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Beta Reader Questions

Beta Reader Questions for your Consideration

What questions would you ask? What do you feel comfortable answering?

I’m gearing up for the final push to get SANYARE to beta readers. There are just a few chapters left to edit before it’s ready, and my firm deadline is to send it out on the 13th. Lucky number 13, right?

Anyway, to help prep the readers and direct them toward the kind of feedback I’m looking for, I’ve put together a list of questions that I’m planning on sending out with each manuscript. I don’t expect detailed answers for each and every question, but I want to get the readers thinking critically and considering all aspects of the manuscript.

So here’s my list. What do you think? Have I gone too far? Is there anything I’m missing?

 

General
~ Do you like the title? If not, do you have any suggestions for alternative options?
~ Did the story hold your interest from the first page? Were you “hooked”?
~ What was your first stopping point?
~ Was there a point (after the first chapter or two) at which your interest increased or decreased significantly?
~ Was there anything that confused or frustrated you?
~ Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
~ Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, etc.?
~ Were there any noticeable plot holes or jumps in logic?
~ Did you notice any repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors?

Characters
~ Could you relate to Rie? Did you connect with her emotions?
~ Did you ever feel like you knew Rie personally?
~ Which characters did you connect to and like? Excluding Rie, who was your favorite?
~ Were the villains believable?
~ Which characters need more development? Did you want to see more of any of them?
~ Are there any characters for which you’d like to read a standalone short story?

Setting & Dialogue
~ Did the setting pull you in, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
~ Did you ever feel there was too much description? Not enough?
~ Did you ever feel there was too much dialogue? Not enough?
~ Did the dialogue sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial, and where in the story?

Margin Notes
As you’re reading, please mark any or all of the following:
~ Scenes/paragraphs/lines you really liked or didn’t like.
~ Scenes/paragraphs where you felt bored.
~ Scenes/paragraphs/lines that resonated and/or moved you emotionally.
~ Sections/ideas/backstory that feel too long and should be compressed.
~ Sections/ideas/backstory where you wanted more (e.g. more backstory, deeper emotions, etc).
~ Anything that is confusing.
~ Any spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors you notice as you read.

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Seven Writers’ Paradoxes

As my regular followers know, last weekend I went to the Southern California Writers’ Conference in LA(ish). I was a little nervous going in, not knowing what to expect, but let me tell you, it was worth every penny. The conference staff was welcoming, the class instructors both knowledgeable and honestly interested in helping their students, and the other attendees were friendly and talkative, quickly including me in their conversations. I found a new writers’ group that meets down the street from my house, I met published authors with successful careers in both traditional and independent publishing, and I made connections with other aspiring authors struggling with the same issues as I am. All in all, it was a great event and I’m looking forward to the next one!

Tom Zoellner was the keynote speaker on Saturday morning, and I loved his presentation of the “Seven Writers’ Paradoxes”. I thought I would share his insight, in case there are others out there who might benefit from his words.

  1. Solitude & Sociability: Writing is inherently a solitary activity, but in order to write well, we must be social and interact with the world.
  2. Surprise & Predictability: In telling a good story, the writer should surprise the reader, but must also play within their expectations.
  3. Cruel & Loving: To write great conflict, you must be cruel to your characters, but for the reader to love them, you also have to love and empathize with them.
  4. Doubt & Confidence: Authors live in a world of extreme self-doubt, yet must have faith and confidence in their work to move forward.
  5. Market Oriented & Freely Creative: Writers must know the business and care about the industry, but at the same time, they can’t worry about the market while they’re writing, instead pursuing the projects they love.
  6. Strive for Publication & Don’t Worry About Publication: Writers should strive to put their work out for others to read, but also recognize that the greatest pleasure is in the act of writing itself. Publication will not change your life. (Probably.)
  7. Selfish & Selfless: Writing is ultimately an act of ego, a demand to be read, but it’s intended to connect with and entertain the reader, which is ultimately a selfless goal.

So crazy, yet so true.

What do you think? Do you have any to add?

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It’s Conference Time!

On Friday I will be heading to the Southern California Writers’ Conference. Two and half days of learning about writing craft and business.  Two and half days of spending more time with adults than children. Two and a half days free from toddler power struggles. Needless to say, I’m excited.

The schedule lists some great classes: everything from determining your novel’s genre, to “building characters from the inside out”, to revising and editing, to managing your business as an “authorpreneur”. There are a few sessions where I’m going to have to make a tough decision between the classes I want to take. It will probably be a last minute, day-of, gut decision.

I’ve also signed up to have my first fifteen pages critiqued by a professional author/editor. I’m both excited and nervous about that session. On the one hand, I’ve worked the pages to death, so I hope the feedback is positive. On the other, the only way to get better is to bring in some constructive criticism. I’m sure my reader will have a bit of both. In any case, it will be a great opportunity to focus on my novel and talk through any issues she sees in my writing.

In other news, I have six chapters left to edit in SANYARE. I might not make it by the end of September as I’d hoped, but it will be close if I can push through these next few weeks. Nose to the grindstone and all that jazz. Beta readers, get ready!

 

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Tagline Madness – and a poll!

As noted previously, I will be attending the Southern California Writers’ Conference in Newport Beach in September. I’m starting to prepare for the conference, sending in my advance reader submission and thinking about the materials I want to bring with me. As a result, I realized I needed a catchy tagline for SANYARE, a one-sentence hook that will get people interested in hearing more about the story, and eventually buying the book. I came up with a few different options, but I thought it would be fun to have you all vote on which one you like the best. Do any of them grab you?

Suggestions are always welcome in the comments!

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Forced Boobage

Warning: Video is not safe for work, may be unsuitable for some viewers.

Why do the premium movie channels feel like they need to have soft-core porn in every episode of every show? The hubs and I were watching the first episode of Black Sails the other day, testing it out to see if it was a series we wanted to pay for (we don’t have cable, and prefer to save money using Netflix, Hulu, and buying the remaining programs one by one). We’re a little short on content right now, and thought Black Sails might be a good gap filler. Nope.

First and foremost, we weren’t fans of the show. You could see the actors acting, and the story opened on the wrong plot point (IMO). I won’t get into it here, but there’s a good argument that the show should have either started prior to Flint’s hunt for the treasure ship, or once they were already in competition with the other captain. But I digress.

A comment that we both made after the episode ended was that there was too much forced boobage. That’s right, too many naked boobs. Even the hubs thought so.

Starz is by no means the first to have a primetime show that might as well be soft core porn. I have no facts to back it up, but HBO probably started the trend. Take True Blood. I read the first eight or so Sookie Stackhouse books before the show ever started, and yes there was sex, but there was also STORY there. Some actual romance between the characters, not just sweat between the sheets. The HBO adaptation quickly grew beyond my personal comfort zone and I stopped watching after season 4, when the episodes became more about the quantity of skin than the plot. True Blood wasn’t the first, either, but I think it’s a great example of a show moving from story, to porn.

Sex sells. I get it, really I do. But what happened to the storytelling?

I read quite a bit of romance, paranormal romance in particular, and it can get explicit very quickly. The best romances use sex as a storytelling device. They don’t just throw two people in bed together, or have women walking around without their shirts on (while the men are fully dressed) for no reason. The sex makes sense.

Here’s a great example from one of my favorite paranormal romance authors, Nalini Singh. Within the first chapter of Branded by Fire (Book 6 of the Psy-Changeling Series) the two main characters get hot and heavy. If you read the series from the beginning, you’re introduced to Mercy and Riley, and you know quite a bit about their background. You would know that the changelings are more connected to their physical senses, and sex is by no means taboo in the pack culture. You also know that Mercy is a leopard and Riley is a wolf, they’re both dominant changelings and high-ranking in their respective pack hierarchies, and their relationship has been tense – they get on each other’s nerves even as they’re drawn to one another.

The STORY is about how these two very different people are drawn together and ultimately CHOOSE to build a relationship, potentially sacrificing their position in their own packs. Sex in the first chapter serves a purpose; it creates the tension necessary to write about two people who shouldn’t love one another, who should choose duty over their personal lives, but can’t help themselves. The sex is hot, but it’s not the point. What the sex does to their relationship is the point.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t mind seeing boobs on tv, but they need to advance the story, not just titillate the audience.

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A Classic Comes to Life: Dragonriders of Pern Optioned by Warner Bros.

DragonFlight, by Anne McCaffrey

DragonFlight, the first book in the original Dragon Riders of Pern trilogy.

As reported by Variety magazine, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series has been optioned for a movie franchise. I’m simultaneously thrilled and a little anxious about the possibility of bringing these books to life on the screen.

Anne McCaffrey was one of my favorite authors growing up. I think I read nearly all her books, beginning around the age of ten through high school. I adored the Dragonriders of Pern, The Crystal Singer, and Acorna. These were the stories that got me hooked on science fiction and fantasy in the first place, and launched my lifetime love of the genre. They gave me an escape at a difficult age, through middle school, when I felt like an outsider, and through high school, when I needed a relief from the stress of AP classes, varsity sports, and college applications.

I have to admit, Warner Bros. has done a fantastic job with other fantasy movie franchises. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Hobbit all came out of the historic studio, so I imagine they will do a good job with Anne McCaffrey’s dragons. But at the risk of sounding like a book snob, movies by their nature, are forced to water down the books on which they’re based. They simply can’t dig into the character motivations or provide every detail found on the written page. I would hate to see Pern stripped of its depth.

Here’s hoping Warner Bros. appeases my nostalgia. In the meantime, I think I’ll go back and re-read at least a few of the Dragonriders of Pern books. I found the first three books available as an ebook on Amazon. Anyone care to join me?

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Favorite Lines from SANYARE (WIP): Chapters 6 – 10

My Favorite Lines from Sanyare (WIP)- Chapters 6 - 10

A few more favorite lines from the work in progress. SANYARE Chapters 6 – 10.

Progress is slow, but steady, and SANYARE is getting close to ready for beta feedback. Thank you for your patience! Here are a few more of my favorite lines from the work in progress (WIP) for your reading pleasure.

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Two trolls wearing nothing but leather leggings drank beer out of gallon jugs and pounded their fists on a flat rock while shouting profanities at one another. One of them burped as Rie passed by, the stench of sour milk sending her stomach into her throat. A half dozen leprechauns huddled together on the next small rise, smoking long pipes that reeked of something that wasn’t tobacco.

~

As he moved, his girth bounced off of the other bartenders, the shelving, and anything else that was stupid enough to get in his way.

~

Rie licked her lips. He was beyond untouchable, but he had one of the nicest butts she’d ever seen.

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“Ah, deadly sexy. My specialty.” With another wink and a snap of his fingers, Garran turned and disappeared into the back room.

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“Do you have cotton for brains, or marbles for eyes? She looks fantastic! Like a red and black tigress on the prowl.”

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Like a shark, Braegan could probably identify a single drop of blood in an ocean of water, and be able to tell you who it belonged to, their blood type, and if they should see a physician.

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With large round eyes set above a wide pink nose, a horn protruding from behind each broad ear, and a body covered in a light brown fur, the imp looked like a cross between a large rat and a tiny goat. A goat wearing a blue floral print dress with white ruffles.

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A fresh round of tears burst out of the imp’s eyes. Plink was going to be dried up on the inside and waterlogged on the outside, if she wasn’t careful.

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To Rie, a smithy implied a forge, an anvil, and maybe a few apprentices, not a compound surrounded by fifteen foot walls topped with razor wire.  The term ‘fortress’ barely covered it.

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“Anything that will kill my enemy and protect my own skin is useful. Why discriminate?”

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The stench of raw sewage and maggot infested meat wafted toward her on his exhalation. Rie swallowed the bile that threatened to crawl up her throat and attempted to maintain a neutral expression, not sure she achieved it.

~

What do you think? Which is your favorite?