10 points about beta readers

Pens and PaperYou may have heard about these mysterious creatures known as beta readers. What are they? How do you find one? What do they do? Here are a few thoughts on the subject from someone who’s used them and been one.

What is a beta reader?
Someone who reads your story at some point after you draft it and before you send it out into the world. Don’t get hung up on definitions, names and at what stage they read it. It’s not like it’s an official job title with accreditations or something. There is no one specific point the beta should read your story. Some beta readers might read very early drafts, others only see it late in the process when it’s nearly ready to submit.

What a beta reader is not.
They are not your editor. That’s a different deal – for one thing an editor is usually getting paid by someone. Some betas may actually be editors, or working on becoming one, and give you something close to a pro edit, but they’re still in a different relationship with you than a paid editor who has no reason to pull their punches. Beta readers tend to give you the truth a bit more diplomatically.
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Interview with Guest Kay Berrisford

Welcome to my fellow m/m romance writer and sometimes beta reader, Kay Berrisford. Kay’s answering a few questions about writing in general and about the re-release of Catching Kit

1. Most fun part of being a writer?
Creating characters is fantastic fun. When I’m stuck, it’s often because I haven’t got to know my characters properly or finished my research on their background.

Right now, I’m working on the second book in my Underground Elves series, Alfie’s Game, and I’m having a great time getting to know my MCs. It’s an opposites attract story. John is very shy and sweet. He’s a believer in alien conspiracies and the paranormal and avoids leaving the house unless he has to. However, he’s going to be drawn out of his shell by Alfie, an elf who is very outgoing and wants to be a theatre star.
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Don’t wait – write. 5 reasons you should start writing now.

People who want to be writers can spend an awful long time not writing. I certainly did. And they have many many reasons for not writing. But here are five reasons to stop making excuses and start writing.

1) Most of your questions about writing can be answered by writing.

I picked that tip up from Mur Lafferty on her I Should Be Writing podcast. And they are wise words. Plenty of would-be writers think they need to study a lot about writing first and once they know all about it, then they can sit down and write a great book right away. But it doesn’t work that way. Writing is a learn-as-you-go craft. You can no more study the theory and put it into practice perfectly first try than you could do so about driving, or playing the piano. You’ve got to do them, and keep practicing them. I don’t say that reading and studying advice and theory are wastes of time. They’re not, but they should be done alongside the writing.
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Dog Days of Summer Links

Summer is hot and so are these links. And if it’s raining, these links are still hot. Enjoy!

7 (Bad) Habits of Highly Successful Authors
Even good writers have bad habits – but they know how to turn them to their advantage.

So below are what I think are the most common foibles to which many writers fall prey… and somehow they are still able to succeed. I give you this list not so you can gloat and feel superior (not for more than a minute anyway) but so that, if you happen to have any of these particular traits, you now know, unequivocally, that you can no longer use it as an excuse for not reaching your goals. Accept your weaknesses, and carry on.

Why Every Story You Write Is a Guaranteed Failure
K.M. Weiland on Helping Writers Become Authors blog about how to get past writing lows.

You know how it goes. One minute you’re flying high and having fun. Your story is a delight; your characters are your best friends. The words are zipping from your fingers to your keyboard and into immortality. With everything in you, you genuinely believe agents, editors, and readers are going to eat this thing up.

How To Become A Prolific Writer While Holding Down A Day Job
Yes, like it or not, when we commit to writing every day, sacrifices (choices) will have to be made. Many of us have hobbies that we do every day, such as playing tennis, or golf, or running, or going to the gym. What will you give up or cut back on? Unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited hours in a day – only 24.

Maybe it’s your writing that you’re already sacrificing for something else?

Reading, Writing, and Marketing the Serialized Novel
Thinking of serialising a novel? Clara Kensie on the Romance University blog has some good advice.

I also like the versatility of serials. They give you a choice: savor or binge. People do that all the time with TV series on Netflix – savor or binge, right? It’s the same with serialized novels. I savored some serials: I would read each part as it was released, and then I’d look forward all week long to the release of the next part. I woke up each Tuesday, knowing the newest episode had been released while I slept, and was waiting for me on my e-reader. For other serials, if all the installments had already been released, I binged: I read the entire book at once.

12 Dumb Things Writers do to Sidetrack Our Own Success
Anne R Allen on the big mistakes some writers make that stall their careers for years. Are you making any of them?

12) Not reading (especially in your genre)

I’m amazed at people who claim to want to be writers, but when you ask them what they’re reading they go totally blank.
Or they’ll mention a bestseller of a decade ago as the last book they read. Or they say they read nothing but classics—which you strongly suspect they haven’t read since college. They may even follow by telling you “there’s nothing good out there.”

It’s awfully hard to write a novel contemporary readers are going to like if you haven’t read anything published since The Great Gatsby. And it’s impossible to write something Romance/Mystery/Thriller readers are going to like if you don’t read (and love) those genres.

Long and thoughtful article by Alexis Hall about the Gay For You and Out For You tropes.

The problem with this approach, to my mind, was that it internalised the worldview of the Christian Right. It implicitly accepted that the moral acceptability of homosexuality is predicated on its being innate, biological and unchangeable. This struck me as fantastically dangerous. In fact, I feel this is a massively important debate that we surrendered without even noticing we were doing it. The question is not, and should not be, “is homosexuality a choice?” The question is, “should homosexual relationships be seen as equally valid to heterosexual relationships?”

13 of the most annoying writers you’ll ever meet.
Tori Telfer on Bustle with a list of pesky writing types.

Here are some bad things about writers: They’re solipsistic. They’ll use the word “solipsistic” in conversation without bothering to define it, as though they and their vocabulary are the only ones that exist (…which is called solipsism). They read novels so they can say they’ve read them, not because they genuinely wanted to read them. They’re bad with deadlines. They’re pretentious. They think the world owes them a book deal.

Entitlement In Writer Culture
Kait Nolan with a reminder that nobody owes you anything just for being a writer.

One of the first things I saw when I logged into Twitter this morning was a conversation between a writer friend of mine (who, incidentally, is also a professional editor and teaches workshops) and another writer who was essentially lambasting her (and all other professional writers) for not helping new writers. Digging back through the conversation, this evidently centered around the issue of queries, but it definitely had broader implications. My friend handled things in a very calm, professional manner, stating quite rationally that she couldn’t be held responsible for every writer who wants to write, as it simply wasn’t possible. To which she received this in reply “Your reaction is why so many writers feel worthless. No one wants to hear from them. No one cares.”

Don’t know how to say goodbye
Alexis Hall about the scariest part of writing novels – writing the end.

However, something I realised pretty early (in the two whole years I’ve doing this) is that if I want to keep my sanity, if I want writing to stay in the Fun Zone as opposed to the Omg What The Fuck Am I Doing Zone, there has to be Writing and there has to be After Writing, and I basically have to pretend/convince myself that After Writing doesn’t exist.

One Thing Authors Shouldn’t Leave Out of A Story’s “Big Moment”
Victoria Grefer on how not to sell the Big Moments for your story short.

Today’s post is about the big moments in fiction–the action-packed, “everything is changing because of what is happening” moments–and about one thing in particular that authors shouldn’t leave out when writing such a vital passage.

What inspired this post was reflecting on why I am not, in general, a huge fan of the Harry Potter films (especially the 3rd and 4th) when I love Rowling’s books as much as I do and they have impacted my life and writing as much as they have.

Marketing, Social Media, Books and Me
Liz McCausland about how the marketing writers do on social media does, and doesn’t, influence what she reads.

Stop With “Not Your Mother’s”

Many readers I know object to the currently popular “not your mother’s romance” marketing slogan. Some were introduced to romance-reading by their mothers; some are mothers who like sex and sexy books; all know newer authors did not invent sexy/dark/whatever they think they invented.

How to Speak Blurb: a translation guide
KJ Charles on what book blurbs really mean.

You pick up a bunch of books at random. The blurbs claim that they are ‘A hilariously trenchant romp’, ‘Breathtakingly original, written in rhapsodic prose’, and ‘Lyrical, charming and heartbreaking’. Do you wonder if you have stumbled across a cache of literature representing the pinnacle of human artistic endeavour, or do you think, ‘These all look pretty average’?

Writing Romance Fiction is a Feminist Act
Dannielle Summers talks about how she learned that Romance writers and Romance fiction are not what she expected.

When I walked into the biennial conference of a local chapter of the Romance Writers of America, I expected to learn something but also find lots at which to snicker. I expected to find breathy-voiced women with long nails talking about fine young stallions looking to sweep willing young women off their feet. Romance writing isn’t taken seriously. Even though I, along with my wife, had been writing and successfully selling romance fiction for several months, I didn’t really take it seriously either.

99% of what Writers are hearing in terms of advice comes from 1% of Authors.
Bob Mayer argues for more diversity in writing and publishing advice to reflect the rapid change in the business.

First—does what the 1% say regarding their career path even apply any more? Things are different now than they were just six months ago. For trad authors issues like rights granted, reversion clauses, and non-compete clauses are growing more and more important. For indie authors, the market is saturated, so how do you get a toehold in it and leverage your way up, especially if you don’t have backlist, which is the conundrum for the new author?

Real Books: Print, e or parchment scroll?
KJ Charles writing at Lovebytes reviews aregues that books are the content not the container.

And I hate piles of books. Really hate them. That thing people say about the smell of real books? Hahaha no. Go to a book warehouse some day: you’ll need two showers to feel clean again. At the publisher where I work, doors are kept open with books, in boxes as doorstops or splayed to serve as wedges. I use the fruit of someone’s hard work and invention to hold up my monitor.

Something has dawned on me.

For years I was an owl. No, I’m not revealing a past as a feathery denizen of the night going around eating mice. I mean I was someone who naturally wanted to stay up late into the night and sleep late the in the morning. This meant I was of course never a morning person, and was always dog tired in the mornings. A few years ago, once I got serious about writing, I started to train myself to get up earlier in the mornings and like it. But not to write. So that I could go to work a bit earlier and get home sooner and have more of the evening to myself to write. For a while that was fine.

But lately I’ve been having trouble getting enough writing work done in the evening because I’ve been feeling dog tired and ready for bed by about 9:30. And I keep waking up early and only snoozing until it’s time to actually get up. Finally the answer smacked me in the face. I have become a lark!

Somehow, in the last few years, when I wasn’t paying attention – probably busy deciding what horrible thing to do next to a character – I became a morning person. Is it age? Is it a temporary summertime only phenomenon, where the dawn is waking me up?

So I’ve been trying an experiment. Get up at 5am and start a writing session by 6am, once I have some tea and breakfast in my face. After nearly two weeks of this it’s going really well. I started it midweek, when I was in the middle of drafting a story. The first morning I did over 1000 words in an hour and they were effortless. The weekend came. I got up at the same time and wrote all morning – with a couple of breaks, and did about 10,000 words over the two days! Holy moley!

I also feel better. I feel fine shortly after I get up and especially once I’ve got a nice strong cuppa in me. I feel more awake the rest of the day. I’ve got to make sure I stick to my early bedtime and not stay up late for no good reason, but by 9:30 all I want is to retire with my Kindle or an audiobook anyway. It’s nice and peaceful at that time of the morning – well until the birdman comes around about 6:45. That’s a neighbour who takes a morning walk and always brings a bag of food for the birds, which he happens to empty in the back lane outside my house. So they all show up for the breakfast sitting squawking and flapping!

And oh wow does it feel good to have a big chunk of words done before the day has even begun. Or on a weekend to have the whole day’s worth of writing done by lunchtime. On weekdays I can do another hour of writing in the evening of I want to, or use that time for some promo or blogging, or other busywork. I may even manage to get some exercise back into my routine if I don’t have as much time pressure to do writing in the evening.

I will continue this for a while and see how it goes. I’m editing for the next few weeks, then drafting again, and it will be NaNoWriMo before we know it. This new regime could be a game changer for NaNoWriMo. I can get a big chunk of the daily word count under my belt before work, maybe even the whole thing! They anything else I write that day gets me ahead of the game.

The test will come once dawn starts coming after 5am. Will I find it harder to wake up when it’s dark? Will it indeed prove to be a summer thing? In a way that’s okay. I can work in different ways at different times of the year if I have to. The key is finding the schedule that works right now and switch to something else that works better later, and then come back maybe. But I am thinking about getting one of those alarm clocks that wakes you with light.

Have you ever shaken up your writing routine to this extent? Was it a revelation? Did it stick after the novelty wore off? Have you turned from an owl to a lark, or vice versa?