Jul 29, 2011

Confessions of a Beta: Jenna

Today I'm handing the ost over to one of my Beta readers, Jenna. A few of these will be popping up shortly.


I am a beta reader. As far as I understand, that means I am not in the publishing industry. I really like books. I have a grasp of spelling and grammar. I am very opinionated. I deeply want to help. All of that seems to add up to something my friend can use in her writing life. There are some downsides, like having confusing dreams based off of her half-written books, or developing crushes on quasi-villains, or getting in trouble for not being able to remember the names of secondary characters in any one of the 4-6 books in progress at any given time what is my problem why don't I care?

I love reading a book in progress, but it does get confusing. For example: authorfriend had begun a story in which she fiddled with point-of-view. She had written several chapters, then stalled out and shelved it. A few months later she brought it back out to rework it, which she then did. . .maybe another three times. I read each incarnation. Then we would discuss the newest chapter she had sent me, looking for slow spots or bits that made no sense. The problem was that I had four or five versions of the book in my mind, while she had just the one - the right one, the one she was currently writing. So I would talk about something that (now) hadn't ever happened. Our conversations include a lot of "wait, what?"

The roughest part for me is being honest. I have to tell a friend if her baby is ugly, frankly. She asks for my honest opinion and however much I don't want to hurt her feelings because she is proud of what she's written (with good reason), I have to tell her if I don't like it or if I think it could be improved, and then in what way it could be improved. I try to be plainspoken without being cruel, and I'm sure she gets more upset by my constant checking if she's okay and not upset. I still like being a beta reader, though. I prefer to be called a Siamese Fighting reader, to be completely honest.

Jul 20, 2011

Why I Write Queries Early & Often

Queries are the bane of every unpublished author I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. They hate them. And I totally understand why. I hated them too. I loathed them so much I barely gave them a though for my first 3 novels – which is probably the reason I didn’t get a single partial request.

But as of late I’ve learned to embrace the query – and now it’s just those blasted synopses I hate (kidding).

When I have a WIP I can usually tell by page 5 if it’s going to be a novel I’m going to take the time to finish. So, when I make it to the 10,000-word mark, I write that dreaded query.

What results is never pretty. But it’s the bare bones what-this-book-starts-with query.

I write that WIP’s query probably five times before I’m done with the novel and then I probably write it another 3-6 times while in revisions. Then I send what I’ve got off to other people so they can tell me where I’ve made something nonsensical – because as an author I’m too close to the story and invariably include it.

That’s the thing about queries, what makes them bearable for me: they don’t have to be great the first or even eight time around. They’re like an oil painting, you have to work it into art in a succession of layers.

How do you feel about the query process?