Archive for the 'beta readers rock' Category

May 17 2010

Quicky update, too busy writing

The auction ended and was a great success! With the generous matched donation offer we received, the auction raised over 4000$ in medical bill help for us, which is awesome and quite appreciated!  Everyone seemed to enjoy both all the lovely items and services offered for the auction as well as watching the bidding as it happened, so we will keep this in mind in case any other fundraising needs arise in the future.  I do like the fundraisers where people get things in return for their generosity…

I’m a bit behind on the self-imposed writing schedule but nothing I don’t think I can’t catch up on if I choose to.  Last week had several large energy interruptions due to doctor’s appointments and other things that seriously disrupted my writing schedule.  Since I’m still getting my work legs under me again post-surgery and my available energy changes daily and weekly, there will inevitably be a few bumps in the path so I’m trying to remain patient with myself as I figure it all out.

And on the recovery front, two major pieces of progress: I can now drive myself again under many circumstances (during the functional part of the day at least, the beginning and ending of a day is still usually much more impaired in movement and function), and Nathan and I went dancing Friday night as part of my physical rehab (because when we can, we try to make ouchy limit-pushing activities also fun!) with surprisingly pleasant results.  We haven’t been dancing since, oh, summer of last year? and I haven’t driven since November 2009, so those are definitely large chunks of progress toward feeling like a functional human again.  Feeling-wise, things are still all over the place; some pain, some emotional flux, lots of fatigue.  In other words, still healing at or above the “normal” rate, so no worries.  Doctor info progresses slower than we’d like but this week should see larger chunks of new information when we talk to the oncologist again on Thursday.

Had a fabulous brainstorming session for my novel-in-progress on Saturday, I have such lovely and smart friends!  Thanks to everyone who showed up.  And I sent out two more short stories last night to various markets, so hopefully one of these days I’ll get another hit instead of the many very near misses I’ve been collecting.

Now, back to work!  I’ll try to blog more later, but in the meantime everyone take care of your health!  Ladies, when was the last time you gave yourself a breast exam?  Don’t end up like me with a Texas-sized tumor, fondle yourself early and often for best detection!

3 responses so far

May 05 2010

Beta reader request (short story)

Published by Reesa under Editing, beta readers rock

OK, I’m looking for someone(s) willing to give feedback on a short story, details following:

I need a fresh set of eyes or two, so it needs to preferably be someone who hasn’t read this particular short story from me before.  (The story in question is “Flowers In the Desert”, for anyone wondering if they qualify.)

The story has been significantly edited and is a fairly clean draft, and I’ve received several positive comments from editors in rejection letters, hehe.  The main critique remaining on it is that it is not a sufficiently stand-alone piece.  (It’s set in the same world as the novel-in-progress.)  I’d provisionally agree with this critique, but I’ve gone over the thing so many times that I’m too close to see where the fixes lie at this point. So I’d prefer someone who thinks they’d be good at reading it over and pointing out where more backstory/exposition/necessary detail for understanding can be included without damaging the overall fabric of the story (among any other feedback you wish to share, of course).

At least one market I’m interested in submitting to closes at the end of this month, so preferrably I need a reader/critiquer who has the time to both read and give feedback before that deadline (and back to me in enough time I can make said edits and submit by deadline).

If you think the story isn’t easily fixable on the stand-alone issue, that’s relevant feedback as well, no worries!  I have plans and uses for the story even if I can’t make money off it commercially (seems like it would be a good promotional piece when I start marketing the novel, for one), but I want it to be the best story it can be regardless of pro marketability. (And ideally, it gets published and gets attention for the novel on its own!)

Comment here or contact me privately if you are interested. I might get enough volunteers on this that I can’t use all the help offered, but if so I will keep you in mind for future situations of this type, I have a couple other trunked stories that could be cleaned up!

6 responses so far

Jul 08 2009

Learning experience (or, revising really is fun!)

Back and recovering from the trip like a tired, aching thing. Still much work to be done, just doing what parts I can do while sitting around and resting for today. Now on to the interesting stuff…

I’m entering in the last round of edits for “…Elmer the Cat” today in preparation for sending it off. This has been a profound learning experience from start to finish. In the first draft, I had the voice of the narrator so clearly in my head that writing the story was quick and much more linear than many of my stories. It’s been through 6 readers and several revision rounds, including an awesome workshopping that I think I already mentioned, with Steve and Nathan (and Kendra sitting in) up at 4th Street. Had another deep session with Nathan on the plane back, and I think one of the biggest signs that I had to be done with working on it for now was that in some of my own editing suggestions, I’d moved far enough away from it that I was starting to lose the voice that had come through so clearly in draft 1. Happily, Nathan caught most of those and I do think the result is a tighter story. I certainly hope I can get this one published, and already have three or four places lined up to send it to, so we’ll see how it goes.

While I’m trying to remember to take the time to appreciate my accomplishments, there’s more writing to be done! Already a full to-do list today, with catching up on emails to be written at the top of the list. (Also, trolling the trunk for salvageable stories, and jumping the next hurdle of brainstorming so that I can move on with the novel work. And updating the to-do list, hehe.)

Another experience in learning my writing attitudes and routines recently has been quite nifty. I stopped working on the novel for a bit to focus on “…Elmer the Cat”, and thought (rather casually) that I was having a slack-off moment on the novel, being a lazier writer than I really want to be. However, since I’ve been working on letting my head move more at the pace it wants to go, I didn’t struggle too much to self-castigate and just enjoyed the short story work — and my, did I enjoy it! Even as much as it pushed my limits I loved every bit of this latest short story, from brainstorming to drafting to final-for-now revision. (Though I agree with my stepmom Mary, that there’s no such thing as a final draft, you can always go back and revise or rework a piece whenever you feel it needs it.)

And in the process, figured out that the reason I was hesitating on the novel work wasn’t slacking off at all, but a wall needing smashed in regards to a (very good) editing suggestion I received from the marvelous Ella, that I needed more definition of time/space/place. And I agreed with her thought, and realized that not having some of that defined was part of what was slowing me down in this second draft — and that the faster I got to codifying that, the less of this draft I’d have to go back and re-write from the ground up later. Saving future me work is definitely a goal of mine, so my other learning experience this week was a more subtle layer of trusting my writing process/hindbrain, that even apparent laziness might actually be a useful break to regroup and rethink. Also, knowing which hurdle it is that I’m jumping this time is invigorating to the desire to dive back into the work.

For anyone reading who wants to join in, feel free to comment on any of the above or jump into this discussion: What sort of experience have you had with your work or craft recently where your own process surprised you by working outside of your expectations?

2 responses so far

May 14 2009

first fans and character momentum

Published by Reesa under Life, Writing, beta readers rock, momentum

I may very well have found one of the best “first readers” ever.  Bouncy enthusiasm along with insightful critique, in-between more bounciness.  And at least for this project, she’s exactly the sort of reader I’m trying to entertain with this novel.  I mostly mention it because I know she’ll blush and get all squirmy when reading this (insert evil chuckle here).

Onto the writerly chat for the week:  I was chatting with a friend the other day who asked about character momentum.  This friend felt that their story character was uninterested or unwilling to tell the rest of their story, that they had run out of steam.  We discussed a couple of more personal possibilities for why, but I spent some time after the conversation thinking and chatting in a more general sense with my local expert perspective on this topic and thought I’d share that here for potential wider writing discussion.

For myself, I find that I usually assume that a character who isn’t cooperating while stilll living in my head just isn’t ready to tell their story yet.  Once I figure this out (you’d think I’d get faster at it, but it varies), I let he, she, or it roam around in the back alleys and halls there while I go to work on telling a different character’s tale.  This becomes less convenient if I’ve already started writing the recalcitrant character’s story, and for now my easy answer to that is “that’s what ‘the trunk’ is for”.  Learning how to set aside a stuck or stale story into the trunk is its own lesson, and I also presume that when I start having to deal with contracts for books not yet written, my method of managing mewlishly mute characters will have to change to accommodate a storytelling time restriction.

Occasionally I’ve found that a character won’t cooperate because I’m trying to tell the wrong story.  I often approach my storytelling by crafting a character first, with a much more vague idea of specific plot, and then see what the created character does with a setting.  If one story path fizzles, I metaphorically turn the character loose to go walkabout and see if they bring back a better or more interesting story.  There’s one character that’s lived in a little nook in my mind since I was 8; I still haven’t found the exact story where she goes, though I think I might have at least figured out the genre.

Steve says that the number one reason he knows that a character would no longer want to tell his story is that the author has already told it.  It’s apparently the reason why many writers won’t talk about their in-progress work before a draft is finished.  This is certainly not a problem I share, given the peculiar verbal aspect to my writing process, and I wonder if that might not be one of the differences between storytellers and writers — whether telling the story once through causes one to lose interest or just see a different way to tell it next time.

Steve also suggests that a loss of momentum could happen if you are asking your character to do something that is not in their nature to do.  Asking them to behave “out of character” can cause them to become stubborn or feel unreal.  One trick he uses for when this happens is to have a “fallback scene” ready, some stock scene that your character can go and do while you-the-writer figure things out (and stay in your regular writing routine while you do).  Steve will often have Vlad go and eat a meal to figure out what to do next; when Vlad solves the current problem, Steve will delete the irrelevant parts of the mental noodling and get on with the story.

What are some of your found tricks for jump-starting a stuck piece?  Or do you have other questions about this topic we haven’t yet discussed?  I’m always interested in hearing about the processes of other artists.

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Jul 30 2008

Draft finished! story sent! plus a bit of musing…

Published by Reesa under Editing, Writing, beta readers rock

Thanks to everyone who helped on this latest short story. It was a lot of fun and turned out to be a lovely and creepy little piece. (Although I do hit a point in every story so far where I ask the skies, “why can’t I just write straightforward adventure stories?” But I’m sure that even if I tried, layering and ambiguity would sneak back in.) Anyway, thanks this time go to Kit O’Connell, Steven Brust, Jennifer Evans, abigail d, Kiki Christie, and Megan Elizabeth Morris from my writing group (The Society of Voluptuaries), and special thanks go to Mary Dell–first-time beta reader for me and I very highly recommend her work and hope to use her skills again.

It’s a much better story than it was thanks to all of you, and I even sent it in on the day I had wanted to submit by, with 30 minutes to spare. I’m excited about it, and ready to move on to other projects. I keep distracting myself with these anthology projects from getting back into the heavy novel work, so I think for the month of August, (barring sudden rays of inspiration) I will not plan to work on any writing work other than my novel or the collaborative project. If I need short story time, I have several related to the novel that need more work.

I saw an opening for a slush reader at an online magazine I like, and thought hard about whether or not to apply. I’ve heard several accounts from writers who felt that time spent slush reading really helped hone their skills as writers. On the other hand, I already have a full plate of commitments and projects and then some, so committing to read several stories a week on top of that seems like added stress that I just don’t need. So I think I’ve decided not to pursue the gig, but I wonder if I’m doing my writing (and editing) a disservice by not stretching in areas like these. What do you think, gentle reader?

2 responses so far