Archive for the ‘#betareaders’ Tag

How Not to Lose a Reader   10 comments

Why would you, as an author/reader, abandon (stop reading) someone else’s book?

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Confessions of a Book Glutton

I was practically born with a book in my hand and my parents weren’t very sympathetic to complaints about “boring” books — unless they were math books. They even made me read deadly dull history books that were clearly written to induce coma.

Consequently, there’s not much that has made me stop reading a book by another author. That makes me a good beta reader. (I’m looking for volunteers on my latest book, by the way, email lelamarkham@gmail.com if you want to swap).

Mental Adultery Avoided

There have been books I haven’t finished. Fifty Shades of Grey is one. I got about 50 pages in and returned it to the coworker who had challenged me to read it. Why? I felt like I was mentally cheating on my husband and the BDSM didn’t look at all loving to me. And, then the writing SUCKED and it wasn’t a beta swap so I couldn’t correct it, but felt like I should. Bus man’s holiday, much?

Bad Writing & Implausible Plots

The Twilight series was also a bust, mainly because the writing SUCKED. (Seriously, the movies were better and that happens so rarely it’s a miracle event). I was reading the first book with my then-teenage daughter and one evening we met in the hallway between our rooms and she actually asked me what I thought. I didn’t want to be Nazi Mom – she was 15 1/2 and at some point they have to decide their own standards — so, I reversed the question. She said “I can’t get over the fact that she loves this guy and she can’t see that she is food to him. Yeah, he’s enjoying playing with his prey before he kills her and maybe he’d like to mate with her before he kills her, but she’s still his food.” Yeah, that was pretty much what I thought too and I was proud of myself for raising a smart kid. I stopped reading at that point. She read a couple more of the books (the whole series was loaned to her by a friend who thought they were great books), but she finally returned the series unfinished. We did have a few shared laughs reading a blog that mocked the series. It was really the first sense I had of the power of blogging. Up to that point, I thought they were fluff online diaries by people who were more than slightly narcissistic, but that helped me to see that some serious analysis could go on in this new medium of discourse.

The Left Behind series also has gone unfinished. I always found the writing technically good and a little manipulative and shallow, but I could put that aside until my willing suspension of disbelief couldn’t go any further when a nuclear bomb landed on the heroes and they lived. It’s not that I don’t believe God could deliver such a miracle. I absolutely believe that God can do whatever God wants to do so long as it doesn’t violate His character, but I just didn’t feel pleased that the characters survived and I kind of felt like their survival violated God’s character. I looked at the next book in the series on the bookstore shelf and I just couldn’t plunk down the money for it. And then the longtime collaborator left and I really lost all interest.

Get out of the Cul de Sac

I almost stopped reading The Wheel of Time series. The last book Robert Jordan wrote just felt like he’d written himself into a corner and he was milling about trying to find his way out (I didn’t know he had cancer, which might have been what was going on). I swore to myself that I wouldn’t buy the next book. I just couldn’t face another description of Aes Sedai clothing and Rand beating himself up AGAIN for his failures. And then I heard that Jordan died and I was actually a little sad that there would be no ending, while consoling myself with the sense that there didn’t seem to be an ending anyway. And, then Brandon Sanderson took over and I decided to give him a chance (I’d not read books by him before). He is now one of my favorite authors and my poor husband will have to put up with me binge-watching the Wheel of Time television series if it ever makes it to streaming.

Can I Improve It?

So, what would cause me to stop reading another author’s book? Well, if it’s a beta swap, I’ll probably go the whole nine. If it’s boring, manipulative or poorly written, you’ll know that from reading my comments. I don’t hate you. I want to make you a better writer. You’ll notice that I praise some things. Do THAT and change what I was negative about to something like THAT, and you’ll be a better writer when you’re done. I hope you will give me the same courtesy. Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings. I’m asking for critique. Give me what I asked for.

It’s a Business! Show Me the Quality!

If it’s a traditionally published writer – I have a low tolerance for bad writing when I’m paying to read your book. Seriously – books are pretty danged expensive these days (mainly because I still love to curl up with the physical copy of them and I read a lot of fantasy which tend to be fat books). The least you can do is give me a high-quality product. I now sample the beginning, the middle and something toward the end of the paperback I’m thinking of buying before I purchase it. Thank you, Barnes & Noble, for the great comfy chairs by the fire pit so I can be comfortable while deciding if a book is worth an hour of take-home pay.

Watch for this by year’s end

I’ll stick through a little boredom from writers, if it’s in a good cause — like world-building. I’ll stick through an occasional eddy where the writer creatively works out a narrative cul de sac (after all, sometimes characters have to return to their own vomit a few times before they fight their way out of whatever’s got them trapped). I’ll skim over the occasional sex scene (that’s how I got through the otherwise excellent Song of Ice and Fire). I’ll even put up with the occasional description of fancy dress. So long as these negatives exist inside a compelling story – I’m okay with that UNLESS there’s too much of it, in which case, yeah, I’ll stop reading it at some point.

Hey, Historians, Employ a Ghost!

And, by the way, I still read deathly dull history books, but here’s some advice to the historians who write books – thank you for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us, but seriously, if you can’t write, hire someone who can. What is killing the study of history is not that IT is boring, but that your writing about it is BORING. A good writer would make all the difference. There’s reasons David McCollough and Amity Schael sell books in the millions to ordinary people instead of a few hundred to academics and history-buff novelists. It’s because their writing is entertaining and avoids the passive voice. While some of us are committed enough to history to study it even when it is written in passive voice and drags on and on without any compelling story lines, ordinary people won’t. And, that’s a shame because those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted August 26, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Self-Editing   6 comments

This week’s topic for the blog hop is supposed to be interviewing our editors. You can join us or check out my fellow authors here.

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Image result for image of an editorI don’t have a professional editor. A rule around our house is that hobbies must pay for themselves or not cost much to pursue. Brad started an entire business without incurring any debt and that business is still self-supporting. My books, being a small business, must be self-supporting. I do invest my own money in them, but I have a budget, which means that I spend my money on the things I’m not good at — like advertising — and the things I am good at, like editing, are not yet in the budget. When the books make money, that profit is reinvested into the areas where I need help – promotion. At some point, I hope to tip over into the place where I have enough profit to hire professionals like editors and cover designers, but I’m not there yet.

I trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter for a while. I have also worked as an editor in several jobs. So editing is a skill I possess in my personal toolbox.

Of course, an author editing her own book is fraught with difficulty. It’s like driving and navigating at the same time … possible, but complicated. Fortunately, I belong to an author cooperative where I have a ready source of beta readers, often in exchange. It’s all about being honest with each other. If I am ruthless with their work, they learn to be ruthless with mine and pretty soon, we’re all acting like editors.

So what do my beta readers say?

“This is the easiest beta read I’ve ever done,” was what Melissa said about Objects in View. “What’s with all the dialogue tags? You really don’t need them. Stop using THAT word (or phrase)! Didn’t this character have a similar conversation with another character two chapters earlier? You really do dialogue well. It feels natural. You manage to work faith into what is really not a Christian book and not lay it on too heavily.”

Image result for image of a beta readerMelissa wasn’t telling me anything I don’t already know, Objects in View being my fourth published book.

My professional skills come out in that I have gone through the manuscript several times before I turn my work over to betas. And, I will go through the book at least twice after I get the manuscript back.

I was trained in a time when dialogue tags were considered a required part of dialogue. You never wanted to leave the reader wondering who was speaking. These days, we assume the reader can figure it out. But they still work their way into my writing if I’m not thinking about it.

We all have words and phrases we overuse. They sound good to us, so we don’t eliminate them from our writing. We need betas or editors to point them out to us.

Image result for image of a beta readerSometimes my characters are trying to work out something for themselves, so they go back to the same topic again and again with different characters. Unfortunately, that bores the reader, so I have to refrain from doing that, even though I don’t object to it myself in the books that I read.

I know I’ve confessed this before. My characters just sort of appear in my head while I’m doing other things. They start to tell me that story that I end up writing. Well, they also have conversations in my head. Today, I had an interesting one between Shane and Rob while I was working out. While I do change their dialogue to match certain parameters, I am largely just transcribing the conversations I hear in my head. Thus, the dialogue flows. I don’t think that’s a skill. It’s one of the talents that just sort of flow from my writer’s brain. I am much more gratified when someone compliments me on my imagery because, to me, that’s a skill I’ve worked on. Dialogue just sort of happens.

My faith is part of my life. It does not consist of 12 rules that I follow assiduously in an effort to please God. What I believe informs my life. The faith of my characters has the same flavor. I don’t write books for a Christian audience, but I don’t write books intended to offend Christians either.  When you read my books, if there is a Christian character, you will see them portray what I identify as authentic Christianity. That’s faith that is intermingled with a human personality. So, when a character does something that stems from their beliefs, it shouldn’t come off as forced or message-like. It’s simply what they do because of who they are … unless that character has a faith that is external. Yes, sometimes I put hypocrites in my books because those exist in the real world too.

Image result for image of a beta readerI know some really great writer advice sites will insist that you shouldn’t try to publish a book until you can afford an editor. Editors cost a lot of money that I simply don’t have. In order to get around my lack of funds, I have taught myself to be ruthless with my own writing and then I use my betas to add another layer of honest evaluation. Last but not least, my husband and children have become pretty good copy-editors, who pick up the last few typos with red pens going over the physical manuscripts.

Someday I hope my books make enough money that I can afford a professional. I think that will be an interesting experience. Of course, I wonder if an editor will accept (as my betas must) that sometimes I disagree with them and will keep something the way that I originally wrote it just because I think it works best that way. Don’t know, but I look forward to finding out.

Posted September 19, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   1 comment

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Interviewing my editor

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Posted September 18, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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