighbor, a critique group or someone you know online. But here is something to keep in mind; you can have people beta read for different reasons.

A beta reader can read for the pure enjoyment factor, plot holes, continuity problems, grammar issues, tense issues, and more. And the interesting thing is many of these people do it for free. Not all, but many. A lot of people that have heard of beta readers simply think “Oh cool, I can do that. I get a free book and just tell them if I like it or not.” Nuh uh. You take on a huge responsibility. You are a key part of an author’s success or I dare say failure. NooOOOOOOoooooo!

What you need in order to be a beta reader:

  • Full Body Armor–I beta read for friends a great deal of the time. Sometimes I do it for other people and for those times it’s an easy go. I can simply provide my feedback and be done with it. But when it comes to a friend? What if the writing is just that bad? This is what I tell people, “I care about my friends, I care about them so much that I am going to tell them the truth and work as hard as I possibly can in order to help them put out the best book possible.” It helps that I see that Amazon money show up as a gift in my account. Cha Ching. Is that how you spell that? So why does this require armor? Friends aren’t always happy with what you have to say. I have learned to say it and leave it after a couple of attempts. They can take it or leave it. But authors remember, if you choose the right people to beta read for you don’t get mad if they do actually find things that need improvement. If they don’t find anything, you have a bad beta reader. I’m not saying you will not have a good novel, I am saying that we all have room to improve at the beta stage.
  • Determination–You agree to read the book. Read the book. The book is bad. Read the book. Finish the book. And regardless of if you liked it or not, tell the truth to the Author. They need the truth. “But they can’t handle the truth!” Who saw that one coming?
  • Ethics–You are being trusted with someone’s child. Take care of it, don’t share it, and after all is said and done, give it back to them. And destroy any pictures you took of the child.
  • Backbone–Don’t give in to friendship or being overly sympathetic. Authors need to know now what needs work before their book gets in the hands of the reader or even an agent.
  • Sensitivity–With backbone you need sensitivity in how to relay areas of concern to the author.
  • Diplomacy–This goes along with sensitivity. Sometimes you have to know when enough is enough. I’ll give an example. Recently I beta read a dark fantasy novel and there was a scene in it where I interpreted it one way but the author didn’t. My concern was how a reader, not being inside the author’s mind would see the scene. I was concerned there might be some backlash. After a few exchanges, I let it go. There was no point in continuing the point because the author would only see it from their point of view.
  • Be ready to research–Unless you know the elements of every genre and know every grammar rule ever in both US and UK English you will need to do research. Research can be fun. Also if there is something in the story that just nags at you as being wrong, research it. There are no little things when it comes to an Author’s work. So do it. And if you don’t know it, don’t fake it.

 

As a writer you need to know a few things. Beta Readers are not your personal spellcheckers and garbage readers. You send your Beta Reader what you think is your final product. If I were you I would send the book out to Beta Readers in a certain order. If you are concerned about a certain aspect of the book, send it to a Beta reader for that purpose. Once the fix is done, move on, ending with your Beta Reader for Enjoyment. If they like it, then you are good to go. If they don’t like it, then you need to check what it is they don’t like and see if you want to change it.

Here is something to keep in mind. Have more than one Beta Reader for Enjoyment. You want different genders and different everything reading your book. This way you can get a different view from each person. Sure, you may have a target audience in mind so perhaps you could stick with that target audience Beta Reader, but I would still have someone outside that norm to read it too. They may spot something people accustomed to the genre don’t see. I would guarantee you an agent would see that problem.

Elizabth EylesHow can you become a good Beta Reader? I have my own opinions and perhaps will go in to that deeper one day, but for now if you have .99, there is a book for you. Sorry it’s not free this time. The Beta Reader by Elizabeth Eyles. You can get it at Amazon. Sorry, but it’s not at B&N or Smashwords. B&N does have a $6 book by Eyles about preparing your book for a beta reader.

I’ve read this book and it has some very good advice in it. I’ve even recommended it to a friend of mine, Colleen Chesebro who is a Team Member of mine on LitWorldInterviews and she bought it because she beta reads as well. We take what we do seriously. Yes, this is for authors as well as those wanting to be Beta Readers. Why? Because it gives you the author’s opinions as to why the Beta Reader is needed.

Here is a link at Writer’s Digest that will give you the elements of genres. Yes, you need to know. I read that dark fantasy book and there are elements that I just wasn’t comfortable with, but that’s part of the genre. So I read for the writing and overall enjoyment.

 

much-respect-ronovan

 

 

Ronovan Writes

 

 

 

 

@RonovanWrites

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Top 2014 Posts – #2 – How Do You Share Backstory Information

To end the year, I’ve decided to spotlight my top 10 blog posts from 2014. I went into my stats page and looked up those articles, stories, and other published pieces that had the most number of views. Some surprised me, others did not.

We’re almost there! Here’s #2: How Do You Share Backstory Information

IMG_4116This is a post that blew up a couple of weeks after I posted it. I still remember opening up my blog to write an article and gasping in surprise when I saw my stats. They were booming out of control! I laughed when I saw the article drawing so much attention. It wasn’t one I’d published recently–at all. But, I guess that’s what’s so cool about social media, huh? One person can get a hold of an article on your blog and boom! It takes off.

So if you missed this popular Twitter Treasure Thursday, here you go!


Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, as I’ve been revising my manuscript, I’ve been trying to figure out how to slip in background details about my characters and the world they live in–you know, tell the reader about the main events and conflicts that have led them to where they are now. Of course, there is the wicked temptation to dump all the information on the reader in one foul swoop, or even squeeze it all into a prologue. But many consider those big no-no’s.

So then how should writers present the backstory? How do we slip those necessary details in without committing a writing sin or boring the reader?

tumblr_mg4zjrIVjL1qhd2y8o1_500 Well, today’s gem addresses this issue. Autumn M. Bart (@Weifarer) tweeted an article from the blog Guild of Dreams: Backstory.

How much backstory should I spoon feed my readers?

I belong to a large online writers’ critique group, and I see this question posted almost weekly. Every fantasy and sci-fi writer in the group hops on the thread and gives advice; time and again, the consensus can be summed up as follows:

  • Weave background information and world building into the narrative
  • Avoid data dumps of historical details
  • Under no circumstances put the backstory into a prologue

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Autumn M. Birt on Twitter!

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Previous Top 10 2014 Posts:

#3 – Chasing Monsters

#4 – Inevitable

#5 – Stop the presses. Literacy isn’t important. Technology is.

#6 – How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips

#7: Into Paradise

#8: Music Monday – Love The Way You Lie

#9: Operation Disney

#10: Over The Edge

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10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, I’m currently reading a book that has me flummoxed. Yes, flummoxed. Every few paragraphs I have to stop and go back to clarify a fact, or remind myself who’s who, or reground myself in the scene. Worse, I keep finding contradictions that cause even more confusion. Ex: It’s foggy and raining, yet then the sun glints off the windows and blinds the characters…Huh? What?

itchywide-620x349You would think by now I would’ve given up and returned this book to the library. But, nope. Not gonna happen. Sometimes, in my opinion, reading ill-constructed stories improves your own writing. It’s the whole, “What not to do” lesson.

So, with all of that said, I thought this article–courtesy of Rhonda Ryde–was a fitting gem for today. In it, K.M. Weiland discusses basic questions readers should never have to ask.

10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask

You want reader’s asking concrete questions. Who stole the Statue of Liberty? How is Westley going to escape the Pit of Despair? Why did Cinderella order glass slippers a size too large?

You don’t want them asking the dreaded four-word question: What’s going on here? Or, worse, the end-of-the-line three-letter question: Huh?

To read the entire article, click here!

For more useful advice, follow Rhonda Ryde and K.M. Weiland on Twitter!

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Photo credit: 

http://www.essentialkids.com.au/

My Writing: The What, How, and Why

I know I’ve already participated in the popular writer’s blog hop going around–twice–but when Amanda from Amanda’s Nose in a Book invited me to join in again, I decided, why not? So here we go!

1) What am I working on? 

As most of you know, I’ve been elbow deep in revisions for my YA manuscript the past three or so months. This is an old project I optioned in 2010 to a production studio on the Paramount Studio lot. It’d been sitting on my shelf for over a year untouched until last fall, during NaNoWriMo, I realized it was time revamp it. COMPLETELY! I kept the basic concept and incinerated the rest.

My original goal was to have a polished manuscript ready to send off to agents this fall. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening. I’ve been working hard, but meticulous, so things are coming together a lot slower than I planned. But, it’s okay. I’d rather take my time and make sure things are solid, than rush  for the sake of finishing. That’s just silly.

At this point, my new goal is to have everything completed by January 1st–query letter, synopses, and all…We’ll see if that pans out.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, that pretty much sums it up!

When I write, I have one main goal: to think way outside the box…which can be tough in the category I like to write for: Young Adult. However, no matter how tempting it might be, I refuse to hop on trends (vampires, dystopia, angels, etc.). When a genre/topic becomes hot, I avoid it like the plague. Why? Because by the time I write a book about it, it’ll be old news. Agents won’t want it, publishers won’t want it, and a lot of readers won’t want it. And that equals wasted time and–basically–a worthless manuscript.

So, if an idea isn’t fresh, different, and “Oooh, that’s cool!”, then I won’t pursue it.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Easy. A story demands me to tell it.

Okay, I’ll explain. My main focus is young adult (suspense, horror, drama). However, I don’t let that focus constrict me. If a story wants me to tell it, I will. In fact, I rarely sit around and brainstorm ideas. They come to me at the most random of times (on a jog, in the shower, at the grocery store, while working on a different project). Some ideas I explore immediately; others I write down for a later time. All of them, however, haunt me. They’re like little whispers begging me to pay attention to them and translate them onto paper. Unfortunately, I’m not a machine, so I’m only able to address one at a time.

So, why do I choose the one I do? Well, let’s just say that story’s “whisper” becomes a “SCREAM!”.

No matter what project I take on, I have to love it. If I don’t have the passion and drive to tell it, then I won’t. I can’t! Books take a ton of time, a ridiculous amount of effort, and a wide range of emotions. If I don’t have the heart for it, then I’ll pass and find one I do.

4) How does my writing process work?

Recently, I’ve figured out an easy way to explain my writing process. In a nutshell, writing a story is like baking a cake:

  • Draft 1: Throwing all the ingredients into a bowl. AKA, just write! There’s no real plotting or outlining or planning. I sit down at my computer, press play on the “movie” inside my head, and write. As I work, I take notes in an “Edit” document. This is where I scribble down plot holes as I discover them, mark down major character flaws, and ask myself “Why is this happening?” types of questions.
  • Draft 2: Bake the cake. AKA, build the story’s foundation. I use all those ingredients from my sloppy first draft and start baking them into a solid story. I analyze the plot, I mold my characters, and I constantly ask, “Why is this happening?” and “What is the purpose of this?” and “Is this important?” If there’s no answer, then I chop it out. Why do I need a line/scene/character if it doesn’t move the story forward?
  • Draft 3 (and so on): Frost the cake: This is when I go back and start making things “pretty”. I juice up my descriptives, deepen my characters, add an extra punch to my action scenes, zero in on repetitive words/phrases, etc. Basically, I search and search for every and any flaw, and then I find ways to add in a bunch of “WTH just happened?” moments for the reader. I like to make them think they’re out of the woods and then–bam! I twist the story one last time to knock them off their feet…Well, I try, lol!

Here are a few other do’s and don’ts about my writing process:

Do’s:

  • Pitch my concept/idea before I begin: Why work on a project if people aren’t fans of the idea from the get-go? So, before I type one sentence, I ask a handful of trusted individuals (writers, family, friends) what they think of it. If too many of them lack an “Oooh!” response, then I’ll toss it out and try another.
  • Listen to music for inspiration: I spend quite a bit of time commuting each day, and almost every minute of that commute is spent listening to music compilations I’ve created for whatever project I’m currently working on. They help me think/rethink scenes, come up with new ideas, or simply add fuel to my writing fire.
  • Find photos of my characters: Similar to music, I thrive off imagery, especially when it comes to my characters. As I write, I always have photos of my main leads nearby (aka, famous actors, models, or just random photos via Pinterest). These visuals help me imagine what my characters’ expressions might look like, or what they might say or do in a certain situation.
  • Use beta readers: Showing off your hard work is both exhilarating and terrifying. However, it’s an absolute necessity if you wish to query or publish it. Just because you think your book is shiny and pretty and perfect, doesn’t mean it is. So, I always send my rough drafts to a few people I know and trust, and who I know will be brutally honest with me. They won’t say, “Oh, it was so good! I loved everything about it!” They’ll say, “I liked these parts, but this scene didn’t make sense, this character was annoying, this relationship was shallow, this chapter was useless…etc.”

Don’ts:

  • Outline/pre-plot: I’ve attempted to sit down and outline a story before I start writing it, but it doesn’t work. When I write, I like to sit down and go! When people ask me how I can do this, I tell them it’s like a movie playing inside my head. I hit the “play button” and “watch” the events unfold. As a story progresses, I may pre-plot the next chapter in my head while listening to music, but, overall, a story evolves as I type it out.
  • Write with music/noise: Turn it off! Turn it off! Silence is golden when I write. I wish I could listen to the music that inspires me while I work, but it’s too distracting. In fact, I’ve been wanting to invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones.
  • Show first drafts: First drafts suck. They do! And mine are horrible because I don’t outline/pre-plot, so they’re crammed with loopholes, discrepancies, 2-D characters, repetitive words, stilted dialogue, needless scenes, lukewarm action, cheesy romance, confusing twists…I’ll just stop there 😉

So there you go! Hope you enjoyed some insight into my writing. If you’re interested in reading any of my work, click on Jen’s Pen up above!

Up next on this round of the writing blog hop are some of my favorite bloggers/writers! Be sure to check them out. 

Paul Draper 

PD Booth

Blog: The Bitumen Carnival

Twitter: @TheBlackGate

Darla G. Denton

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Blog: Darla G. Denton: Musings From a Curvy Romance Writer

Twitter: @DarlaGDenton

Facebook: Darla G. Denton

Jonathan 

Blog: 40 Stories for my 40th Year

How to Intensify Conflict & Deepen Characters—The Wound

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, as I perused Twitter this week, I noticed a common trend: Character development. Everyone seemed to be talking about it. Tips, quotes, pictures, articles…I’ve never found so many gems about this vital writing topic. It was hard to decide which one to share with you. After much debate, I finally decided to go with Kristen Lamb’s:

How to Intensify Conflict & Deepen Characters—The Wound.

scarsThere are so many aspects to consider when developing our characters. In this awesome article, Kristen Lamb examines one of the most important: WHY? Why do our characters act the way they do? Why are they a control freak, or a know-it-all, or a shy mouse, or an arrogant butthead? It isn’t “just because”. There must be a reason–a why.

Real humans have wounds that drive our wants, needs, perceptions, and reactions and so should all our characters (even the Big Boss Troublemaker-Antagonist). Recently, I was helping a student of my Antag-Gold class plot her novel. She had a good protagonist who was a control freak. My question: WHY?

Yes, genetics will have a role in forging our personality, but genes do not a good story make. Having a character be a certain way simply because we need them to be or act that way will work, but so will a heart with damaged valves.

Wounds drive how we perceive our world, what we believe we want, and how we will (or won’t) interact with others. This is critical for generating story tension and character arc.

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Kristen Lamb on Twitter!

Related Articles

Character Development Worksheet

Character Development: Virtues & Vices

100 Character Quirks You Can Steal from Me

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http://deniedself.com/battle-scars/

Music Monday – Human – Christina Perri

Welcome to Music Monday! As many of you know, music contributes a great deal to my writing process. Whether it’s a song’s lyrics, beat, rhythm, or tone, I find myself constantly inspired by it.

 

writing-to-musicAs you read in my Friday Funny, I didn’t get much work done on my manuscript last week. Life was busy-busy, and distraction after distraction bombarded me. This weekend, however, I was able to get things back on track. It was a little rough, but I managed to focus and squeeze out a rough draft of my chapter 19. Phew!

This morning, while driving to work, I heard a song that helped boost my motivation and get my sluggish mind up and running again:

“Human” by Christina Perri.

christina-perri-600x450Since I’ve arrived at those highly anticipated “bang” chapters in my story, there’s been a lot of action and mayhem. But beneath all of that action and mayhem, there’s been a lot of emotion too. My characters are dealing with the pain of betrayal, the horror of enlightenment, and–perhaps worst of all–the regret of knowing the choices they made were the wrong ones.

My characters are just like everyone else: human. They make mistakes, they bleed, they cry. And they seek forgiveness from those they’ve wronged. I want to draw all of those emotions out and bring them to life for my readers. I want people to feel what my characters feel. “Human” will help me do that.

So, if you’re looking for a powerful, beautiful, moving song, take a listen to “Human” by Christina Perri!

What song(s) are you in love with right now? Which one(s) offer you inspiration? Let me know! I’m always searching for songs that motivate my writing.

 

Photo credits: 

http://michaelgalvis.com/

http://blastoutyourstereo.com/news/music-news/christina-perri-human-music-video-7242

https://www.tumblr.com/search/christina%20perri

Sympathy for a Good Villain

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! This week, I chose to focus on your favorite character in a story: the villain.

villain21Dun, dun, dun…

Okay, maybe the villain isn’t your favorite character, but they should be high on the list. And, in my opinion, they should rival your favorite character; or at least help them stand out. Personally, I appreciate villains who try to convince you to understand them/sympathize with them (ex: The Darkling from Shadow & Bone, Sebastian from The Mortal Instruments). Or they should make you hate them so much, you love them (ex: Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men, Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, Hilly Holbrook from The Help). To me, villains should captivate readers just as much as heroes do.

So, with all of that said, here is today’s gem, courtesy of Drew Chial. He wrote a fantastic (and funny) article about creating solid villains, while avoiding cliches and keeping your audience engaged.

Sympathy for a Good Villain

Every time the villain kills a henchman for no good reason, a light goes off in your reader’s brain. Every time their monologue reveals the details of their master plan, the reader questions your reasoning. Every time they choose the sinister option over the one that’s results driven, the reader wakes from your vision.

It’s good to have a clear antagonist, but you don’t want them to be transparent. Sometimes their desires are simply incompatible with the hero’s. Sometimes the hero and the villain share a common destination, only to differ on how to get there. Sometimes they start with the same beliefs only to have them tested by their environments.

Present your case against the antagonist, and let your audience come to their own conclusions. The subtler the evidence, the smarter they’ll feel for putting the pieces together. Too many reminders of who they’re rooting against will pull them out of the experience.

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Drew Chial on Twitter!

Photo credits: 

http://blog.d20pro.com/creating-great-adventures-part-1-character-motivation-hate/

http://wifflegif.com/tags/61683-coin-gifs