Tag Archives: writing a novel

It’s not about me. It’s about my book.

I finished my novel last year and mid-September is now staring at me, such a nag is the fall when it comes to writing and getting back on track. I mean, seriously. I know I have fifty pages of comments and issues to address before passing my manuscript to my agent.

My baby is going on submission in October.betareader

Since January, I’ve been sorting through feedback from beta readers—volunteers who provided feedback on my book. Also known as superheroes to me. The experience has been all kinds of awesome, as well as terrifying. I’ve had a total of fifteen readers. Their feedback has been invaluable, even if one of my betas hated my protagonist. Regardless, this input helped expose weaknesses in my characters which I have since spent months improving on. Each of my readers have helped sniff out many pertinent issues in some way or another.

Overall, the process of working with beta readers has been smooth and the comments mostly positive. It has identified weak and irrelevant parts of my manuscript that still require work. And work it has certainly been, at times painstaking. But I’m happy to report that I’m almost through the majority of issues…yes, nine months later.

Working with beta readers is important. Below are some things I’ve learned along the way.

  1. One beta is not enough. Fifteen is a lot! Five betas is a good start.
  2. Try not to get good friends or family, they’re predisposed to loving whatever you write, no matter how good or bad it is.
  3. Select members of your target audience, other writers, someone who is not afraid to be honest, and someone who is reliable.
  4. Find beta readers using social media sites, like LinkedIn or Wattpad.
  5. Offer format choices: print vs. electronic. Make it as easy for your betas as possible.
  6. Don’t give your betas a shitty draft. Make sure it’s a polished copy that has been thoroughly proofread.
  7. Provide your betas with clear instructions of the feedback you’re looking for. A checklist is handy, but nothing too complicated or they won’t do it.
  8. Try not to be too protective of your work. Don’t take the feedback personally. Remember, you asked for it!
  9. Set a deadline of when you’d like comments and don’t let it drag on too long.
  10. Always thank your beta readers. Consider swapping services or giving a small token of appreciation. Perhaps even thank them in your acknowledgements when your book is published!

Remember your goal is to make your book better. You don’t have to accept every piece of feedback you receive, but if you’re getting similar comments, there might be something you need to take a closer look at. No story is perfect. More revisions will always be possible. As writers, we are blind to our weaknesses. Where beta readers aren’t. Like I said, superheroes.

Best lesson of all? It’s not about me. It’s about my book.

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Filed under Books and stuff, Getting published

Tell all your friends

Woman on a scaleTelling people that you’re writing a novel is a bit like telling people you’re trying to lose weight.

Some dieters want to appear in a bathing-suit in July with a magically whittled-down waist, without anyone knowing that they have been eating like a bird and spinning non-stop since the May long weekend.

Once you’ve told your friends that you’re on a diet, you may feel that your every bite is scrutinized; each sliver of birthday cake, handful of Doritos or basket of breadsticks eaten in public puts you on the defensive.

Some writers have a similar fantasy—to announce to their friends, family and frenemies that yes, their novel has just been published. They received a six-figure advance, and have been nominated for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. Next stop—book signings, talk shows and movie options.

A writer doesn’t want to hear the dreaded question: “How’s that novel you’re working on?” This seemingly innocent question is usually asked by the writer’s supposedly supportive spouse during a weak moment when the writer has been sucked into a Survivor clip show.

Some dieters and writers prefer to keep their efforts under wraps. They’re waiting for the big reveal. They’re thinking, what happens if I fail? What if I never drop those last 10 pounds, or write those final 10,000 words? They think it’s easier to toil away in secret. After all, it’s better to have tried and failed quietly, than boasted of your efforts and fallen on your face in public. Right?

Not so.

Don’t be bashful. You’re writing a novel—that’s something to be celebrated. It means you’re further along in achieving your dreams than 99% of those who say they “want to write a book someday.”

Tell people what you’re up to. Your friends could turn out to be your biggest supporters and motivators. They might ask uncomfortable questions—like why you’re watching reality TV instead of writing. Think of them as your accountability partners.

So—how’s that novel you’re working on?

Maria

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Filed under Motivation