Inspirational Prompt 38

Today’s prompt:

Two dogs, with envelopes in their mouths, padded by her side. The boy in the stained green hood pointed at them. “You must choose one and do as instructed. Failure to do so will be catastrophic. For you. And if you think the Boss is joking, look what happened to me when I refused to do as told,” he said and lowered his hood.

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Beta Reading for a friend – Lessons I learned

I finished beta reading for my friend I told you¬†about in an earlier post, and it amazes me how much I have learned about my craft in the process. Believe it or not, this was my first beta read/critique outside of flash fiction and short stories on Scribophile, and even that hasn’t happened for a long time. I’ve critiqued a bunch of them, but I had never done a beta reading for a book. Even though I knew how important it is for writers to read the work of others who are also on the same experience level, I had never tried it. The reason was that I was too afraid of making a mistake in my critique/review and ultimately be a hindrance to the fellow writer. I mean, can you imagine if you’ve written something you were very proud of, have a trusty beta reader tell you that you should murder your darling, then have an editor or someone else more experienced than both you and the beta tell you that you should add it back? What would that say about the beta’s worth as a writer?

Point of the matter is that we learn to identify what to avoid in our own work by seeing it in someone else’s. For example, I know what exposition is, I’ve read a hundred articles and posts about it, and yet, if you were to ask me to identify it in my current project (Through Stranger Eyes), I’d most likely fail to find every single instance of it in my work. As I was reading my friend’s work, I came across a small section where I was certain beyond any doubt (in my mind at least – remember, I’m still a newbie) that what I was reading was pure exposition that slowed things down and was unrelated to the story, the plot, and the characters. I immediately made a note of it, so my friend would notice it and choose whether he wanted it in or not. As I was writing the comment to the side, it occurred to me that I had included an almost identical piece in my work. So I turned to my novel, found the page, and there it was. I had read this part of my story well over ten times, nine of which were pure edit rounds. And there it was, staring at me. It never crossed my mind that I had consciously chosen to keep it, because I failed to identify it as an expository piece that slowed things down, just as it was the case with my friend’s plot. If I hadn’t beta read, I would have never spotted it and I would have given my betas a less-than-acceptable story to read. Maybe they’d point it out to me, maybe they wouldn’t notice it or consider a big deal, maybe they’d be afraid of hurting my feelings by pointing it out. But I bet an agent or a publisher would see it and judge my work based on it.

I’m not going to go over on how many more sections like that or other problems I spotted in my works thanks to my friend’s novel. Suffice to say they were plenty.

Dear betas, when the time comes, you’ll be receiving a somewhat tighter and slightly fewer-in-words novel. Thank my friend for that ūüėČ

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My next editing moves

Through Stranger Eyes has reached the point in the revision/editing process where only minor details remain, as you can see from the sample image below.

sample-view1-compressed

If you thought to yourselves that it’s way too cluttered for me to be calling these as “minor details,” you should have seen it after I finished drafting it. So what’s minor details? By minor details, I mean finalising¬†character names (the green bits you see scattered all over the place) and/or some names for places, and of course work on continuity (the comment bubbles at the left side). Some of those are question I ask myself about the world or what my main character sees or has seen so far.

What? Don’t tell me you don’t debate with yourselves about these things. Little things, like, “should he see X detail now or five pages later when the character enters Y place?” or “should she have this dialogue line here, or should I have used it in the previous chapter?” I’m sure you do it too. You are, right? I’m not the only one who does that, yes?

*crickets*

Anyway, once that’s done, I’m thinking of editing in a slightly different way than what I did for The Darkening. This time, I’ll print it out first (instead of doing it at the very end), take my trusty red pen, probably delete or change somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the whole thing, then transfer the edits to the digital copy. Once that’s done, I’ll look for those sneaky filter words with my trusty macros, and use my favourite online tool for sentence lengths.

For sentence lengths (but not just that) I’m using Slick Write¬†and I’m loving the flow graph they provide (found at the left sidebar, after you paste part of your manuscript and press the Check button), particularly the Sentence Length Flow. If the graph isn’t a perfect (or as near to a perfect to my satisfaction) wavy pattern (yeah, fine, sinusoidal graph, for you with a mathematics/physics background) then it’s time to tweak the problematic sentences. Once that’s done, it’s off to betas, around late spring by my estimates. Hopefully.

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Inspirational Prompt 37

Naya pushed herself out of bed on an aching elbow. Last night’s events were a blur, but today’s hangover, with its dried mouth and throbbing headache, was very real.¬†A note rested¬†on the floor next to a round violet flask.

Dear child, please stop dreaming or imagining things. We talked about this. It drains us to reshape the world back to what¬†it was. Quaff the potion in the flask (yes, dear, the whole thing. I know it smells, but it’s the only way). But not before you bring back your brother. Please? Otherwise your father will have to intervene and he may have to destroy this world too.

Love M.

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Update on Through Stranger Eyes with a request for help at the end

At the end of this post, there’s a request on a friend’s behalf. If you don’t want to read my following ramble, skip to the end of the post and read the last paragraph.

The project I’m working on at the moment (provisional title, Through Stranger Eyes) is coming along fine, though slow, which means I once again failed to stick to my deadline. By deadline, I don’t mean a date where I would have finished everything about it and have it ready for betas. That’d be awesome, but no. What I mean is a date when the current round of edits had to be over, so the next round could start. I have yet to tinker with individual words (filter words and more active verbs) and sentence lengths and this usually takes time.

The reason for the delay is that I started querying and pitching The Darkening once more (most agents are back from holidays, plus I waited and hoped far too long on feedback from competitions I participated that never came), and at the same time I started researching ways of crowdfunding. Why? Because I may be submitting and querying agents, but I still have to keep my options open, in case every agent I approach turns my book down. A¬†rather shocking possibility, but possibility nonetheless. I don’t know if you were aware of the following fact, but apparently, horror is a hard sell nowadays. I sure didn’t know it. There’s an abundance of horror books out there, so it never crossed my mind. Bad research on my part? Maybe, but then again I’d rather not
write solely following a market trend, since these things change with a snap of the fingers. I’m also unwilling to just shelf my work and forget I ever wrote that book. I may be emotionally attached to it, but I started writing not only because I had stories I wanted to tell, but also because I wanted others to read those stories. I don’t write for myself, which is why I struggle (perhaps too much) to perfect my craft and, through it, the quality of my work. I don’t have anything against those who write for themselves, it’s just not what I want.

So, I’ve spent a great deal of energy on researching marketing plans, strategies, promoters, editors, expenses, in addition to honing my craft, editing my own work, and of course reading to improve my writing skills. I’ve also decided to self publish a couple of my short stories in the following months. Not only will this put my name out there and, who knows, perhaps grant me a couple of readers, but I will also learn things related to self publishing first hand. It’s all nice and helpful when I read articles and posts about it, but unless I do it, everything I read will be something theoretical. All this, however, takes time, and it seems a day doesn’t have enough hours in it anymore, and I sometimes feel too drained.

Finally, the request I mentioned earlier. It’s not for me, but for a writer friend. Mind you, I will be in his shoes at soon, and you may have been in his at some point in the past. He is in need of beta readers for his current project, an epic medieval fantasy novel titled ‚ÄúFlakes of Fire‚ÄĚ (about 135,000 words), for an adult audience. I’ve already offered to read for him, but one beta is never enough. In fact, it may be disastrous, especially since I’m not as experienced as a lot of you are. His open calls for betas on Goodreads and other sites have gone largely unanswered (we all know how hard it is to get beta readers when we embark in this journey) and there are no writing groups near where he lives. That’s pretty much how things are with me as well. I too don’t have a writing group (not many Greeks writing in another language, hehe. There are some but not too many), so I offered to help him by turning to you. If you would like to read something new, something fresh, if you have the time to spare and help a new writer, please let him know. His name is Yoann and his email address is: yo.re02[at]gmail[dot]com. Replace [at] with @, and [dot] with a period/full stop “.”

Thank you all.

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Self-doubt Armageddon

Don’t you just hate those days when self-doubt creeps in (or even worse, takes control) and ruins the fun of what you’ve written so far? I don’t mean during the revision and rewriting stages, where we take apart everything (plot, characters, POV etc) but long after that, when you’re supposed to be doing minor edits to the prose, or working with sentence lengths, or punctuation. It’s so annoying when you start questioning yourself on matters you’ve already covered and made sure you perfected, like, “Did it really take them that long to do this thing in that scene?” (Dah, yes! You were revising that scene for over two months, hello? You rewrote it three times already).

From Back to the Future

From Back to the Future

Then something else you corrected and improved two months earlier suddenly feels off, then a third thing, and a fourth after that. Things you knew for a fact up to a second¬†prior to Self-Doubt Armageddon came knocking, that these things¬†must not change and that’s how they have¬†to be. Next thing you know¬†you question¬†your skill, your bright idea that you should write, which leads to “who’s going to read that pile of $*1t you’ve put on the screen,” and “my, God, this sucks,” and oh this and oh that… Annoying, isn’t it? I almost deleted everything I was working on yesterday. Almost.

Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead 2

Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead 2

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Inspirational Prompt 36

Destroying the world seemed like the best option at the time. It should’ve worked. But she survived. Again.


I thought I should make today’s prompt a little different, but I’m not sure I succeeded. The idea is that¬†if you remove one or more sentences from the given prompt¬†(except the first one), you should get a completely different idea for a story. For example, if you choose to go with “Destroying the world seemed like the best option at the time. It should’ve worked,” you get something different than if you used all four sentences. Likewise, if you go for “Destroying the world seemed like the best option at the time. But she survived. Again,” should allow you to come up with something different. Each sentence adds a little bit of backstory or underlying conflict between characters.

I hope I did a good job. I’m burning in fever, so I may have messed it up royally. How many stories can you come up with?

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