Nuts and Bolts: Beta Readers

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Similar to the series of posts called “Tools of the Trade”, “Nuts and Bolts” will be referring to the more analytical and business components of writing.

I have some good news! I am feeling comfortable enough with some of my stories to send them off to beta readers. But, in order to do that I had to determine who these readers should be.

To date my criteria has been simple: Do you you like stories in this genre? Are you willing to read my story? Are you someone I trust? Are you willing and able to get meaningful feedback to me in a timely manner?

Google Forms and Stories

With this in mind, I sent a message to friends who had been interested when I mentioned my stories in the past, but before I did so, I created a Google Form. This Form contained the questions I was most interested in regarding the story I was sending. I then promised coffee and cookies for the effort and sent off the email.

The next trick I used? I put options at the end of that questionaire for what level of readership the beta reader would want to be considered for in the future: Alpha, Beta, Close to publication, Audience (read after published), and Never-Send-Me-A-Story-Again. Thankfully no one has chosen the “never again” option.

It’s still an experiment in progress, but so far I have gotten some beneficial timely feedback. And I’m collecting data on what level of interest these readers have for upcoming stories.

Using the Data for Newsletter Practice

I’m also planning on using this as a way to experiment with newsletters. I’ve now been to enough workshops to understand that an author has to build their platform as early as possible. And, I’ve also heard enough to know that I better learn how to utilize a newsletter now.

So, besides the copious amount of editing left to do, I am hoping that crafting a newsletteresque email just for my beta reader team will not only keep them excited but also give me invaluable practice for when it’s time to send updates to a more general audience.

To be continued…

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Golden Nights

“What are you doing out so late?” The old man gave me a penetrating look, wizened eyebrows knitted together in thought.

“Same as you.” I flicked my hair back and pulled my scarf closer.

Why did anyone go out at night? That time when the darkness steals vision away, giving in its place the teasing small lights.  The lights and shadows twinkling like ghosts toying with mortals in the darkness.

He didn’t answer. Instead, just like the gentleman he had been for all his life, he took my arm in his own and we walked together in silence. The tranquility was a warm invitation for thought.

We watched the streetlights flicker against the golden colors of the leaves long into the night.

 

The Den

A microfiction I wrote before NaNoWriMo.  It is a little more traditional than the fantasy I tend to write.  Enjoy!

I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime.  I’ve seen grown men come back from the brink of death, I’ve seen children die.  But that was nothing compared to this.  The smell of death and charred bodies was everywhere.

Golden light glinted off my sword even as ash fell onto it.  I held it ready, the metal ready to tear into whatever hideous flesh might await me.

The precipice stretching below me was jagged, a sadistic bloody smile waiting to devour me.  An internal glow emanating from the earth below was the only light in here.  It was the perfect den for a worm.  I held <old English for fire or truth> in my hands, ready for a strike.  The enchanted sword had been made for my hands, its power intertwined with my own heartbeat, life of my own life.

I descended, wondering at what turn I would see the black eyes of the terrible dragon, Meremoth.

 

 

Rain

The reason I love flash fiction so much is for the same reason I like working on daily vignettes, they give me these seeds for a story I can choose to come back to and work with at a later date.  Often, I start out with a thought and find out as I’m writing that it escalates quickly. 

This latest one came to me while I was sitting in my car during a downpour.  I had gotten to a meeting early and had just visited a monastery earlier in the week.

So, this came about:

Nights like this suck up the light.  Even the flickering lamplight is gone quickly as if some dark monster is out there eating it all up and leaving only the darkness.  The rain is pouring, its icy fingers soaking through these black robes.  Everywhere the air smells of wet plants and stone.

The weather couldn’t be more fitting.  A coup shouldn’t be marked by sunshine, the dramatic mood of the weather matches the occasion.  The overthrowing of a king should have some flair.

I tuck the book back into my robes, the note there memorized, but the feel of paper, even wet, is oddly soothing.  It’s a concrete form of an idea, something I can hold to in the calm before the chaos.

I make a brief sign, I may only be masquerading as a monk, but the prayer I just said was genuine.

The rain masks my footsteps, whether the shivering is from the cold or the nerves I can’t tell, probably both.  I come to the door, a great oaken door, sturdy and designed to hold off attacks, not assassins.

I nod to the knight stationed there.  He looks miserable, he too is shivering.  He only briefly looks at me and gestures toward the door.  Wet, miserable fool.

I open the door and step in.

 

Microfictions: Sentry & Shoes

I’ve been dealing with quite a few computer problems over the last couple of days and with my Camp NaNoWriMo participation this month I haven’t been able to post as often as I would like. So here’s a couple microfictions in the meantime.

Sentry

The hordes below the mountainside were as vast as a hill of ants. A cold sweat broke out on the sentry’s brow. His hand tightly held his sword for the comfort of its steel, as his fingers remained close to the trigger of the gun embedded in its hilt.  The enemy was moving directly toward his village.

Scurrying backwards he moved silently, a figure quickly obscured by trees as he raced through the night to make his report.

Shoes

He had found his lost show, along with the gold inside. The other guy hadn’t been so lucky.

Editing: A Process

Editing is a strange process.

This week I cut a story down from 9000 words to half its size.  It was almost as if I was smashing in a work of pottery still on the wheel in order to build a better vessel with the same clay.

Now the story is a skeleton of what it was and it’s still a difficult story.  I sense I will need a bit of feedback before I set about the difficulties of putting some of the flesh back onto it.

This week has been another key to my personal preparation for going through the novelette I wrote.  One more step in a series that began two years ago.

In late 2015 and early 2016 I wrote a full length novel, tried to edit it, and then realized I needed more experience in this craft before tackling the revisions on this book, the first in a planned epic fantasy trilogy.  So I went about trying out different ideas and tackling shorter length works in an effort to find my own voice and get a feel for what works as  a writer.

I’m in a stage where I feel like my writing is as fluid as ocean waves.  Some of my writing is razor focused and only needs a few edits on details while other pieces require a great deal more thought and change.

The trick has become learning how best to read those waves and channel the story through them.

I’m not writing this as someone who has figured it out yet.  But I am posting this as someone who is beginning to see a way through the maelstrom that is editing.

Microfiction: Reginold

The corner of the room was getting too packed for Regi’s tastes.  He was watching the door, waiting for Selica.  The room was unusually warm and the coffee more bitter than even those of the shops in Liran’s old town.  He nearly jumped from his seat as a cup fell nearby.  His nerves were tense, as they should be, not everyone survived planning a coup d’etat.

Selica was the key to the royal palace.  His smooth talking would have to be at its finest on this “date”.  If he could convince her to let him in, that would be all his plans needed.