Sunday, December 30, 2012

Speaker of the Winds is going out to Beta readers

It's ready. 

Speaker of the Winds is officially in Beta Reader manuscript print. Copies are going out ASAP. The first one went out last night. Because it's so big (and expensive) it'll take some time to get them all out. 

So with a little 'acceptable' tweaking of manuscript format and some other small changes I managed to drop the page count from 730 pages to 600.
That's about 1 and 1/5th of a ream of paper and most of an ink cartridge. It's a hefty beast and I'm still uncertain how I'm going to get it bound if at all. So for my readers it'll likely come to you as a stack of paper like this.

Some of my friends and supporters have offered to read my stories and offer feedback to help me. They are different than my other equally great friends who just want to read and enjoy my stories. This manuscript is in the first stage. Incomplete. If you're not a writer, then you'll probably just want to wait for the finished book. Reading incomplete works can be difficult or even turn you off of a writer if you're just a reader.
New York Times best seller Brandon Sanderson once had his best friend and a member of his writers group say this about his manuscript. It went something like this. "What? You write like this and get published! Maybe I'll get published after all."
Now that wasn't and insult, but rather a clear point that until a work of art is complete it's imperfect. There is work to be done.
I suppose my point is, not everyone who reads fantasy would like to read an incomplete novel. Most of us just want the clean polished version and that's o.k. too.

What is a Beta reader?
To me a Beta reader is someone who will read an unpolished novel, evaluate it's strengths and weaknesses, write on the manuscript where and when they happen and do so in a reasonable period of time. Beta readers are not necessarily writers or readers of great acumen. They are however well read and know when they are reading if the text is bad, average, good or excellent. Beta readers have read enough in the past and do so in the present to understand beyond personal opinion if something is good or not. They also recognize their opinion matters and ensure their comments include their opinions. They also return the manuscript with their legible remarks, because without it I can't improve my story. A Beta reader points out places of success and places that need improvement, but doesn't say how it's to be done. That's the job of the writer and editor.

This is for my Beta readers who I've already spoken to:
It's coming. Here's the kind of feedback I'm hoping to receive.
Of course, spelling, grammar etc is helpful, but that I can edit that on my own, so don't feel to pressured to dive into that kind of work. A side note: that's the last stuff a novelist edits, so there's been very little of it done on the manuscript so far. Don't let it bother you.
Mostly I'd like to hear back on these things below, so please do use a RED pen to take legible notes on the manuscript. (A BIC ball point or similar will work. Please don't use a marker or felt tip as they'll be hard to read and will bleed through pages. Please don't use black or blue, the most common pen colors, as it's hard to notice against the printed text.) You'll be returning it to me so I can review them.
My success and all your hard work reading this novel would be fruitless without your comments and thoughts, so if you thought it, don't hesitate to write it down. I'm always available for questions.
  • Plot problems
  • Inconsistencies of any kind
  • Points of confusion
  • Points of excess (wordiness, repetition)
  • Pet Peeves
  • How's the pacing
  • Do the climaxes peak and the valleys rest
  • Do you have closure
  • Did you feel tension in the right places
  • Was there suspense
  • Did you feel pulled from chapter to chapter, scene to scene, page to page, paragraph to paragraph
  • At what points did you get board
  • Trouble pronouncing names of people, places or things
  • Is there a scene, character, or situation that lacks description
  • Names, scenes you liked... alright, anything you like. 
  • Anything else that you notice
*Again it's most helpful to see your notes in the text, where it's happening. 


For those of you who've offered to volunteer recently I'll have to get you a copy to read for feedback after I start getting some of these back. This can take a while and nothing about writing is very fast. So some sharing will have to happen and all in good time. Also, I do expect to put out two more novels to my readers in 2013, so more opportunities will arise.


If we haven't talked yet, but you're interested in helping me write my novel this is what I expect out of a potential beta reader. 

  • I need to know you well. Most likely you live near me and we communicate regularly. 
  • You're an avid reader of fiction and certainly in the specific genre that the book I'm sending out is in. 
  • The expectation is that you will read the novel in a reasonable time frame and give me feedback that I can use to better the story. You understand that I take all your feedback seriously even if I don't make changes or fix all the things you suggest. 
  • It's o.k. to give me a pat on the back if you like what you've read, but I'm not looking for ego building. At least not at this stage. ;-)
  • You should realize that a Beta reader is reading an unfinished story. It's incomplete. It's not so rough as a first draft, certainly, but it's not submission ready either. At this stage I've worked on the story for well over a year. (Two years on this one.) I'm at the point where I need outside input to improve my story. So it's not a matter of if, but rather when you come across rough points and I expect you to call them out so I can smooth them over and write a breakout polished novel.
  • There's expense involved. It costs me money to print and time to read and write my stories, but you spend your time helping for free because you're cool like that. I expect to be a paid, published professional author one day. Maybe then helping me out might be prestigious, but for now you do it because you like it and it's fun. Because it is.
  • Yes I do expect the manuscript back, and no I'm sorry you can't share it with your friends yet, but once it's published I will need your help with that. Thanks for the enthusiasm! All in good time.
  • It's not top secret, but it does represent hundreds if not thousands of hours of work by both myself and others. It would be a shame if it was compromised. All of the above is why I only do paper copies and I wouldn't give it to you if I didn't trust you, nor would you be here reading this. Thanks friend.

You're all brave and honorable folk and I'm blessed just to have you in my life. Thank you.

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