Category Archives: Working With Feedback

My Contest Entry Needs Beta Readers

xmas treeLast week I wrote about my fear of success and after reading the comments I thought long and hard about what I wanted out of my writing life.

Since I started writing I’ve joined writing groups, critiqued others work, beta read, and even had some pieces published. It’s been social, fun and a huge learning experience. I think I’m doing okay, but I suppose I could always do better.

Then a contest opportunity comes up and my first response was no way. What happens if I win?

Silly me. It’s the first place I go when I face something like this. I bounce between the possibilities.

I’m okay with doing my very best when entering a contest and crossing my fingers until the results are released. I’m okay with not winning because the act of writing makes me better storyteller.

On the other hand, what if I do win. In this case I would be mentored by an author I’ve have fanned over long before I considered offering my work up for publishing. I’ve read his work and love it to bits. This would be a dream come true.

So what’s stopping me?

Nothing.

Last night I decided to go for it. I’m not going to think about the consequences of my actions. No do or do not. No try. I’m just going to put my best work out there and see what happens.

Why am I blogging about it?

I’m calling for beta readers—again. If you have the time and are willing, please let me know. I’ll need you for three piece of work: a hook (max 100 words), an example chapter (max 1000 words), and a detailed outline.

This my friends could be a life changer and to succeed I’ll need your help.

Writing: Three Ways to Minimize Dialogue Tags

From the beginning I’ve read that said/asked were invisible. It never occurred to me to worry about it when tagging dialogue. But some editors do care if they read said/asked a dozen times in a row. Who’d of thunk it?

I recently got back my manuscript of White Light and guess what. My line editor didn’t like all the says/asks and suggested that I get rid of most of them. The rule change-671374_1280seemed to be one of either per page (250 words.)

Reinforcing the rules:

  • Use specific + active verb to express exactly what you mean
  • Avoid being repetitive—phases and words
  • Remove all unnecessary words

It took a bit of work, but here’s how I did it.

I substituted an action instead of the dialogue tag, removing unnecessary words. When the action existed already, I deleted says/asks.

Example:

“Thanks,”.” I say, my voice let out a breath full of relief.

When it was clear who was speaking, I deleted says/asks completely. Again, getting rid of unnecessary words.

Example:

“Oh, you are a rogue.” Mrs. Perkins blushes batting her eyes as they release hands.

“That’s me. Lock up your virgins,”.” he says.

I wait for it and Mrs. Perkins doesn’t disappoint.

“Well, I guess Emma isn’t in any danger then.” She giggles, intending her comment to be funny.

It wasn’t.

I found a more specific verb, and replaced say/asks, substituting from butterfly-42414_1280a list I found on line and a few ideas of my own.

Example:

Cane lady, Jay, sayspipes up, “I’ll call then. You’re still using Alice’s number, aren’t you?”

So that’s it. My three solutions to repetitive dialogue tags. Hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

What do you do to keep it clean?

Gleaned from:

Writing Groups: Online vs Face-to-Face

It’s funny how having one thing in common can bring together everyone from teens to the elderly and balance the playing field so that all voices are equal.

I’ve been to two face-to-face writing club gatherings. The first time I wasn’t prepared and went more as an observer. That ended with me offering feedback, constructively I hope, on each piece read aloud. The second time I read some of my work. I was pretty freaked out considering I’ve had almost everything I’ve ever written critiqued one way or another. The group were supportive and kind.daisies-676368_1920 There was no need to be nervous.

The members of the Grand Forks Writers Guild were all so welcoming I couldn’t help but relax. But the part I really enjoyed, which is not as available online, were the spontaneous and different points of view on passages we read aloud. Somehow it was fresher, more honest and thought provoking. It made going to the group well worth the effort.

I’ve been involved in two online writing groups as well. One is the Insecure Writers Support Group and the other is Scribophile. I wouldn’t have gone public without their support and feedback. If you haven’t already, I suggest you check them out. If nothing else you may meet a writer from across the globe.globe-48104_1280

We all come together because of our love of words, our uncontrollable drive to express ideas and capture them on paper or hard drives. People are people, we have our insecurities, our talents, and our need for validation and support.

Where do you go? Is it online or face-to-face?

Help Your Beta Reader I

The goal of writing every day is to get better. And we do, but we also become accustom to how we phrase our thoughts. In those phrases hide an assumption that what we mean is what the reader understands. A problem for the most talented and experienced writer. This is why all of us, in every skill level, need feedback.

Feedback is constructive information that the writer can choose to use, or not. Anyone that reads can offer feedback. What I mean is, your beta reader doesn’t have to be in the industry. If they know what they like, and are willing to be honest, they qualify.

You can make it easier on both of you by focusing your reader on your weaknesses. (You’ll know them better than your beta does unless they’ve read for you before.) Give them a list of specific questions. And understand that answers/opinions are very subjective. One reader will love something that another might not comment on at all. Or both will hate something that will demand a call to action.

Constructive or not, words can hurt. But before you react, let’s look at it from the beta’s point of view.

Imagine your beta reader not enjoying everything they read. They endure the rough squirrel-304021_1280patches, examine them, and eventually write their notes. Notes, not just on the questions you’ve offered, but also on things they really, really hated or loved. This will take hours of their time and all because you asked for their opinion.

Don’t like their opinion? Well, then walk it off, bite your tongue, and thank them over and over again. Because thanks to them, you can begin another round of revisions and determine if each comment needs addressing.

What, you say. Not every comment will improve your work. Some comments may take you away from the story core. You need to keep true to your message. So take each comment and consider it carefully before implementing the change. (Unless several readers repeat the comment. Then you have no choice, but to deal with it as they suggest.)

Here’s what happens if your beta cares too much about your feelings and not enough about your work.

Your reader reads until a rough patch and won’t go any further or skips it and continues later on. Not wanting to let you down, the reader goes over the questions and answers in very general terms, glazing over their honest opinions to save your feelings. They rave about the patches they liked.

What exactly can you do with that?

Nothing, so you send it off to a publisher and get a form rejection.

Which one do you prefer?

Aside

I don’t know of any group in the Scribophile realm that is more supportive or helpful than the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pens. It could be the fact that some of the members are published, so there is experience behind … Continue reading