Thursday, December 22, 2016

Editing Tip: Beta Readers

So you've finished writing. You've gone over the manuscript for content development and grammar revisions. You have a version you are proud of and want to get someone else's opinion. Maybe you already have someone in mind. Here are a few things to keep in mind before giving your manuscript for someone to read over:
1. Make sure your readers are interest in the subject of the book. You may be such an amazing writer that you are able to make someone who hates fantasy love your book; but be mindful to select people who will want to read your book. Don't confuse this with selecting "yes" readers. Selecting readers who actually like the genre is not to ensure you get positive feedback, but to ensure you actually get good, quality, feedback.

2. Find readers who will provide constructive criticism. I once gave an early draft of My Not So Normal Life to a co-worker. I worked in publishing at the time and thought this might be the person to give me some feedback. In hindsight, the book wasn't ready and needed more work. What I got back from her was a simple "Don't quit your day job." It was soul crushing. I would later find readers who gave me more feedback and have helped strengthen my book. But I still hear those words echoing through my head.

3. Be diplomatic about asking and following up with your readers. Be polite, don't pester, give them time.

4. Ask multiple people to be readers. And if possible, let them see the other readers' comments. For My Not So Normal Life I allowed my Beta Readers to read the document in a file sharing program. One of my readers read the prologue and didn't like a paragraph, but she decided not to comment on it since she could see another reader's comment praising the paragraph. Being able to see the comment, reminded my one reader that some aspects of a book will not be universally loved.

5. Don't seek solely praise. If you get it, that's great. Congratulations! But remember, you're still in the editing phase. Meaning you want to have weaknesses pointed out now so they can be fixed. Don't be the Emperor with No Clothes.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Editing Tip #3: Dialogue

Have you ever read a book and thought "that's not how people talk"? I get this a lot with some children and young adult books. When editing, make sure to pay close attention to the dialogue. Read the dialogue aloud. Hearing how the character speaks will help. When reviewing the dialogue, keep a few things in mind:

-does the words, grammar, sentence structure fit in with the character's personality. (Ex. a British character will say "Mum" instead of "Mom" and a small child may not have perfect grammar or big words)
-does your character have any distinguishing features with how he/she speaks? If the character stammers (occasionally) consider "P-p-p-p-please," over "Please"
-Does the dialogue give too much away. Don't have a villain who explains everything including his/her motivation. You can allude to backstory, but be mindful of saying everything.

When you are done reviewing it, ask a trusted friend about any sections you still aren't sure about. In the editing process, as many set of eyes as possible is always helpful.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Writing Tip #2: Development

Probably the most common problem I see in writing (both my own and others') is not telling enough of the story. I have the vision of my character in my head. I know who she is. I know what she looks like. I know why is acts the way she does. Some stuff is obvious to me. But it's not to my readers if I don't describe it. I can be a very rushed writer. I have the ideas and need to get them out as fast as I can. That's not bad, but it means that I need to go back and add in any missing information. Then, when I have a draft I have read over, I give it to David and my sister. They read over it. David will ask me questions about character development and tell me how he envisioned certain characters. Katie will tell me where I rushed over the description of the book and give me suggestions for how to enhance the story. To the writers reading this, find these people. The ones who will not passively read your manuscript and tell you it's good. I have read too many published books where I have felt the book needed another set of eyes. Ones where the motivation for a character was lacking or where support characters had not unique features and were interchangeable. 

My advice for this week: Make sure the story and characters in your head get on the page. 

Do that by the following: 
-get a pack of note cards. Each time a character or place is introduced, write the name on one side. And on the reverse side, write the words used to describe that place or character. Might seem tedious, but it will help with consistency and as a check that you described everything. 
-when reading ask why this is happening. Why does the hero continue on his quest and not go back home when conflict arises? Why would two characters be friends if they seem to be an odd pairing? How would a character react to hearing certain dialogue? These are questions readers may be asking themselves when they are reading. When you ask the questions, make sure your book answers them. 
-get readers to read your book and concentrate on development. Yes, typos will annoy the reader, but so will an underdeveloped story.