Category Archives: Feedback

Beta-readers

So. My current progress report is that I am at 69157 of 69157 words. Yes, the manuscript grew. This is normal for me when I edit, because my biggest bane is writing too condense.

Doubtlessly, if a professional editor would go over the text, there would be text cut from the manuscript. I have seen the pages of professional authors where they show pages with large red x’s through them. That doesn’t change that when I read through my own texts, I tend to find stuff I tried to discuss in a sentence for which I really should have taken a page. So I work hard to put more air into my manuscripts, so it’s a fun experience to read, instead of a heavy information overload.

I mostly write because I love to write. I love the process of working on, crafting and polishing a story. Of seeing my text and knowing I wrote that. But I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t like for other people to read my stories and enjoy them. Even though, that is the dream, it’s also something I am absolutely terrified off. It’s really scary showing people something so precious, something so deeply personal, something I made and am proud of in a sort of fragile way. Which makes asking people to be my beta reader for a novel-length manuscript one of the hardest and scariest things to do.

However, I feel that if I am going to send my manuscript out to a publishing-house and/or an agent, I should at least have one other human looking at my texts beforehand. Because you know what you are trying to say and you know how your story-world and your characters work. But it also needs to make sense to other people.

Fortunately, I have a partner I love and trust, even or maybe especially with something like this, even though it’s scarier to let the people closest to me read the text than for instance a total stranger. He will read and comment on it, in a useful way.

Maybe I will also approach a couple of friends that like to read in this genre, since while my partner is amazing, urban fantasy isn’t entirely his thing. If I can find the courage :-/ Cause letting my friends read my words…. it remains scary as all hell.

Writing likes and dislikes

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with a local band of fellow writing enthusiasts. I meet with them every couple of months, to discuss writing preferences. This time, we spoke about what kinds of tales we like to write, and emphatically not like to write, what we feel we’re good at and what we find difficult.

I love reflecting on what I like and dislike with regards to writing. It helps me gain insight in what I want to do, and where my weak points are.

Personally, I am quite diverse in what I like to write, although I have a penchant in writing stories about a character looking for his/her place in the world. It’s a theme I have a lot of affinity with. I love to give the theme a twist, though. Like for instance taking a pretty nasty main character or someone set adrift later in life. I’m good at world building. Almost every one of my short stories is set into a universe of its own. I don’t like writing horror pur sang, with gore for the gore. And I need to work on intimacy within my stories, I am terrible at that.

Identifying those things helps me work on exercises to become a better writer. I allows me to think along lines like ‘what makes it that I feel like I am good at world building? And how can I help others get there as well?’ and work on what I am less good at. In light of that, for our next meet, we agreed to each write something we find difficult to write. We’re then going to look at each other’s writing. So we’ll both practice, and receive feedback to improve future attempts.

What do you like to write? What do you dislike to create yourself?

Writing Exercises

Last week I met with my writing group. We do something reminiscent of a write in every couple of months. It’s great fun and while I always write less than I expect going in, I always leave massively inspired. This was the first time we did a writing exercise in advance.

We’d agreed to all write a letter of approximately half a page from one of the characters out of one of our stories to another character from that story. It’s a great way to help develop your characters motivation further. It makes you think about what that character would say, how they would say it, and how they relate to that other character. This effect was what I’d hoped for, and pretty much an expected result based on the experiences several members of our group had at a writing event a couple of months earlier.

What I hadn’t expected was how excellent of a discussion starter it would be. I thought there was little left to learn about world-building, but we ended up having an interesting discussion about information distribution and character motivation that was both inspiring and educational. As far as I’m concerned it was a very successful experiment. It left me looking forward to see what effect other writing exercises have.

Which brings me to a question for other (aspiring) authors: do you have other writing exercises you’d recommend?

Editing and Rewriting

A lot of people can not read past small imperfections, especially with regards to spelling. I know, this is a fact of life. Personally, I mostly care about what is being said and how that is structured. The exact spelling of words matters much, much less to me.

What matters to you tends to be reflected in the stories you write. At least, that’s something I notice with my own stories. Most of my first drafts tell a relatively original tale, have round and complicated characters, and a thought trough and working world behind the words. They have plots with fairly few plot holes. But they also tend to be riddled with spelling errors, cause well, I just don’t care enough to catch them earlier.

This makes editing and rewriting before I show my stories to others extra important. I ran into the “I should have rewritten this” snag a couple of times, recently. Where people couldn’t get past the spelling imperfections, which I know I should have caught earlier but didn’t, and never got to the story I was trying to tell.

Ah well. I’ll just have to make sure I remember this, next time. Letting people read things before I’ve triple-checked the spelling is a bad idea. I must fix the spelling first, before I can get the feedback I am looking for. Because I do need other people to track down those plot holes I missed, and to point out where the world the story is set in needs more, or often less explanations.