Sabbatical

Blank notepad and pencil

If you come here often, you may have noticed that it’s been just about six months since I’ve written anything at all. In fact, it was exactly six months on the 21st and I had every intention of posting this then and making a big deal out of it, a fresh and exciting start! But that just didn’t happen. There are lots of reasons, but behind them all I think I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to stick with it, that I would let it fizzle out again because life is pretty crazy right now and lots of times, I feel overwhelmed.

That’s when I realized that writing actually takes away some of the days worries and stresses. I have a safe place to release my feelings about things and doing that is making me a better writer. After all, practice makes perfect! So what can you expect to see over the next few months? There are actually a lot of exciting things coming up!

October:

Right now I am taking a class through the Iowa Writers Workshop called How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women. I am really, really excited to be taking this class and even happier to find that all my dear friends from last year are taking it with me! There is just something about being in a group of like-minded creatives that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We are only one week in and I am already learning so much about how to craft stories. I am hoping for some great short pieces to come out of this that will be perfect for publication!

I am polishing some pieces that I wrote over the summer and planning on sending them out in the next few days. It’s always scary to face possible rejection but it’s a necessary evil so I’m learning to cope! That being said, if any of you dear readers are available to read short pieces and make suggestions, please feel free to contact me! I need all the help I can get!

November:

As some of you know, I’ve been participating in a fall writing competition that started in August. In round 1, I placed 9th out of 30 competitors and earned some bonus points for round two. The announcement for this next round comes on November 1st and I am hoping for a great start to the month!

November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to us writerly nerds) and I will be working on a story idea that had been in the works for the past three years. I am crossing my fingers that this is the year it comes together in a little more orderly fashion. Ideally, I’ll be able to spend a good part of December and January editing and revising and getting it ready for the publishers.

So that’s where my head is at for the next sixish weeks. Be sure to stop by again as I’ll be posting here with book reviews, snippets of fiction, and random musings!

 

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Beta Readers: A Writer’s Best Friends

I have to admit, when I first came across this term, I had no idea what a beta reader actually was. I assumed most writers went the route of traditional publishing and hired an editor to make sure their manuscript was squeaky clean. In fact, it wasn’t until I started reading YA fiction and participated in my first NaNoWriMo that I discovered the invaluable jewels that are beta readers. These are people who are so in love with reading they are willing to sludge through your draft. Not sludge. Meticulously read through your draft and make careful notes to help you improve your story. They should all receive medals. Seriously. If you have a story/novel/poem/comic book that you have revised a few times and want to get some feedback on before sending it out, get yourself a beta reader.

Beta readers, for the most part, don’t read to correct grammar and punctuation (though I am sure they would if you asked them to). They are looking for continuity, plot holes, believability. If they sign on to read your manuscript, know they are mad about your genre. They know what works, what doesn’t, and how they want to feel when the story is over. They read more than you (no, seriously, they do) and they are well versed in the ins and outs of sci-fi/romance/horror/literary or historical fiction, whatever you’ve decided to dabble in.

Never worked with a beta before? Here’s what I have found. Because they are well read, because they have an extensive background in your genre, always, ALWAYS give your beta a polished copy of your work. Sure they are getting a draft, just make sure it isn’t the first one. When you send your book/story/etc. give it to them in the format they prefer. Some readers will want a printable file, some will read on a Kindle. Whatever makes it easier for your reader to finish your work. If you are after specific feedback, a list of questions can accompany your file. You can turn to Google for pages and pages of questions to ask your beta but the one I think is most important is “was there a point where you lost interest?” If someone is suddenly moved to check Facebook or Instagram while in the middle of a chapter, some serious revisions are necessary. Not all feedback will be useable (let the words of Neil Gaiman guide your revisions) but often, the good stuff stings a little. Don’t let it get to you. Don’t defend your position. Be polite, thank them. These are people who talk about the books they read and they could become advocates for your story, if they like it.

Once you’ve tweaked your story, you are ready to find a new group of readers or send out your work for publication. Just don’t forget your betas. Mention them in your thanks. Send them a fruit basket. Read their manuscripts and offer feedback. Keep the betas happy!