Browsing Tag

reading

Be My Guest: Bestow Your Wisdom on the Masses!

Writing

Just a quick post today.

I’m officially inviting other readers, writers, editors, and publishing pros to come and be a guest on my blog! I’m open to topics so feel free to let me know what you’d like to write about. Some ideas, randomly:

  • who inspired you to write/edit/whateveryoudoinpublishing
  • your favorite authors/characters/worlds and why
  • how you launched your most recent book
  • how you got into publishing
  • what your writing process looks like
  • what your favorite genres are to read/write in
  • what genres you’re interested in trying out
  • how you navigate the social media world and get actual work done
  • what conferences/conventions you love to attend and why
  • how you got your big break
  • how the publishing industry has changed since you started
  • what you’re looking for in submissions (for agents/editors)
  • what marketing/promo stuff worked for you

That’s just a short list to get your brain going, but as I said, I’m open to discussing what you might want to write.

 

 

Interested? Head on over to the Contact Me page and drop me a line! Let me know who you are, what you do, what you’d like to write about, and a give me a link to your online presence.

As a note, I’m looking for people who take writing seriously — published and aspiring authors — not just “pro-bloggers” who are trying to get their link all over the web.

As always, stay awesome!

5 Things to Think About When Picking Beta Readers

Writing

What I’m Listening To: “I Bring Me” from the TV show Star (this is one of my favorite songs, currently)

Something Cool: Claritin. Because little gremlins in the air are making my head explode. Ugh.

~~~

By the time we’re done with a project, we, as writers, are probably way too close to it to evaluate it effectively. We already know the story and the characters, even what didn’t make it onto the page. When we read, we don’t always see what’s missing, because for us, it’s there in our heads. So it’s important to get fresh eyes onto our work. Here are some things to think about when gearing up to use beta readers.

1. Beta readers are different from critique partners.

Critique partners are other writers who critique your work, usually as you write it; and then you critique theirs in return. Beta readers are often (but not always) readers rather than writers. And beta readers serve a different function than critique partners. The goal is to make sure the piece works as a fully formed story. So your beta readers should receive the entire thing at once, not in bits and pieces. You will want, in many instances, overall impressions of the story, opinions on continuity and story/character arcs. You can’t get good, useful information on this if your beta readers are reading as you write.

2. Wait until after you’ve revised your entire manuscript

This goes hand in hand with #1. You want your ms to be as close to a final product as possible. Will it be a final product? No, of course not. But you want to have fixed everything that you see in the story already. If you don’t, then you’re wasting your beta readers’ time and effort on things you already know need to be fixed. This isn’t a good use of beta readers, because if they’re commenting on things you already know need to be fixed, then there are other things that they might be missing that you don’t see.

3. Who you choose as a beta reader is more important than you think

Once people know you’re writing a novel (or other type of story), they will probably ask you if they can read it. Don’t let everyone who does this become a beta reader. If you write romance and someone mainly reads in the military science fiction genre, they’re not going to give you much feedback that will be helpful. Same if someone reads romance and you write horror or high fantasy or thrillers. You want beta readers who read within the genre you’re writing or have a specialty that relates to something in your book. Perhaps you have a character who is former military; then you might choose a beta reader who has military experience.

Those who read in your genre or have expertise in a topic in your book will give you the most useful feedback.

4. Quality is always better than quantity

We all want everyone to read our stuff. But in the beta phase, having a few qualified beta readers is always going to be better than have a
dozen random beta readers. I always suggest 2-4 focused beta readers. Having more than four sets of comments on your work is overwhelming. This can lead to being unmotivated, because there seems to be so much to do, to fix. Also in play is #3: generally, if you have a lot of people beta reading, unless you’re in some sort of group relating to your genre and pulled beta readers from there, the chances of there being several ineffective beta readers in the group are high. You want focus, efficiency, and usefulness.

5. Figure out what you want to know beforehand

As noted earlier, most beta readers are likely readers and not writers.
They may not have ever beta read for an author before. Giving guidance on things you’re looking for is very helpful. Give them 2-3 questions before they begin that are things you want them to pay attention to. Perhaps it’s your story arc, or the believability of your characters. Perhaps you’d like input on your dialogue or description writing. And keep in mind that you can ask different things of different readers, too, based on their skills or background or reading genre preferences. Giving your beta readers this sort of guidance will help them to give you useful feedback on your story.

So there are five things to think about when choosing and using beta readers. Do you have other considerations? How do you pick beta readers for your work? Comment below!

Venessa’s Top 5 Books on Her Shelf!

Reading

What I’m Listening To: baby birds chirping in the walls — apparently, we have a woodpecker nest in the siding of our house. I’m sure there’s a story idea in there somewhere!

Something Cool: I watched the Doctor Who spinoff show, Class, recently. I blogged about it at Speculative Chic!

Venessa’s Top 5 Books Found on Her Shelf

Okay, read this with the caveat that these choices can often changes with my mood… So I could likely do this once a month and come up with a mostly different list!

These are all books that have had a profound effect on me in some way, whether to influence my writing or my life in general. There isn’t a whole lot of genre consistency here. I have several genres that I love to read in (urban fantasy, horror, mystery/thriller).

Something they do all have in common is that they’re old (of course, I’m old, so there’s that…). If you have some great books with a more recent publication date, drop them in the comments! My TBR pile is certainly not big enough 😉

Okay, here we go!

5. Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice

Love her or hate her, Anne Rice created a brand new subgenre protagonist: the romantic vampire. I remember this being on my mom’s bookshelf when I was about ten or so and I read it not too long after that. I was blown away by the sheer atmosphere of it. It put New Orleans on my bucket list to visit, which I finally did a couple decades later.

4. Hotel Transylvania – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

And if Anne Rice invented the romantic vampire, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro perfected it and, in turn, helped to create another subgenre: historical paranormal romance. I fell in love with the Count Saint Germain and continued to remain in love with him throughout my life. This book, and those that followed, gave me a great appreciation for the richness of history, because Yarbro wrote with such eloquence and lush detail. I eventually ended up a history major at college.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

DON’T PANIC!

If you’ve read the Guide, you know why it’s on this list. If you haven’t, you should. And then you’ll know why it’s on this list. You’ll meet Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, Marvin, and, of course, Arthur Dent. All great fun! You’ll be a convert, I promise.

Also, gave me a great appreciation for towels.

2. The Stand – Stephen King

I debated between this and Different Seasons, which is the first Stephen King book I ever read. I plowed through The Stand over a family vacation in Wisconsin when I was 14. It caught my attention and kept me entranced and, of course, I had to finish it before the end of the vacation, because it was on a bookshelf in the cabin we were renting, so I couldn’t take it home with me. I spent the majority of that trip either in my room at the cabin, reading, or carting that book around with me. It was worth it. And it made me a SK fan forever.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Truly, if you haven’t read this book, you should. It is one of the most brilliant and vivid stories of revenge ever written, in my opinion. I believe most writers can learn from his use of deceit and strategy in this book. I loved it so much, I used to read this book every single year for a couple decades, but have gotten out of that habit in recent years. I need to go back to it.

 

So there are the top 5 books on my shelves! Have you read any of them? What are your top books?


On Reading in One’s Genre…

Craft of Writing, Reading, Writing

A writer should read within his/her genre, absolutely. The obvious reasons are because you learn what’s been selling in your genre, what others have done, etc. You can consciously study others’ work. However, what is not as obvious is that reading deeply in your genre also allows you to subconsciously learn the mechanisms of that genre. You absorb how to write it. As an example, when I was young, I read voraciously in the horror genre (back, yknow, when there was one :p). I mean I would probably read thirty books in a year, just in horror. Some of it was awful, some of it was amazing. As a writer now, I don’t write horror, per se, but some of my stories do contain horrific elements. Those are the easiest bits to write for me. Those scenes tend to need the least revision and editing. And I firmly believe that it’s because of how deeply I read in that genre.

As an editor, I know right away when an author hasn’t read much in the genre she is trying to write in. Why? Because the settings are stock, the characters tend to be stereotypical and the plot is often predictable. And it’s because they don’t know what went before them. They don’t know the tropes of their genre, therefore that cannot avoid or otherwise set the tropes on their ears. You can’t play with something if you don’t know it exists.

Every genre has its rules, its reader expectations and its tropes and, as writers, we have to be educated in those items. In the same way that one cannot *effectively* break the rules of grammar unless one is very familiar with those rules, the effectiveness of writing within a genre is going to be tied directly to knowledge of that genre.

Do you read in your genre? Classics? Current stories? Why or why not?