Revision: Beta Readers

Revision: Beta Readers

by Nicole Galloway-Miller Beta readers are an essential part of the revision process. They are readers who volunteer to read a piece of writing and offer criticism on it. Sometimes there is an exchange. They agree to read a piece of work if the writer of that work agrees to read a piece of their work. The term beta comes from the software industry, which uses “beta” to describe an imperfect release. The release is used by beta testers who try to identify problems before it is released to the general public. These testers deliberately attempt to break the software looking for points of weakness which could pose problems. Beta readers for a piece of writing provide a similar service to the writer searching for weaknesses in a piece. Ideal beta readers are opinionated and willing to express those opinions without killing an author’s hopes and dreams. They are passionate about quality writing and storytelling and willing to collaborate and share their knowledge with others. Beware, though, friends and family often do not make good beta readers. If a beta reader is too close to the writer, he or she may not feel that they can say difficult things or negative opinions about the piece of writing and feel comfortable offering criticism about weaknesses of a piece, which is essential to this process. Most beta readers read regularly. They prefer to read broadly and do not restrict themselves to one genre or type of novel. Ideally, they read a variety of popular fiction and literary works and are not “book snobs” who prefer impenetrable literature. Very often they are writers themselves, because fellow writers understand the challenges of creating a book-length manuscript and what makes a good book. Great beta readers are knowledgeable about the publishing world and have good instincts about what it takes to get a book noticed by a literary agent or book buyer. A good beta reader will be able to identify weaknesses in characterization and plot which the writer has missed. In addition, the beta reader will proofread the work for typos and grammatical errors. Many authors use several beta readers to solicit a wider opinion of the work as a whole. When choosing beta readers for your manuscript, make sure that at least one of them has an editorial or proofreading background and that one or two of the others is in the target audience in terms of age, gender and interests. If your book is about a character with special knowledge such as a golfer or detective, try to include a reader who is golfer or detective or knows a lot about the subject. This way, you can double-check your facts. The...

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Armand Sabatier ~ Sidekick or Assassin?

Armand Sabatier ~ Sidekick or Assassin?

by Roland Clarke English: Rancocas (Helis Stock) Farm is an American thoroughbred horse racing stud farm and racing stable located on Monmouth Road (County Road 537) in Springfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, Jobstown, New Jersey. As the winter snows threaten, I need to draw my interviews at Du Noroît Stud to a close. Arranging the final interviews has been a challenge—as head groom, Odette Fedon has a schedule that seems like 24/7, while I was beginning to feel that Armand Sabatier was as evasive as a wolf. Is that why he’s called Loup, French for wolf? However, he has finally agreed to talk on the understanding that he has the right to remain silent. Bonjour Armand. Many thanks for agreeing to talk about yourself. First, what was your life like growing up in France? My childhood will always be a precious memory, even if life was hard for mes parents with four children. Our farm in the Cevennes provided more than enough to feed us well: l’agneau—the lamb, vegetables, and les châtaignes—chestnuts that my mother even used for bread. The region is beautiful, especially in the autumn with the trees. But it’s all no more. Just memories. What went wrong? Did your parents lose the farm? Non, but to see us educated they had to take other work and rent out the farm, as it wouldn’t sell. Now they live in Montpelier, je pense. My older brother, Laurent lives there but the rest of us…moved away. This is all before ‘Spiral of Hooves’ begins? What made you leave? Back in my teens, I dreamt of helping the environment by finding safer ways of doing things in the Cevennes. I managed to get degrees in Biodiversity, Ecology, and Evolution at the University of Montpelier, but then I…changed…careers. A change of direction? In what way? A positive one, I hope. Merde, je souffre. It hurts to remember. Just know that I failed badly, and betrayed the trust of my closest friends. The price was too high. Even now the guilt is too much…but I had to run. I still pay for mon erreur. You came here to escape? Or to build a new future? Especially in the fall, this area reminds me of the home I abandoned. And my past is…buried. Gilles has given me a chance of…something better. Here my degree was a means to move on. Is that why your new friends see you as a bookworm? You misunderstand. The books and my qualifications are the future. Here I can forget…and move on. But Roman Boissard believes that “the scruffy academic is a born criminal” because of your evasive manner. He wants your “contract terminated”. Yet, the others...

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Resurrecting Dead Ideas

Resurrecting Dead Ideas

by Yen Ooi Do you have story ideas that you have forgotten, left for dead, given up on, or worse, ignored? Well, why not take this spooky Halloween season to resurrect them? Perhaps they could be revived for a dramatic entrance as a new novel this NaNoWriMo? As a writer, I have notes in many formats, but thankfully, I’ve learnt to keep them all in one of two places; my computer, or my notebook. I don’t think that this is the best method, but it works for me. What methods do you use for note-keeping? Do you keep everything that you think would inspire a story someday? Being a writer is an ongoing learning process for me. I am always doubting what I should write down, and what I should just throw away, but I’m glad that I generally decide to keep most of my ideas. It can be anything from a word to an actual scene, or even a breakdown of a storyline. Sometimes, when I am feeling uninspired or just needing a kick up my creative backside, I pull out my notes and read through them as something would always jump out of the page and scream ‘write me’. Don’t be afraid to be different. Writers have their own quirks, which can be seen in this brilliant compilation of writers’ notebooks. http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog/writers-notebooks/ Every story begins differently; some small, some large, some complete, some making no sense at all. Every story also has a different incubation period. It might take years to mature into an actual story, or it might take minutes from inception. Stories cannot be rushed and need to be worked with at their own pace. Earlier this year, I looked at my old notes and found just a short description of a young man whom I saw working at a Starbucks near where I had lived in Tokyo. I had written the description in 2008, wanting just a memory of that moment that might somehow be inspired into a story. I had looked at the same note various times in the last five years, but nothing came to it, until sometime earlier this year, when the idea for a short story came to me. I knew then, that my Starbucks boy will be written into a story and that was how the story of the same title was born. So, how will you react to your old notes and ideas? Do you think there’s something there that is screaming to be written soon? Don’t throw out old ideas, or ignore them. Keep them in a safe place where you can refer to them periodically. You’ll find that they each have a moment in which to shine in...

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Sell Yourself! (No, I Don’t Mean That!)

Sell Yourself! (No, I Don’t Mean That!)

by Merethe Walther Often, a writer feels that their first devotion should be to their craft, and this is true—partially. One of the hardest things about writing a book comes in knowing that you’re still a general unknown in the industry. After all of that work, you still have to prove your worth to those who aren’t friends or family, and will judge you with a critical eye. Writing a book is a great accomplishment. You took several hundred pages of nothing and turned it into something, and that is a prolific task that many are not capable of. However, writing a book is only one small step on the ladder to authorship. How can you get people to read your book and see that skill? Self-marketing will be both your best friend and, probably, your worst nightmare; but it is a necessary evil. Targets Aren’t Just for Guns Target audience is crucial to developing your presence as an author. If you’ve written 1000 Ways to Cook Beef, your target audience isn’t going to be vegetarians, vegans, or pescetarians. It’s also not going to be for children or people who eat out, or those who aren’t interested in cooking.  While this might seem simple to understand, many writers aren’t really aware of their market, even when the book is done—and if you don’t know, how will your audience? By the time you’re ready to seek publishing, you need to have gathered an idea of your book’s target gender, age range, and social leanings. This means that if you’ve written the above cookbook, most likely, you will try to reach non-vegetarian females, aged 25-40, with a moderate income and a religion that doesn’t include the worship of sacred cows. Realistically, you’re looking for a housewife or working mom who needs quick, easy recipes to feed her family. You must understand who you’re targeting, because you’re sowing seeds for future returns. Being Attractive (Online) is Everything You’ve got your target audience down, and you’re ready to hit the marketing! Where do you start? How about with that webpage you haven’t updated since 2009?  If your background has sparkles, GIFs, or looks like a teen girl’s webpage from 1998, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. Everything online that represents you should showcase a professional, sleek, and stylistic profile that makes people think you’re capable. Fair? No. Necessary? Absolutely! This is judging a book by its cover—your audience won’t ever get to the book if your page is filled with buttons, dazzling pictures, and chaotic links. As a writer in this day and age, if you aren’t online, you’re going to suffer in reaching your audience. You should have at...

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With Love: An Interview with Genilee and Sharon

With Love: An Interview with Genilee and Sharon

by Judy Spring Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up to the authors of Twist of Fate, F. Sharon Swope and Genilee Swope Parente. This mother-daughter writing duo has offered insight into their lives, collaborative process, and a bit about the upcoming sequel in their Sam Osborne Detective Series, Wretched Fate. Sharon and her husband Robert live in Woodbridge, Virginia, while Genilee lives a little ways down the road in Dumfries with her husband Ray and daughter Christina. Although Sharon has had dogs most of her life, she currently doesn’t have any pets. Genilee’s household is shared with a mom cat and two kittens, and a dog that would like to make friends with the feline crew, but hasn’t yet succeeded. Music is a must in this family, and Genilee thanks her ma and pa for the introduction to swing music from the wonderful 40s, as well as a shared love of classical music. In addition to listening to acoustical folk music, country, and Irish music, Genilee offers an extended thanks to her daughter for sharing the popular genre, and also to her talented brother for a love of instrumental. In down time, Sharon relaxes by playing games of any kind: card games, mahjong, and computer games are a mentionable few. Genilee, however, relaxes by “doing ANYthing but play games. Mom did not pass down the competitive gene. I read, write, and watch movies.” Each of these ladies had a favorite quote to share. Sharon believes in fairness and hard work, citing two quotes that demonstrate these qualities to her: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and, “God helps those who help themselves.” Genilee shared the quote: “Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” She says that this quote has been overused in recent years, but she has a copy of it on her refrigerator. She applies this quote to her craft with these words, “Writing is about focusing on those moments.” When asked what advice they would give to their younger selves, they offered a ponderable thought. Sharon shared this piece of heart, “Don’t wait so long to pursue your dreams.” This is a powerful observation by one who is respectably pursuing and achieving her dream. It’s no wonder her daughter Genilee offered the same words of wisdom following it with, “But never give up on them, as they can happen at any age.” Below are a few detailed questions, followed with replies from both of the authors, and we hope you enjoy. Who is your favorite author? Sharon:  Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsay, and Mary Higgins Clark. Genilee:  Mary Higgins Clark,...

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Monsters

Monsters

Monsters by Ashleigh Galvin  This time of year, there is only one thing on people’s minds. Vampires, witches, and werewolves (oh my). These three ‘monsters’ occupy a large portion of fiction. Most bookshops I’ve been to even have their own vampire section. The epic plight for ‘top spot’ between creatures of the night has raged on for centuries, constantly vied for by shape-changing hairy men and those who have waited too long to see the dentist. They’ve become tropes and, like all tropes, people will tire of them when the next big thing sweeps through. What will the next big monster be? This article touches on some of the lesser-known horrors and will help you begin to create your own nightmare. Let’s get straight into it. The big blue deep is often associated with all manner of horrific and in some cases, quite unique monsters. A large factor behind these scary depths is the fear of the unknown. To this day, we are discovering new animals with amazing abilities (search pistol shrimp and you’ll know what I mean). This is simply due to the size of the oceans. They’re huge and if you’ve seen a whale, you know these vast bodies of water can house huge creatures as well. Due to the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there is one sea monster getting a surge in popularity: the humble Kraken. Heralding from Norse mythology, Kraken are squids of tremendous proportions said to be able to tear ships apart and eat them. Remember, monsters don’t have to be huge to be scary—small lakes also house those who wish to feast. The Kelpie are great examples of this. Celtic mythology tells of a water horse that transforms into a beautiful woman that lures men to their watery grave. The Kelpie also entice children to ride them. Once the child is on its back, its skin would turn sticky and the poor child is unable to escape as the Kelpie returns back to the bottom of its lake. If you thought staying out of the water would keep you safe, I’m afraid you’re dead wrong. Terra firma is also home to a host of horrors waiting to seal your fate. Let’s start with a creature you may recognize, the Dullahan. The name may be unfamiliar, but it is a classic specter of death. The Dullahan is a headless horse rider that carries it’s own rotting head under arm. Doors and gates open by themselves when a Dullahan approaches. Another great evil to stay away from is the often overlooked Mummy. Losing popularly slightly, the Mummy was once among the most feared monsters. While Mummies were written about as early...

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