Beta Readers and the Next Project

You may recall that this year I’ve been working on my horror story The Deconstructor as my primary side project to help avoid burnout as I continue to chip away at Through the Black. Well, at the end of last week I got the first draft finished! Woo hoo! So what now for it?

I was originally planning on it being put on the shelf and sitting, since I didn’t think there would be much interest for it yet and I’m focusing on other things. However already I’ve got a couple of volunteers who want to beta it – a promising start. So I’ve decided to see if anyone else is interested and then send it out with questions in a few days’ time. This will be useful in the long run as when it’s time to look at it again I can start right away.

As you can see from my projects page, I’ve got a good few open and a bunch of them that I’m excited to work on right now. Continuing with my theme of trying to tie up loose projects—let’s face it, I’ve got more than enough!—I’ve decided to work on The Fishperer. I’ve got a full rough draft which puts it next in line as most complete. I’ve let my list of open projects pile up way too high and for my own peace of mind I really want to work on at least getting them to beta ready stages. That way they feel less of a loose end, ready to be sent out when the time feels right.

The Fishperer doesn’t have its own page yet but I will be changing that before the next post is due out in two weeks, so you’ll be able to read all about it! It’s a project I’m very excited about, set in an ocean world where it’s not uncommon for people to be able to talk to fish and an aging, hydromancing bounty hunter is chasing the score of a lifetime. And it comes with a nice change in tone from working on The Deconstructor, easily the darkest and most serious long work I’ve written. It does however also require an obscene amount of rewriting. The joy of NaNoWriMo drafts! At least it’ll keep be busy?

If anyone else is interested in being a beta reader for The Deconstructor, either send me a message on Twitter or leave something below in the next couple of days and I’ll get back to you!

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Ups and Downs

A bit of a personal post from me today.

Friday was, shall we say, emotional. I had one of those days at work where, very early on in the day, someone completely and utterly trampled over my self-worth. To top that off, as it was their last day on the job, this issue will never be resolved and I’ll never get to know what went wrong. Nothing like confusion, hurt and self doubt to kick off your day. There was only one thing that I could think of that would make me feel better, and that was immersing myself in the fantasy worlds I’ve created. Unfortunately a had a whole day to stew before I could do that though.

To anyone who isn’t a writer, using fiction to forget your problems might not sound like the healthiest thing in the world. The thing about writing that non-writers have to understand is that to a whole lot of us, it isn’t a job. It’s a hobby, it’s our fun, it’s how we unwind and, very frequently, it’s our therapy.

Some people like to explore their trials and tribulations in their writing. Other’s like to use fiction to forget about them for a while. Whichever works for you, it beats the hell out of sitting there with a tub of Häagen-Dazs and is more productive too. On Friday though, being a writer helped me deal in a new way.

First of all we were nearing the end of the day, all of us in the lab being silent, when suddenly my co-worker turned to me with a humongous grin on her face and said “thirty six days” with more than a modicum of excitement. I peered at her, confused. Thirty six days? I spent a few panicked moments trying to remember what happened in thirty six days. Was her granddaughter visiting? A particularly significant footie match? A holiday? Eventually, I had to ask. My memory had failed me. Her grin only widened. “In thirty six days I get to read your book!” Talk about a confidence boost. Not only was someone excited to read my book, they were literally counting the days until they got to do so. Not even one of the writing community, because we all get excited at getting to beta each others’ books. I couldn’t help but join in her excitement, especially when I checked my emails later that evening.

A few weeks ago, I sent off the first 20k of Through the Black to a friend who needed stuff to critique for experience for a course. On Friday, I got their feedback. While I couldn’t get feedback on the overall plot or character arcs, what I did get was hugely positive. It was so validating and almost completely erased the woes of the morning. I was excited and delighted, grinning at my screen so much it hurt. Then I wanted to cry, overwhelmed by the fact that someone was actually enjoying the novel I had poured so much of my time and soul into. Then I was grinning again. This went back and forth long into the night, and it felt amazing.

Sometimes real life is awesome, and that energy gets channelled into writing.

Sometimes real life completely sucks. That energy goes in as well.

Because writing makes everything better, and I might be starting to think that sharing that writing is awesome too.

Betas And Babies

Right now I’m in full on editing mode and am currently still on track to finish on time (just). The last third of this book needs some major rewriting though, so we’ll see how this goes. I have currently edited twelve out of seventeen chapters of TE Book 1, in case you were wondering. Anyway, today I’m adding another brief note on beta readers and why they are important, if only to convince myself that sending this MS out is 100% necessary.

Beta readers are essential.

Disclaimer: You may get bored of this topic, as the prospect of sending this MS out is pretty much always on my mind right now, eating away at me. The fear is strong with this one. But so is the stubbornness. I’ve said it’s going out, it’s going out.

I am very easy to please. Ridiculously so. Quite often I find it difficult to spot faults. It’s one of the reasons that I find beta reading such a challenge. No really, I genuinely loved that story and don’t know how to criticise it. Like, I actually kinda enjoyed Alien Resurrection!  That’s how bad it is. I see a good film and think it’s amazing. I see an all right film and think it’s great. My brain nearly exploded when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. How can I see the problems in my own work if I can’t see it in other peoples’? It’s tough, but that’s where beta readers come in.

It feels like such a strange thing to complain about, since most of my time editing consists of me dramatically flopping over my desk, lamenting how this prose is completely unfit for human eyes. There are problems. I know there are problems. What are they? Why are they problems? And how, oh how, do I kick them to the curb?

There are parts of my story that I really like, certain scenes, conversations, settings. Yet the thought of people reading them still makes my blood run cold. Do I, on some subconscious level, know that there are issues in these things that I love and I just don’t want to change them? Very possible. Our books are our babies. Actually, scratch that. I hate babies. I love books, especially  mine (about 40% of the time). The point of beta readers is to challenge this love, to question, to poke holes. So eventually, someday you will have the perfect, remade, new and improved, robo-baby. Uh, I mean book.

And that is why beta readers are essential.