Tag Archives: beta readers

Tense Issues

I try not to bitch too much on here. I would rather keep things positive, but I do want this blog to be helpful. I don’t write a lot about politics, religion or deeply controversial issues, because I don’t really care to argue with walls. I read a great deal of indie work. I only put books on my blog that I feel I can recommend. I’m fairly liberal about what I enjoy. There have been many books in this past year of having been introduced to indie writers that have impressed me greatly.

Sometimes I have been impressed with the stories, but technicalities have resulted in me feeling that I could not recommend the books to others. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy them, but the errors were so severe that I did not feel comfortable passing it along to you as example of something that I would encourage you to read. There are issues, usually with the writing, that have caused me to hesitate or put them aside without recommendation. Remember, word-of-mouth is your greatest marketing tool.

Excessive typos, misspellings, and the obvious misuse of words; like they’re, their, and there, and your and you’re, could of, and would of drive me nuts, but I can tolerate some of that. There are other things that are more subtle, yet most annoying.

Tense issues: These seem to be the most difficult for writers to wrap their heads around. Primarily, books are written in past or present tense. If you start in past, you should stay in past. If you start in present, you should stay in present. It spins my mind around to keep switching between the two.

Examples:

A)

Dusk on the bay is a most beautiful time. Boats are bringing in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights come on one by one. There is movement in the water, but the air is still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps are the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village has roughly three dozen homes and one store. There is a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leapt from the boat as the captain idled to the dock. Frisk ran up the pier to greet me. He knew I would be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I waited for him every evening. The captain was getting old and his wife had died five years earlier. He walked like he was dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain was finished with his chores he always met me in the diner for dinner. We shared a meal and a few stories and then he walked me home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

B)

Dusk on the bay was a most beautiful time. Boats brought in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights came on one by one. There was movement in the water, but the air was still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps were the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village had roughly three dozen homes and one store. There was a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leaps from the boat as the captain idles to the dock. Frisk runs up the pier to greet me. He knows I will be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I wait for him every evening. The captain is getting old and his wife died five years ago. He walks like he’s dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain finishes with his chores he always meets me in the diner for dinner. We share a meal and a few stories and then he walks me home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

C)

Dusk on the bay is a most beautiful time. Boats are bringing in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights come on one by one. There is movement in the water, but the air is still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps are the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village has roughly three dozen homes and one store. There is a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leaps from the boat as the captain idles to the dock. Frisk runs up the pier to greet me. He knows I will be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I wait for him every evening. The captain is getting old and his wife died five years ago. He walks like he’s dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain finishes with his chores he always meets me in the diner for dinner. We share a meal and a few stories and then he walks me home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

D)

Dusk on the bay was a most beautiful time. Boats brought in the catch of a long day at sea. The village lights came on one by one. There was movement in the water, but the air was still. The soft murmur of marine motors and the call of the gulls waiting for fish scraps were the only sounds. Our sleepy little fishing village had roughly three dozen homes and one store. There was a diner and bar at one end and a church at the other.

Captain John’s dog, Frisk, leapt from the boat as the captain idled to the dock. Frisk ran up the pier to greet me. He knew I would be waiting with a bowl of fresh water and a dog treat. I waited for him every evening. The captain was getting old and his wife had died five years earlier. He walked like he was dragging the weight of the world behind him. When the captain was finished with his chores he always met me in the diner for dinner. We shared a meal and a few stories and then he walked me home.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Past is fine. Present is fine. Mixing the two is not fine. This is why we have beta readers and editors.

This is NOT a style thing people, it is a grammar thing.

These examples are of different paragraphs, but I have seen writers mix the two tenses in the same paragraph or even the same sentence. You can be in present tense and have something happen in the past that the narrator tells about, but as a general writing rule, be careful with that. Yanking me around from past to present without a story about time travel is a sure fire way for me to put your book aside.

Most indie reads are wonderful, fresh, creative stories. But writing does have some basic rules.

Another issue I have is head-hopping from person to person, but that’s a subject for another day.

Do you understand tense differences?

Which reads more smoothly to you? A) and B), or C) and D)?

Does changing tense bother you when you read?

Beta Readers Rock My World!

beta-reader

I’ve been checking up on the blogs I follow closely, but I haven’t been doing much blogging myself. My world had been consumed by beta reads and edits. It’s not really a chore. It’s rather fun to see how the variety in readers is represented through their fresh visions of my work.

After a year and a half, I received my first one star review on “Red Clay and Roses” yesterday.

It was really simple. Ten words. But that was all they really needed to say and guess what?

I get it! And I sincerely appreciated this:

“Story was too segmented and I felt a little confusing.”

I have admitted from the get-go that that this book is different. It was not written by a standard formulaic novel template. There is an Introduction, Part One, Part Two and a Conclusion that are all unique in writing style, POV, and person. Most people are going to be able to go with it and some not. That’s okay.

I’m, of course, disappointed that I let a reader down so badly that they felt a one star was necessary. We always are. That’s a sad note.

What am I doing about it this time that’s different?

Beta Readers!

I learned about beta readers from my blogging friend authors and I have to tell you they are invaluable. You get to learn so much from a cross-section of the population that isn’t family who are invested in you emotionally.

I started out with nine and worked through five readers notes, so far It’s been a wonderful experience. Here’s some questions being answered:

  • Are you satisfied with the plot and characters?
  • Were there points you could really relate to personally?
  • Were there points you couldn’t relate to?
  • What did you enjoy most?
  • At what points did you feel frustrated? Why?
  • Do you feel satisfied with the last act?
  • Can you summarize the book in a few sentences? How did the book make you feel after?

These are all things your family is going to struggle with, but good beta readers shoot from the hip and tell you like it is. One of the nicest things about beta reading is that you get to go back and forth with the reader to discuss the book without any fear of ruining it for others with spoilers.

I don’t have any grandiose delusions that I can pump out a novel that is going to be perfect on the first or second draft, or even on the fifth draft. Truth is: readers all have their own life experiences and knowledge base. Some are highly skilled and talented when it comes to writing and some are novice writers who simply enjoy a good read. I love you all!

We need to hear from all of you before we try to market to the world at large. That’s why I am glad that I have more than a couple of betas.

“Naked Alliances” is a much better product today than it was back on June 8th, when I completed the first draft, and I could not have done it without you!

I am eternally grateful for the help I have had so far and look forward to the feedback from the next four.

Do you use beta readers?

What’s your experience with later drafts and editing?  

Have you ever read a draft for someone who hasn’t yet published?

Share you experiences. 

Beta Readers: The Force Thanks You, I Thank You

completeangrybirdsstarwars2allcharactersguidefeaturedimage640x478

Waiting is hard! So far, I have beaten every level in Angry Birds Star Wars and Angry Birds Space, (about 600 levels) including bonus levels, except for one. I can’t get three stars on Cloud City level 29. (If anybody knows how to beat it with three stars, drop me an email.) I have retrieved all of the golden eggs, and completed all of the eggbirds. Of course, when I get stuck I rely on the rocket scientist, so I have cheated a bit.

That’s what I do when I’m not writing or reading. Play with my animated friends. I’m lost in deep cyberspace somewhere out in the universe.

I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not writing or editing or something to do with writing. I have completed two more vague outlines for future books and a lot of where I go with those will depend on where my beta readers desire to go. And whether they decide to go anywhere at all. The hardest part is waiting.

One beta reader is done and she loved the story. Did some jam up good editing with a keen eye.

Another beta reader is giving me an in-depth and thorough deep read for content editing. He’s close to the end. We’ve made lots of progress. I know there is more to come.

I plan to do a future post on just how helpful beta reads are when we are all done. Invaluable!

I have seven more lined up and am just starting to get some feedback. That’s totally awesome! I’m nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. I feel like the nerdy guy who has just decided to ask the pretty girl to the prom.

Beta readers really rock! To give your story time and attention, when life places so many demands on them, well, it just goes to show how wonderful the world is that we live in. I can’t thank them all enough. I would do the same for them and they know it, but I feel like I could send them winning lottery tickets and it still wouldn’t be enough.

So, thanks guys and girls, for your time and attention, for your brain energy and willingness to help.

You are deeply appreciated.

Crime Fiction Beta Readers Apply

We have gotten about half-way through with the first beta reads and second edits on Naked Alliances, my first crime novel. Yay! I’ve been told, “It’s one helluva good story to be proud of.” That really boosted my confidence, and I am feeling just about ready to share it with others.

I have two beta readers and they are more than awesome!  I’m really getting excited now. There is absolutely no way I could thank them enough. You totally rock!

I have four more beta readers lined up and I will accept a couple more if you think it’s really something you’d like to read. Just send me a note: sknicholls1@gmail.com  I will tell you now, it may be a couple of years before this story is released to the public, as I have two or three more stories in my head that I want to get down before I publish Book One in The Naked Eye Series.

This story was written as a challenge by my husband, the Rocket Scientist, to write a crime novel. It developed exactly as I expected it would. We are both avid readers of crime fiction. He reads everything, but I mostly read regional authors. I can’t deny being an amateur.

I also can’t deny that it is cliche. My characters are cliche. The story, while serious and fascinating, is somewhat cliche. Not a comedy caper, but it comes off as nearly satirical it’s so cliché, in my opinion. But it is what it is. And I have worked hard on it.

It’s regional southern crime fiction. There are southern colloquialisms that I most likely won’t alter. It is also spiced with contemporary, regional urban slang. (Hopefully, not too much.) Some may be very clear to you and some more obscure, but it’s not hard to pick up on meanings in context. There are accents and some regional dialect, but nothing you have to slog through for any length of time.

If rape, prostitution, porn, nudity, and/or recreational sex are triggers for you, you probably don’t need to read. If you’re put off by the notion of alternate lifestyles, you’re likely not going to enjoy this story. That’s okay, it wasn’t meant for everybody.

Being as cliché as it is there are stereotypes, and they are supposed to be there. There are no patched eyes or limping characters, steampunks, or people with robotic appendages. There is nothing paranormal, magical, or mystical about it.

The book is both murder mystery and crime thriller, but it’s not a cozy mystery and it was a challenge to write both murder mystery and thriller in one book. The murder is more a subplot, so it doesn’t really unfold the way a typical cozy murder mystery would.

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, when I am ready for more beta readers to take a look, I’ll have most of the editing done. I’m mainly looking for opinions and feedback on the overall flow, the pace, the story-lines, and how you feel about how they unfold. I would also like to know if there are characters that you would like to see come back in future books. The series books will stand alone, but may share common characters.

I am looking for folk who like crime fiction in particular.

 If you think you would be interested, drop me a line.

One of the fictional settings in the book, Leisure Lagoon, was modeled after this place, my family’s nudist resort here in Central Florida, Cypress Cove.

A Novel Idea

20110907we-relationships-chart-map-showing-many-places-and-peopleBeta readers rock! If you don’t use them, you are really missing out on a wonderful opportunity to get virgin eyes on your work and help you identify strong and weak spots. On my second pass by the alpha reader he saw much improvement in my first crime novel  and I still have a few places that I want to go back and touch up to strengthen a character’s position on certain pertinent matters. So that, along with some beta notes trickling in, is what I have been doing all week.

I have an outline for book two, and another story in my head for book three, but I am feeling a need to break away from this and write something different. I just read a very good “relationship” novel (will tell you more about that later) and I have been mulling over some ideas. It really stimulated me to think about just what comprises a good novel.

Honestly, being human or not, relationships are what most every novel boils down to. The relationship between people and their world, the relationship between lovers, the relationship between individuals, parents, children, siblings, friends, elves, war lords, bad guys, good guys, pets, robots…relationships are what make good novels relate-able.

So I got restrospective and started thinking about all the relationships in my life. There is really some good fodder there. It has not been a typical life, though, but some typical relationship issues were resolved.

The only piece I have really written well in first person was about a gay guy coming to terms with his identity in a community that was less than accepting. I liked the practice of getting into his character, but that story has been done to death.

I am thinking of taking another angle, and writing a piece in first person about a woman who finds herself with two grown children, divorced from a gay guy, and five hundred miles from her home at the age of forty. How she starts over with her life. Having never had her twenties, because of family responsibilities, she suddenly finds herself in a world she has been isolated from for twenty years. She violates the old double standard by trying to juggle relationships.

It sounds sad, but it really isn’t…there would be humorous undertones throughout as she acclimates to a new lifestyle and the dating scene again.

I don’t have a clue what genre it would fit into. Women’s fiction? Chick-lit? I don’t read much in either genre, so I really don’t give a flying flip about rules. I just want to tell the story. The underlying theme is about forgiveness.

I am not one of those paranoid people about sharing unpublished ideas online, because we all have our own ways of telling our stories.

I haven’t made an outline. It’s just a thought. What do you think about it? Boring or interesting? Amusing, maybe?

Any ideas for a working title?

Naked Alliances: Book One: The Naked Eye Series, Cover Idea and New Blurb

green naked Alliances 002

A potential case offered by the former mayor of Orlando could give Richard Noggin P.I. the edge he needs to propel his business into the big leagues. Before he can get to his meeting for his new assignment, a cold case murder, he gets sucked into a crisis situation involving two women from Orange Blossom Trail in the red light district. His calm existence as a private investigator solving marital conflicts and fraud quickly unravels when a transsexual entertainer dumps an abused Asian girl on him. 

I sent off my manuscript to a couple of beta readers today. (Thank you so very much for your willingness to take on this task!!!) Now I am bored…waiting, and was playing around with cover image ideas and blurbs. This, of course, is not a professional book cover image but it works for a manuscript .mobi file pretty good.

I have Book Two in my head, so I have started roughing out a vague outline. I have always been a linear writer, but crime fiction does not lend itself well to that method. So I am experimenting. Some of what I write in Book Two will depend on characters from Book One, so I am anxious to see how the beta reading goes before I get too deep.

What do you think of the blurb?

 

If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong!

Keep writing!

UPDATE!!!

Thank you to all the commentators. I believe we have a good gritty blurb that speaks more to the mood and genre of the book. Special thanks to Misha Burnett, who got me thinking in a different direction. That’s what I love about “social” media. People can pool ideas and creativity abounds.

“Richard Noggin, a Florida private investigator, figured that taking on a maleficence case for the former mayor of Orange County would be good for his career. Instead he finds himself in a shadowy world of sex, secrets, slaves…and murder. Drafted to solve a cold case, murder leads to murder. From Little Saigon to Leisure Lagoon, Richard works to protect a young girl and bring down a sinister crime boss.”

Progress Update: Naked Alliances, First Round

street-signs

I am so far behind with television recorded on my DVR that I have to fast forward through Christmas commercials. Seriously, tried to watch an episode of NCIS with my husband last night and I am like, “Who are all these new people?”

That shows how writing dedicated I am. It has been my focus since the beginning of May. I started this wip in November, put it aside to work on another project, and picked this back up in May. Working every day, sometimes sixteen to eighteen hours non-stop, I had the fish bone skeleton fleshed out on June 8th.

detour_signThat’s what I am calling the first draft. I finally let the rocket scientist, my alpha reader and crime novel aficionado, read it. I was sorely disappointed when he scored me a two out of five. First I did the proofreading edits required, and then I set about fixing a few things and breathing some more life into this animal.

He didn’t like the opening. So I rewrote it. I shared it with my writers’ group and they loved it. Doing so did raise a question in my mind though. Having two predominate plots, with both of them introduced in the first chapter leads the reader to believe they may be more connected than they are. There is character connection, but they aren’t connected by many plot elements. A few, but I’m not sure if they are enough to satisfy the reader in the end.

He’s not bothered by the POV switching for Richard and Brandi, the private investigator and his sidekick, but third changeperson limited narration is not what he is most familiar with. He’s likes third person omniscient best. I’m not changing that because it isn’t really possible without a complete rewrite, and there are so many times that Richard and Brandi are not together it is necessary. When they are together, I try to stick with one POV or the other to avoid head-hopping…but it does sort of result in third person omniscient. I’m not really seeing that as problematic on the revisions.

I felt I already had too many characters, but the RS felt I needed more. Richard is supposed to be somewhat of a loner, and likes to work alone. The RS said not having many friends, neighbors or associates made him less personable, hard to sidle up with. So I did what I could to work a few more into the story. I really like the result.

magicianThe RS also said that Richard needed more of a personal life. I didn’t want volumes of backstory on Richard…and his situation is really keeping him too busy for much of a social life, but I did what I could to round him out a bit better. Maybe that needs more work. I don’t want to severely change his persona though. And I don’t want a lot of ancillary side tracking not related to plot. But I think I have managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat on this one.

I am also in the process of adding another action chapter into a spot that lulled. It is the first time that Richard and Brandi are working actively together and I think I can do this in a way that will make both of their unique personalities shine.

With what I have pumped into this second draft, the additional chapters and revisions, adding characters and giving my MC a bit more of a life, I have drastically altered several scenes.

The RS loved the last few chapters and the ending elements, so I’m not tampering with that.

I will have 30 chapters, and have already reached 64,616 words without the chapter I am in the process of stop signadding. After this, I have a few more chapters to tweak and fine tune and it will be ready for another pass by the rocket scientist. He’s good at proofreading and I want it up to par when I send it to beta readers. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to do that next week.

I am looking to having two read and see what else I need to adjust, and then I’ll try with two more.

I know it is about progress, not perfection, but I would like for this to be the best it can be.

Then, I can start on Book Two…it is already scratching and clawing its way through my brain and itching to come out.

Sunday Synopsis: First Draft Accomplished

Hi folks! You may have been wondering if I dropped off the edge of the earth as I haven’t been floating around as much as I used to. That’s because I have been very busy writing for the past month and four days. I started this project in November at 2340 words and parked it until May 4th, when I felt a strong need to get back to it.

Today I wrote my final words in the first draft on my first crime novel.

It is sitting at 57, 678. Yay me!

Now the real work begins. I haven’t done my first read through, but I thought I would jot down some notes about what I’m feeling about where we are.

I have few things I am eager to hear from my beta readers about. Mainly having to do with POV, the number of suspects, and running two major interrelated plotlines.

There is murder mystery and there is organized crime, each aspect offering flavors of crime fiction that can be very different. I know some people like solving puzzles, putting the pieces together, and others want high thriller action and suspense. My hope is that I provided both without disappointing one reader or another.

There are a number of people involved. There is a family law firm, and there is a nudist resort where the ancillary characters come from. That’s a lot of players, and I am hoping it isn’t too confusing.

I basically went in alternating POV between my two main characters, the detective, Richard, and his sidekick, Brandi. At about the mid-point, it is primarily Richard’s POV. I do have one chapter dedicated to my villain. There were things you, the reader, needed to know about the villain that neither Brandi nor Richard could tell you. Things only the villain could know. I also wanted to show the wickedness in a way that was indisputable.

Now, I am wondering if that might come across as too jarring, and I am thinking that to balance this, maybe I should give my murder suspects their own POV chapters. I dunno.

At any rate, it is what it is. Honestly, I didn’t set out to write the next great masterpiece. It’s genre fiction and I hoped to be entertaining.

My Alpha Reader is my husband, who reads two or three crime novels a week. He loves it all. I have told him to expect a cross between Charlotte Bronte and Tim Dorsey; Sort of a Charlotte Dorsey or a Tim Bronte. I don’t know if my writing style works with crime fiction, but the project is fun.

If you are not having fun, you need to be doing something else. Life is too short.