Tag Archives: beta reader

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 😛

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

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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.

Writing to a Deadline 15: OMIGOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Writing to a Deadline Part 14: Publisher response

Holy cow!

I submitted my manuscript at 11:30 PM last night, and when I got home from work, there was a response that hit may mailbox at Noon!!!

Okay.  Deep breath.  Open the email.

“The revision was great. You did a fine job incorporating our feedback and adjusting the story to a simpler, more defined and well written product.”

Woa… hold on.  This is my first submission to a publisher.  Aren’t they supposed to belittle me and tear me to bits?  Did a publisher just call my work “great”?  Did a publisher just call my story “well written”?

Last words are “We’ll be in touch soon regarding final selections.”

Okay… we are back in “wait” mode.  I can deal with that.  I am just so tickled that I might actually be actually in the running—I can’t stand it.

I find a stream of emails from my writing buddy.  She’s been having an email conversation with the publisher all day.  They wanted more revisions done to hers.  They want to know if she’d be willing to revise further, to some pretty stringent specifications.

My heart sinks.  They went back and forth with her several times.  Someone there likes her submission enough that they want it really polished.  What does that mean for mine?  Was mine a form email that everyone gets?

They told her that they have eight submissions that they are currently considering, and only 5 slots in the anthology.

Am I one of the eight?  She obviously is.

I hop over to Scribophile, and another girl in my Scrib Group got a response that they liked her changes as well, and they were waiting to make a decision… The wording she used in her post made it sound like her response was almost word for word identical to mine.

What does that mean?  Did we both get the generic “nice” response?  Is that a bad thing, or are we both in the top eight?

Your mind goes crazy.  I swear.

I know, I know, there is not a dern thing I can do but wait… and have a few quiet conversations with the Guy Upstairs.

I put a heck of a lot of work into this over the last month.

At first, it was just a challenge to myself.

Now, it’s something I want so bad I can taste it.

Deep breath… and the wait begins.  Again.

Writing to a Deadline Part 13: Rewriting and resubmitting

Wow.  They were right.

I took out one relationship element, and the rest of the story just fell in line.  I read through my final product and shivered.

Yeah, I actually wrote that…

But that sting is still there… is it as good as I think it is?  Probably not.

Three days until I have to submit.  It’s a holiday weekend.  No one is going to have time to read, right?

This is where friendships you have made come into play.  I looked up every applicable beta reader past and present, and let them know my dire situation.  I even sent it to my very first beta partner… who was nice enough to teach “idiot little me” so much when I first started out (boy did I stink back then)  I haven’t spoken to him in over a year.  You know what?  He jumped on board.

A debut author from the same publishing house I am submitting to saw my plea on Scribophile, and offered to read it.  So did one of my current betas, and my writing buddy who was also in the same boat having to make revisions to her submission for the anthology.

Suggestions come back.  Minor changes.  The last beta to come back arrives five hours before I need to submit.  No pressure.  More minor suggestions.

Make the applicable edits…. And Done.

Funny thing.  I created a PDF, got ready to send, and got a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I checked back on something I had just added that night, and it didn’t flow. Honestly, it sounded HORRIBLE.  I took a few minutes and changed it.  Perfect…. Sometimes, you really need to listen to your gut.

  1. Create a new PDF.
  2. Write up and email thanking the publisher for their suggestions; this is how I used them… yadda yadda… thank you for your consideration.
  3. Attach PDF
  4. Send.

Now the painful waiting process… again.

The deadline has passed.  Whatever happens now, happens.  There is nothing more I can do.

I feel good about it.  I didn’t crack, and I held on to the bitter end.  No matter the outcome, I am proud of this 40 page little gem.  If anything, I proved to myself that I could do it.

What stupid writing error did your Beta point out this week? Beam me up, Scotty!

You need to find a balance.  Really, you do.

While working on my “Writing to a Deadline” piece, I was trying very hard in the first draft not to make any of the mistakes I made in my larger manuscript.

I may have over done it, though.

In trying to make sure that my characters don’t “step” too much, and after hearing feedback from a beta that said “we don’t have to know about every move”—Now at times, my characters don’t move at all.

A new beta pointed out that my characters magically disappear from one spot, and appear in another, with no explanation whatsoever.  Well, obviously they walked.   (There are no Star Trek transporters in my current WIP)

The problem is, I tried to write this story in a way that inferred that they walked… but it didn’t always work.

Now back to editing, and make sure to make them move without stepping around a lot.

Ugh.

Writing to a Deadline Part 12: The Slap of a Rejection

After a week of waiting… Rejected.

Wow.  That stung.  I read the email.  Well, that’s not true.  After the words “Not ready for publication at this time.” I pretty much skimmed it.

Two things stuck with me off the bat.  George was an unnecessary character, and the opening was confusing.  What??????????  George is the catalyst!  Deep breath… don’t scream.

Being a good little camper, I shut down my computer, and walked away.

I stewed over it for a while.  What were they talking about?  How could they say these things?

Then I took my own advice.  It was a nice day.  I got on my bicycle, and just rode.  I thought over those two comments, and cleared my head for an hour or so.  Once I was able to deal with it, I went back to my computer to read it again.

It’s very hard to take your own advice when something happens to you.  I have walked a few people through this very thing, but never myself.  I’ve sent out work before, but they all saved me this heartache by not answering my queries at all.  This time, I got the definitive “No”.

But was it really a no?  I read it again.  It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t completely a rejection either.  They gave me a full-page type-written list of areas they thought were lacking in the story.  Someone thought it through, and let me know everything they thought was a problem.

In my own advice to others: “If someone took that much time, they must have seen something in it that they liked.”

I printed out the page, went to my room, closed the door, and read it over and over.  I realized that if I took their advice about the character George, that the characterization inconsistencies that they pointed out with three other characters would just naturally fall in line.

The last line of the email stated:  If you would like to make changes and resubmit before the deadline date, please send the rewrite directly to “********”

Wait a minute… Go past the normal submission channels?  Hop over the other entries right into a special mailbox?

Not quite so much a rejection anymore, is it?  Thank God I submitted two weeks early!

Seven days for a rewrite, taking out a major plot element.

Gotta go…. Got something to do. 🙂

Writing to a Deadline Part 10: Rewrite and Beta Blast

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Okay… fixed that climax.  Yeah!  I did it.  Oh no!  Now I am at 10,280 words!

That’s a whole page over!  Ugh!

Edit madness:  Extra word here, extra word there.  Unnecessary clause?  Can I tighten that dialog a little?  Does this person need to smile?  Is that dialog tag necessary?

Okay, I’m done.  Right?  Am I?   ARRRHGHHHH!

Beta Blast!  Call in the two people who the story really seemed to resonate with (Don’t bother with the person who didn’t seem to get it from the beginning)

Sorry, guys… I know it’s a lot to ask… but I need it back in two days.

Wait….  Wait….  Wait….  Tear a fingernail off.  Wait….  Water the plants… again.  Groom the dog… again (not that she’s complaining.)

Then the panic moment happens.  Through a writer’s group, I find out that someone submitted, and got a positive response.  Not an acceptance, but a request to make changes and re-submit through private channels.

Oh No!  There is a possibility that they will close for submissions if they fill all five slots.

It’s okay… take a deep breath.  I decided that I need to submit NOW, even though there are two weeks left until the deadline.

My two betas came back with minor changes.  Of course, while I was waiting I made changes of my own, so I pleaded for one more read.  Yeah, I can be annoying that way.

My worst writing nightmare is that all of these people call in the favor at the same time while I am up against a deadline of my own ***gack***

Okay… their responses come back.

Remove that comma, change that word…

Easy fixes.

Slow and steady.

Writing to a Deadline Part 9: “And the beta-reading verdict is?”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

Note:  This post is mainly for those of you who have not yet been through the beta-process.  Just to prepare you for what it can be like.

Last week I sent out my story LAST WINTER RED to a small Beta Army.  And back the comments come…

Three fast “I just read it” responses came back in one day.  “Liked the story” on each of them.  At least that’s a step in the right direction.  Next step… they will go through and make suggestions.

Time to wait again

The professor got back to me noting “Great story” but lack of setting.  Yeah… I’m famous for that.  I only give what’s absolutely necessary.  I’ll think that over.  There was also a small element that she thought was lost in the middle.  Easy fix, but it will put me close to the word count.  She was also totally engaged and drawn in by my beginning. Yay!

Critical Beta Reader #1 comes back, and hates my beginning. She didn’t mention lack of setting at all.  (Don’t you love contradicting crits?)   She pointed out a few details that she thought were overdone.  Easy fixes.  When she finished, there was more red than black on the page, though. Ugh.

Getting nervous. Re-write of one section per Professor’s comment brings me up to 10,075 words.  Yikes! Editing per Critical Beta #1’s suggestions brings it back down to 9,975. Whew!

My long time beta partner says it just needs a little tweaking.  She likes the beginning, but not my starting point.  She’s probably right, and this might be what critical Beta #1 meant, too.  I think I can fix this now that I understand better…  Just move the starting point three minutes later of where it is now.  She also suggested inserting a little more turmoil over the conflict early on for the MC.  Hmmmm.  I can do that, my only concern is only having an extra 25 words before the 10,000 word maximum.

Romance Beta comes back and actually liked the kissy stuff????  Yea for me!  She pointed out things that the others didn’t even see.

Memoir writer also pointed out some minor things that others didn’t notice.  Easy fixes.

Two people thought my closing six words were absolutely brilliant.  They both mentioned it without me asking… but Critical Beta # 1 deleted them without comment.  Too funny.

So many suggestions fly at you so quickly… you need to decide what fits for what YOU want in the work… and at the same time, please the masses… not everyone.  It’s impossible to resonate with every reader.

Clock is ticking.

Three people made the same comment about a rock in the well during my climax.  Going for a complete re-write of that scene.

Ugh… no words to spare.

Tick tock, tick tock… no pressure.

Writing to a Deadline Part 8: “Calling in the Beta Reading Army”

If you’re just hopping into the insanity that is my writing life, check out my previous “Writing to a Deadline” posts or this won’t make sense.

I was happily surprised when I sat down to edit, that I had very few things to change.  Mostly typographical errors and little things like switching sentence structure to make it flow better.

The one scene that I purposely wrote as “tell” took a little time to work out, but it’s finally done.

So, I took a deep breath, and called in a Beta-reading army.  Crossed genres and ages.  These are all people I have a fairly high trust factor with:

Two are currently mercilessly ripping apart my novel and making great comments

One is a college professor who teaches creative writing (She has never read my work)

One is a Romance/ Middle-Grade soon to be publisher author who hasn’t read my work (she’s there for that kissy stuff I’ve never done before)

A memoir writer, who also has not read my work

A High Fantasy writer (my writing buddy for the past year or so—-who’s sick of reading my work) (ONLY KIDDING!)

My first ten pages will also be reviewed by three people in a critique group who I’ve never met before.

It’s kind of like submitting to a publisher, but you know these people will get back to you.

Funny, I was more nervous about this beta-read than I was about my novel.  Probably because I feel deep down, that the story is pretty solid.  After dissecting the Gold Mine Manuscript for seven months, I think I know what NOT TO DO.  The question is… did I write what I THINK I wrote.

I also have that deadline looming over my head.  And I don’t want to wait until the last minute… just in case the publisher decides to close for submissions early.  It’s enough to make you a nervous wreck.  Will I have time to make all the changes they might suggest? (If I agree with the suggestions, of course)