Tag Archives: beta reader

Lesson Three from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Action Action, where is the Action?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine ?

Gold_Mine_Manuscript

IFire-in-the-Woods-Cover 3D’ve heard contradicting opinions on this.  Some people say exposition is important.  Some people say don’t start right out with action because you don’t have a character basis of who to “root for” yet.  Personally, when I’m reading something, I want to be slapped in the face immediately with excitement and fill me in on the boring stuff later. (Anyone who has read FIRE IN THE WOODS knows what I mean by this. :-) )

So, when my BP (Beta Partner) had a story that started with tons of talking and setting, I said, “According to what I’ve read, this is okay.” But, being the good beta partner that I am, I let her “have it” and told her I was bored.  But, all the exposition stayed (with some trimming to six pages).   (I’m not saying she trimmed for me…  I believe she has five beta partners, so I’m sure there were a wealth of comments to revise from.)

 Unfortunately though, the publisher found it to be an unnecessary character study and suggested cutting the first five pages completely.  What was after these five pages, was a brief conversation of a dream that actually had relevance to the story (almost a page long) and then the action started.

The publisher’s commented that the first five pages were not engaging.  What I got out of that, was that they didn’t want to see a few kids hanging out and talking.  They wanted something to HAPPEN.  The story actually does, I must admit, start right where they suggested… The dream is a foreshadowing, and then the action that is the catalyst that changes the MC’s life forever happens right afterwards.

***Always start the story as close to the life changing event as possible***

So, what gets lost in the first five pages?  Well, the set up of the friendship between the two MC’s, which can be played out pretty quickly in the next pages, and (ouch) a lot of setting.  To me, that’s no biggie, but my BP is a big setting person.  She likes her imagery.  Now she needs to work in her sweeping mansion and grounds into the action scenes or between them.  It will be a little work.

Moral of the story:  Setting is important, but not too much up front.  Make sure something happens in the first page or so to drag your reader in.

Also see my post on how I changed (and am still changing) my first page after a contest judge didn’t find my first page exciting enough— and there was hardly any setting there at all!

Go back and make your first few pages ROCK!  If you don’t excite the reader right away, they might put your novel down and buy something else.

Gack!

Jennifer___Eaton

Lesson One from the Gold Mine Manuscript Mark-Up: Write Without Looking

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

Gold_Mine_ManuscriptHow many times do your characters look at something?  Mine do.  All the time.  I never thought it was a problem.  I feel really bad now, because I am the
“Show Vs. Tell Barracuda”, and I absolutely missed this…

If you say your character looks at something, you are telling the reader that they “look”.  Show the reader instead.

Example:  The wind blew cold, and Magellan looked up into the trees.  The branches bent and shook over his head.

Now, I honestly would not think this was telly, because I showed you what he was seeing right afterward.  My writing partner did the same thing in her manuscript.  The publisher highlighted the “looked” and said “rather than telling us what he is doing, show us what he sees instead.”

Suggested rewrite:  The wind blew cold, and Magellan pulled his jacket closer.  The branches bent and shook over his head.

Here, I took out the offensive “looked” kept the characterization by giving Magellan something to do (pulling his jacket closer), which gives me a place to mention his name.  (In case it’s needed)   I left the “what he saw” exactly the way it was originally written.  You can assume he looked up.  The whole scene actually flows better, and all I did was take a moment to pull out the word “look”.

Even better for you word count barracudas out there… count ‘em… there is one less word in the corrected example.  Yea for me!

Here’s another easy one:  He ran down the hall and looked at the dark stone walls.  The sconces were still lit and the light danced across the ceiling.

Easy fix:  He ran down the dark stone hallway.  The sconces were still lit and their light danced across the ceiling.

Now, I’ll be honest… This is not always this easy.  I’ve growled a little over some of these.  But I am going to try my best to take all of the “looks” out of my novel, unless they are in a personal thought… but I will be looking at those pretty closely as well.

Honestly, I emailed my friend yesterday on this, and she said she’s only taken out “most” of the looks.  Once in a while, your characters will have to “look”.  I am finding the same thing.  But I am finding that a lot of them can be removed easily like the ones above.  (We also discussed that we’ve read published novels that have “looks” in them.  yes, we know they exist… I’m just letting you know there is a publisher out there that redlined it and asked for a revision.)

I am finding I am taking out all of the “looking” that is being done by a POV character, and leaving some of the looks that are not from the POV character.
For instance, if another character in the room (not the POV character)
looks over at the door, you are not going to tell what they see, because you are not in their POV.  Therefore, it might to be okay to leave that look in there.
However, I do not let the POV character look up and see that the other character is looking at the door.  Does that make sense?

This, by the way, is just my opinion.  If I submit, and get slapped for these “looks” I will let you know ASAP.

If you can, get rid of any and all looking, because this publisher emphatically flagged it.  Only look as a last resort.

Hope you found this helpful!

Related Articles:http://kristinastanley.net/2011/09/01/listening-to-your-novel/

Are you signed up for the Critique Blog Hop?

If you are signed up for the critique blog hop, click here for the official rules. If you are not on the official list, please make sure that you comment and leave your web address so you can be added.

Here is a pretty badge/button to post on your blog to help everyone find you post so you can get all the critiques you deserve.

Sunday_Snippets

Don’t forget to post by 1:00 AM on Sunday to get the most critiques.

Enjoy!__-)

JenniFer_EatonF

Writing to a Deadline AGAIN #3 — OMIGOSH! You Gotta be kidding me!

You know the drill.  This is all I’m allowed to say.

Need a Hint?

Writing to a Deadline AGAIN #1

Writing to a Deadline AGAIN #2

Search and Destroy in the Editing Phase

Daily Writing Tips recently had an article explaining bad writing compared to poor writing.  The one part of the article that struck me was the end.

They presented a list which I will admit (giving them total credit) that I copied and pasted below.  I only want to talk about #5, but I am including the entire list, because I think there are a lot of writers out there who can benefit from it.

Here we go:  Total credit to Dailywritingtips.com (If you want to see the whole article, the link is below)

———————————————————————-

Here are some tips on avoiding the pitfalls of bad writing:

1. Be Fresh
The purpose of metaphor and simile is to evoke recognition by comparison or allusion. Write these analogies to aid your readers with your clarity of vision, not to serve your ego, and avoid clichés.

2. Be Clear
When drafting expository fiction or nonfiction, record your voice as you spontaneously describe a scene or explain a procedure, transcribe your comments, and base your writing on the transcription, revising only to select more vivid verbs and more precise nouns and to seek moderation in adverbs and adjectives.

3. Be Active
Use the passive voice judiciously.

4. Be Concise
Write tight.

5. Be Thorough
Accept that writing is the easy part; it’s the revision that makes or breaks your project — and requires most of your effort.

———————————————-

Okay then… end credit to daily writing tips.

(On a side note:  If anyone needs clarification on anything in the list above, let me know and I will do my best to translate.)

Let’s talk about #5.

This is near and dear to my heart, as I have just finished a roller-coaster ride self-imposed deadline of 5,000 words a week to finish a novel in 10 weeks.

I finished my first draft four weeks ahead of schedule, and dropped myself into editing.

Is my story great?  Well, of course it is! It’s my idea and I love it.

Is it well written…

Umm well, it will be.

Now is the tough part.  I need to attack all the sneaky “tell” that slipped in when I wasn’t looking.  I need to describe bronzed skin rather than telling “his skin was bronzed.”

Luckily enough, I have many words to spare, as I ended up short on my word-count target.  I have plenty of room to expand.

Right now, it is “search and destroy” on “Felt” “was” “it” and all those other nasty little tell markers.

I was paying attention this time around, and I tried my best not to have blatant run-on tell passages (as I’ve been guilty of in the past)  which is good, but all of my tell is now “subtle”.  It is the kind that will probably slip past most publishers.  But I don’t just want this to be a good novel.  I want it to be a great one.

Yes, it is this revision process that will make or break this novel.

I am approaching it by not reading for flow yet.  I am just looking for all those “little nasties”.  Once I think I am “nasty free” I will read for flow, and then ship off to betas, trusting them to slap me upside the head for everything else I may have missed.

How do you “search and destroy” during the editing phase?

Six Sentence Sunday – A blast from the past. This is funny.

It’s Six Sentence Sunday again.  Today’s is gonna give you a giggle. I’m going to allow you to wallow in my ineptness.

If you haven’t heard, Six Sentence Sunday is a group of people who mostly post their own work, but I just shoot out six sentences of whatever takes my fancy.  Sometimes what I’m writing, or sometimes what I’m reading.  If you want to find out more, click here.  Visit Six Sentence Sunday Site.

I’m still reading Oracle by JC Martin.  I didn’t want to post another 6 sentences from the same work, so I was sitting here at my desk, and I saw a printed copy of my early novel HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT hanging out, feeling abandoned.

I thought it would be fun to open it up to a random page, and just pick six sentences.

Now… I wrote this well over a year ago, maybe even two years, as last year at this time I was editing it.  I laughed when I read this passage.  I am going to curtail my inner-editor and post it exactly as it is printed.  Mistakes and all.

Yes, thank goodness, I have come incredibly far in a little over a year.

At his feet, an arbor bug struggled to scale a small mound of dirt.

Harris sighed as he watched it.  Why doesn’t it just walk around it?  After it fell back for the third time, Harris flattened the mound with his foot, and the small creature continued on its way.  He closed his eyes and smiled, actually finding gratification in helping something so small.  Would Daniel Hyelven have done that?

OMIGOSH!  Can you stand how much tell is in those six sentences?

Did I really use the word “it” four times in the same line?

This is really embarrassing.   I just couldn’t believe it, but I thought it would be worth a laugh.

I just love this story, and someday I will go back and fix it.  After looking at this paragraph, I know it will be a huge undertaking. :-)

Hope you got a good giggle!

I am Such a Stinking Idiot. I Swear!

I’ve submitted two works in hopes of publication.  Last Winter Red was accepted, and will be published in December.  Yay!  But what was the other one?

The first writing I ever submitted was early this year.  It was a 2,000 word short-story for a magazine.

This magazine is very well-respected, and takes submissions until the end of January.  They choose the best out of the submissions to publish at different times during the year.

Their requirements were very clear.  It needed to be about a dog, the dog could not talk, and it had to be polished and ready for publication.

Hello, let me introduce myself.

I am an idiot

Well, heck, I had a story about a dog!  I ran it through some betas, worked it until I wanted to spit, and submitted it.

I never heard back from them.  Not a squeak.  And I can’t even say they didn’t get it, because I have a tracking number.  They got it.

I guess it’s okay that they didn’t respond.  They said they would only notify those who were chosen.

Anyway… I stewed over it for a while.  Why wasn’t mine good enough?

I read the magazine, and my story beginning might not have been a fit for their readers, but the ending sure was.  A story is a journey, right?  I just figured my beginning may have been the problem, and moved on.

A few months ago, my writers group announced that they would be publishing an anthology, and asked all members to consider submitting.  I thought about this 2,000 word story.  The chances that I would send it out to any other magazine were slim.

Soo….. I opened up my final submitted version, and gave it a read for the first time in four months.

My eyes widened after reading the second line.  No!  It can’t be!  I scanned back to the beginning, and started over.

Yes.  It can be.  Right there …  In the second stinking line.

A TYPO.

How the heck many times did I proofread this?  How many betas did I go through?  How much time expended?

A Typo.  Not just a typo.  A BIG BLARING TYPO!  So much for “Polished and ready for publication”.

Hello, let me introduce myself.  I am an idiot.  They probably never even read past the second line.

Yep, it’s me.  I am an idiot. Feel free to smack me. Ugh!

Do you know something about the military? Calling all Beta readers or “Wanna-be” Beta readers

I am searching for a few good men, or women, or teenagers who have knowledge of the military and how it works, and/ or live on or grew up on a military base in the USA.

I am going to openly admit that I’m writing fiction that has a lot of military activity in it, and I am taking a lot of wild guesses since my father never talked about the service AT ALL.

I’m looking for a few people who know more than I do who can take a look at my novel and say “Yeah, that’s possible” or “No, you are completely off your rocker… that would never happen in a zillion years.”

In a nutshell, I don’t want to ruin what I think is a pretty good story because of my lack of military knowledge.

The novel is Fire in the Woods — a sci-fi based in New Jersey on the East Coast of the USA.  It starts off at McGuire Air Force Base, and then runs through several South Jersey locations.  The target audience is YA (teen) girls, although there is a strong male character at her side that I think will appeal to everyone.

I have visited each location and mapped out the story.  Now I just need to know if I have to change any character’s military ranks/titles/positions, or embellish/change things to make it at least somewhat plausible.

If you’ve never done a beta read before, and know about the military, that’s fine.  I have people who can smack me around for writerly-mistakes.  I just need a few “military content editors”.

When completed, I expect it to be 50,000 words (200 pages).  I would need it read and critiqued within 30 days of starting it. (That’s about seven pages a day.  Easy breezy)

I will most likely send it in 50 page sections (One week per section) so I can work on your comments for one section while you are reading the second.

Please let me know if you are interested.

Silly Things We Authors Do When We Get Punchy

I’m interrupting Flash Fiction Tuesday to share a very funny email conversation.

“Shelly” had contacted my through email to ask me a question about beta readers.  Of course, I helped her out.  Afterwards, until the wee hours of the night, we went back and forth in this silly fantasy conversation.

This is a prime example of the creativity of writers gone awry… and how silly you can get when you stay up to late.

Thank you, Shelly, for giving me permission to post this.

Now remember, this whole conversation happened through email.  After I helped Shelly, I mentioned I wished I had more time to do research.  Her answer was…

Shelly: May the Faeries of Figgy Newton grant that wish … (((((((poof)))))))))))

Jennifer: Wait! I just turned into a newt!  Very hard to type with these little fingers!

Shelly:  Oh my, that wasn’t supposed to happen! Let me find a transfiguration spell to fix it real quick …. now where did I put my damn spell book …

Jennifer:  Ribbit. Yikes. I’m in trouble.

Shelly:  Time to break out the big guns then. Prepare yourself, this ain’t going to be pretty …

Jennifer:  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Shelly:  The smoke clears, and I can see your startled face, eyes, and your hair is sticking straight out, but still there, just a tad burnt, and you are no longer green, which is good, but you are now purple.

Drat! Back to the drawing board.

Jennifer:  I feel like a grape. On that happy note, I’m going to bed.  Fix me in the morning?

The next morning: 

Shelly: Did you squeeze yourself and have Grape Juice this morning?

Jennifer:  That’s why I look so thin today. :-)

Shelly:  Well, then my magic worked! Sort of :-P

Aren’t authors just great fun?  Thanks for the giggle, Shelly!

What silly mistake did you Beta Reader find this week? Mild POV Switches

In writing Last Winter Red (Writing to a Deadline) I had one sentence that I KNEW was a POV switch.  I read it several times, I knew I had to delete it, but I just couldn’t get the feel I wanted without it.  This is the line:

“Sara sat at the end of the table, quietly enjoying the exchange.”

Now, the problem with this line is the entire novelette is written in Emily’s POV.  This, if you’ll notice, is Sara’s POV.  What I wanted to do in this line, is express that the little girl, Sara is excited that her friend Emily is suddenly getting along with her Dad. (She is observing their conversation)

So I decided to leave the line, and sent it out to my beta readers.  Would you believe that five for five of them read right over it?  That is how subtle POV switches can be.

Then, of course, the anally talented Ravena drops in with a last-minute beta read.  (I mean that lovingly by the way… I count on her for that—um, being anal— not late.  :-))

I think she actually cackled… “Ha!  Got you!  POV switch!  You yell at me for this all the time!”

You know what was really funny about this?  After I stopped laughing about her response, I looked at the sentence again, and realized I COULD change it to Emily’s POV and still get what I wanted out of the line.

“Sara sat at the end of the table, smiling quietly.”

Now, that may seem brutally obvious with me just handing it to you on a silver platter, but center that line in the text, and try to keep your overall tone, and a little thing like this is hard to come up with.

Sometimes, you just need to be laughed at in order to kick your brain into high gear.

Of course, I am sure some will complain that you don’t need the word quietly at all, that a smile is naturally quiet, but I like the feel of this.  If it gets red-lined, I will let you know.