Back to the Beginning

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What’s worse than starting at the beginning? Starting all over again.

Beginnings are hard, usually because they start at the ending of something else.

This year marks the beginning of my 30’s and the end of my 20’s. My original goal was to publish a book by the time I turned 30, but alas, I am only starting–or rather starting over yet again.

How could I not finish a book in a decade? Well, I did, actually. I completed a draft for book one and two. I spent hours outlining, researching, writing, re-writing, falling in and filling in plotholes.

So why is there not a completed MS?

I believe your twenties are for discovery and learning.

What I discovered: There were a lot of plot holes in my writing.

What I learned: This story was good but it could be better. I also discovered that my major supporting character should really be my main character. That changes everything.

So after starting all over on the outline, yet again, I finally began the first chapter for hopefully the last time.

So I didn’t accomplish my original goal. I thought I’d be finished by now, not starting over. I didn’t publish, but I did accomplish something. With diligent research and outlining and planning, I think I will be able to write the best book I possibly can by the time I’m 40.

 

Boycotts & Books

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I think one of the most overwhelming things to do in life is spend a gift card at a book store.

Yes, it is possible to be overwhelmed by a good thing.

The money/book ratio is always off. There is never enough money on the gift card to buy all the books you’d want to read, so you want to make sure you pick out a good one.

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This task becomes even more overwhelming when the gift card happens to be the last gift card I ever received and ever will receive from my mother.

I just felt like it should be used to purchase a special book.

With Mother’s Day being this weekend, inconveniently and tormentingly close to my mother’s death, I have decided to avoid all stores that sell Mother’s Day paraphernalia … which just so happens to be every store. I miss her and I want to buy her a present. I can’t, so I don’t want to be reminded that she won’t be here this holiday.

Due to my Mother’s Day boycott, as you can imagine, it was really hard to find something to do or somewhere to go during my lunch break. So I drove around for fifteen minutes before remembering I still had a gift card from my mother from Christmas.

Since I miss her, I thought this was either a really good time or a bad time to spend it. It was really a coin toss, so I decided to chance it.

So began the overwhelming task of picking out a special book.

I found a few series I’d like to try: John Gwynne’s Ruin series and S.M. Stirling’s Change series.

I also batted around getting my own copy of Empress by Karen Miller so I wouldn’t have to sneak my sis’ copy whenever I want to read a passage.

I ended up getting a new copy of the Silmarillion. Yes, I already have it, but I hate the cover of the copy I bought (and that was the least ugly cover at the time).

I found a copy that matches my copy of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

My mom wasn’t a fan of Tolkien or fantasy for that matter, but she’d be happy I got something I really like and will treasure forever. Now whenever I read it I’ll think of my mom … and how much she didn’t like Lord of the Rings.

For those of you who will be acknowledging the holiday, have a good one. Hug your moms. Srsly. I still remember my last hug. It was worth more than all the books on my shelf. If it’s Sunday, and you’re reading my blog, leave your computer right now and go spend time with your mom!

 

 

Ask an Author Call Out

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Attention all writers,

Are you interested in sharing your writing wisdom with others?

Would you like free promotion for your books?

If you haven’t already, check out Ask an Author, the monthly guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.

Jan

Feb

March’s featured author will be Kylie Betzner, author of “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.”

I still have many openings for the rest of the year, and I’d love to feature you.

What is Ask an Author, and Who can be Featured?

I am looking for published authors (Indie or traditional) who are interested in being interviewed. Ask an Author is sort of like an author interview, only instead of a list of questions, you only answer one, which will be tailored to your particular strengths or interest as a writer.

What will the Feature Include

  • a brief bio
  • the question
  • photos and/or videos
  • links to author websites, social media platforms, Amazon and other sites where your book can be purchased, etc.

How to be Featured

  • email me at tbetzner@outlook.com
  • include your name, genre you write, titles of books you’ve written, a brief bio, and links to your blog, social media platforms, author site, and where your books can be purchased.

I will try to get back with you within 24 hours. From there, we’ll communicate via email unless you have a preferred means. Once I have all the information I need, I’ll let you know what month you will be featured.

Self-Published Writers: Should We Be Afraid?

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The end of this month is the end of a very long journey for my sister. After years and years and years (one more for good measure), her debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other” is being released this Friday.

Can I get a Woop, Woop!

Can I get a Woop, Woop!

Of all the emotions we are experiencing right now, I’d say the predominant one is fear. That’s right FEAR.

Writers,

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And why shouldn’t we be? Most of what you read or hear about sales numbers and the success of marketing is pretty dismal. There isn’t a lot of good news out there for us in the DIY publishing world. And it’s only going to get harder they say.

Here’s the hearsay:

  • the e-pub market is over saturated
  • the novelty of e-books has worn off
  • advertising does not increase sales
  • a social media presence does not increase sales
  • price promotions have become ineffective
  • consumers are overwhelmed with the number of existing e-books on their e-readers, and will be slowing their purchases
  • increased competition from traditional publishers will hurt sales

When the future of e-publishing looks bleak, how can writers not worry about our own future?

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When we worry about the future, we lose sight of the present and forget to celebrate the journey. My sister and I have swallowed our fear with a big piece of cake and a shot of Captain. From here on out, we’re going to focus on being positive. After all, there’s plenty of things to feel good about.

  • a box of brand-spanking new books arriving in the mail
  • the launch party at Cook McDoogles
  • the fact that she is a published author
  • being able to find her book on Amazon
  • all positive reviews
  • having her own book on her bookshelf
  • other people have read and will read her writing

All of those items are successes, and that’s not even including sales.

Speaking of sales, there can be financial success for those who sell quality work and work hard. By quality work, I mean a damn good book.The days of writing decent books with good covers and making money is over they say. The key is to write an awesome book that will sell itself, edit it professionally, design a quality cover, and build your platform.

With that said, should we be afraid?

of failure

of not making money

or wasting our time

of negatives reviews

of fear

We can’t even worry about those things until we finish a book, which reminds me of my greatest fear:

never finishing a book

Seriously writers, never NOT be afraid, but don’t let the fear paralyze you. Fear stops us from doing the things we love. You just have to keep writing. As we speak, I’m editing my sister’s second novel and finishing the draft of my first book.

Take heart, take a bite of comfort food, and get back to writing. Never NOT write!

 

A Great Debate: E-Book or Paperback–Which Do You Prefer?

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ebook-vs-printI used to work with a girl who never bought books–NEVER bought books.

Before you light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks I should probably mention she does READ books–she reads all the time; however, she only reads e-books, and only if they are free.

I’ve known people on both sides of the spectrum: those who only read e-books (old coworker) and those who only read paperbacks (my mother).

I’m sure most of you, like me, fall somewhere in the middle.

My personal philosophy: It doesn’t matter as long as you read.

Let me make a confession: I was once one of those people who used to touch, dust, and eye-caress my paperbacks, swearing to them I’d never betray them by downloading an e-book. Yeah, well I also swore I’d never join Facebook and twitter, so . . . (cough, cough)

Life changes and so do we. Granted, I didn’t buy my first e-book until last year. The invention of the e-book was an ancient time long ago when cell phones were first climbing out of the primordial ooze so to speak. Downloading an e-book required a fancy expensive reader or your computer. I just didn’t like reading books on my computer–still don’t. Everything changed when I got my iPhone and my tech/phone savvy coworker (who only reads e-books) showed me how to download them.

I was hooked.

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Downloading e-books has certainly taken a load off of my bookshelf, which is struggling to hold 50-100 paperbacks. I now have roughly a dozen books to read on my phone. This does not mean I will be snubbing the traditional format, however.

So how do I decide what format to buy? How do you decide?

When to Purchase Paperback

  • If I own part of a series in paperback, I’m going to purchase the remaining books in that format or else it looks like I have a (gasp) incomplete set. I’m sure Terry Brooks fans get this.
  • If it’s a really, really, really gorgeous cover. ‘Nuff said.
  • If it’s a classic. Sure, you can read “The Hobbit” or “Pride and Prejudice” on your Kindle, but to me, that just feels wrong. It’s a personal hangup. Personally I love to read the old books in a velvet tufted Victorian high-back chair–which I used to have until my cat destroyed it, so now I just read them in bed.
  • If you want it signed, I really recommend the paperback. I don’t even know if signing an e-book is an option. Does anyone have the answer to that? For instance, I really wanted to get a signature from James Alexander Thom on my copy of “Panther in the Sky,” but I had to work that day.
  • When the book is your own, you’ve got to have a paperback copy. Am I right?

When to Buy an E-book

  • When your bookshelf looks like this . . .

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  • Ugly cover. ‘Nuff said.
  • So you can read where you aren’t supposed to e.g., work. It’s much easier to hide your phone during a meeting than an entire book.
  • If you want your book to be more portable. It’s easier to carry your phone or tablet than a book. Think of it, you can carry hundreds of books instead of one. If you forget your book at home, chances are, you did not forget your phone.
  • To save money. It’s not always but it’s often cheaper to get an e-book.
  • For the instant gratification. You want to read that book now? You can. Click download and the book is yours within 60 seconds. From your couch! At any hour! If you wake up at midnight hankering for a book, you can have a book. If you wake up hankering for McDonalds–ignore it, that is an unhealthy food craving. You’re just wanty. Get a book instead.

Well, those are my reasons. What are yours? How do you choose?

Does Social Media Sell? Take the Poll

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Writers are told they need social media to sell books; however, they are also told they won’t sell books directly from social media or blogs.

Sounds rather counterproductive doesn’t it?

I guess the key word there is directly. Meaning, I suppose, that no one actually purchases your books by clicking on the links you provide in tweets or post.

I am a writer, so I believe other writers when they tell me they don’t see a lot of sales from their post or tweets.

I’m also a reader, and as one, I purchased ten e-books last year–all of which I found either from a tweet or blog post. That’s the only way I learn about new books. I don’t have time to browse Amazon–and Goodreads won’t even give me recommendations until I review a few more books.

That being said, I want to hear from the rest of you. How do you find your books? Do you respond to posts from twitter, Facebook, or WordPress? Please answer the poll below. If you don’t see your answer, please respond in the comment section below.

Celebrating 100 Post with My 100 Favorite Blogs

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imagesThis being my 100th blog post, I wanted to write something special to celebrate. I was going to post a list of the 100 most popular Fantasy books of all time since I’m a fantasy writer–scratch that. Next, I considered making a list of the 100 things I love the most about being a writer, but I have a hate/love relationship with writing, so to be honest, I actually struggled to come up with 100 things–that I like. Still determined to do something in a list format, I thought to myself, why not make a list of my 100 favorite blogs.

Below is a list of my favorite blogs in no particular order. I could have ranked them from favorite to least favorite and so forth, but that would be difficult and time consuming–not to mention hurtful. If you are not on the list, I apologize. I still like you. I would love to list all 200+ blogs I follow, but 100 is the number of post I’ve written, and the number of post I’ve written is 100. 100 shall I list. 200 is right out.

Whether you are listed or not, please check out these blogs because they are amazing–and it took me a hundred years to insert all of these links . . . one by one. I’m pretty sure it took me longer to create this list of 100 blogs than it did for me to write 100 blog post. Once you’ve checked out some of my favorite blogs, feel free to comment below to share some of your favorite blogs. It’s that time of year where we should share and care, so support your fellow bloggers and give them a shout out.

  1. Book Chat
  2. One Writer’s Journey By Chris Owens
  3. 2HelfpulGuys
  4. Susan Finlay Writes
  5. Random Ramblings
  6. The Rolling Writer
  7. Books & Such
  8. Mandy’s space to space
  9. Charles French Words Reading and Writing
  10. MT McGuire Authorholic
  11. Your Writing Lady
  12. Archer’s Aim
  13. Author Mysti Parker
  14. Bluchickenninja
  15. Storyshucker
  16. No Wasted Ink
  17. Authors Interviews
  18. Princess of Light: Shining the Light for All
  19. Suffolk Scribblings
  20. Blot the Skrip and Jar It
  21. Kristen Lamb’s Blog
  22. Ana is the Bookworm
  23. Sarah J Carlson, Author
  24. Deborah Kelly
  25. Shannon A. Thompson
  26. Nail Your Novel
  27. Rather Than Writing
  28. Nicholas C Rossis
  29. Story Medic
  30. Inside My Worlds
  31. Just English
  32. Carol Balawyder
  33. Writing Is Hard Work
  34. SloopJonB
  35. A Writer’s Path
  36. The Owl Lady Blog
  37. Therefore I Geek
  38. Storytime with John
  39. Ingrid’s Notes
  40. The Writer’s Cafe 247
  41. Confessions of  Geek Queen
  42. Knite Writes
  43. Tara Sparling Writes
  44. A Tolkienist’s Perspective
  45. Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog
  46. Bare Knuckle Writer
  47. Chris McMullen
  48. Strange Writer
  49. CommuniCate Resources for Writers
  50. Write Lara Write
  51. Lit Chic
  52. Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams
  53. Ellen Brock
  54. The Nerdy Book Club
  55. Fiction All Day
  56. MJ Wright
  57. Poor Writers
  58. Inkspelled Faery
  59. Writing with Michelle
  60. Elaine Jeremiah
  61. Legends of Windemere
  62. Avid Reader
  63. Rachel Carrera, Novelist
  64. The Letter Vy
  65. Cindy Fazzi
  66. Geeky Book Snob
  67. WordDreams
  68. Words Read and Written
  69. Tricia Drammeh
  70. There and Draft Again
  71. Michelle Joyce Bond
  72. Turning My Dream Into A Book
  73. Sweating to Mordor
  74. Committed and Caffeinated
  75. My Literary Quest
  76. 101 Books
  77. Eli Glasman
  78. Jean’s Writing
  79. Random Ramblings
  80. Interesting Literature
  81. Live to Write–Write to Live
  82. The Bewildered 20-Something Writer
  83. The Write Transition
  84. Staci Reafsnyder
  85. Blood & Ink
  86. A Writer & Her Adolescent Muse
  87. The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!
  88. Shirley McLain
  89. I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All the Time
  90. Anibundel: Pop Culturess
  91. My Little Book Blog
  92. Carly Watters, Literary Agent
  93. Writers In the Storm
  94. Jaimie M. Engle
  95. Just One More Edit
  96. Daily (w)rite
  97. The Editor’s Desk
  98. Tipsy Lit
  99. The Girl Who Reads Books
  100. Kev’s Blog

Tuesday Tip

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We have no control over the delineation of time in real life. An hour-long meeting on a Monday morning can feel like an entire day; however, an entire day can seem like only an hour when we’re having fun. The only time we can control how fast or slow time goes is in our novels. This is called pacing.

How to Pick up the Pace

For some scenes, you’ll want to step on the gas: cliffhangers, action scenes, fight scenes, arguments, climaxes. To make sure your reader keeps turning the page, eliminate all but the following

  • immediate action
  • exposition
  • descriptions
  • immediate dialogue
  • internal dialogue
  • sensory details

You’ll want to keep description brief. Likewise, only describe sensory details your character would notice at that moment. Perhaps he taste blood in his mouth during a fight or hears a gun shot.

Summarizing

Some scenes just drag. Travel scenes are infamous for this. Describing every detail of every day of a long journey can be exhausting and pace-killing. Summarize slower scenes so you can get back to the action. Think of it as the literary version of a montage. Tolkien does this quite a bit in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” For instance, the dwarves stay in Rivendell for 14 days. During this time they rested, studied their map, and learned the origins of their weapons. What could have taken several chapters is condensed into one paragraph.

Eliminate Unnecessary Dialogue

Dialogue can be used to hasten or slow the pace of your writing. To speed things up, cut out all boring or unnecessary dialogue.

Example: “Hi, Bob. How’re you doing?”

“I’m good, Ted. How about yourself?”

“Fine.”

“Did you hear about Jim?”

“Yeah, his wife told me he died Saturday.”

“Well, she should know; she killed him.”

Instead

Example: They exchanged greetings.

“Did you here about Jim?”

Shorten Sentence Length

Long, detailed sentences take longer to read than short, choppy sentences. To quicken the pace, use short sentences or sentence fragments–that’s right, you can get away with these, but don’t overdo it.

You can also eliminate adjectives and adverbs.

There’s a lot of hate for adjectives and adverbs. I never understood why until I read Karen Miller’s “The Falcon Throne.”

Let’s look at Chapter one.

“Brassy-sweet, a single wavering trumpet blast rent the cold air. The destiers reared, ears flattened, nostrils flaring, then charged each other with the ferocity of war.

“Huzzah!” the joust’s excite onlookers shouted, throwing handfuls of barley and rye into the pale blue sky. The dry seeds fell to strike their heads and shoulders and the trampled, snow-burned grass beneath their feet,. Blackbirds bold as pirates, shrieked and squabled over the feast as children released from the working day’s drudgery shook rattles, clanged handbells, blew whistles and laughed.

Karen Miller does to her books with adjectives what my sister once did to my soup with paprika–ruined it!

These sentences are heavy and cumbersome. She uses description in excess during the joust as well: every noise, every sound, the light shining off of armor, exposition, the character’s thoughts,etc. All this description makes the scene drag. Even though these are very pretty sentences, they make you tired reading them. The excess of adjectives and adverbs can blur a sentences’ meaning, while tripping the readers eyes. I know I had to go back and re-read several of them.

Describe only what Your Character would Notice

When writing an action sequence, like a battle, fight, or chase scene, don’t use as much detail, inner dialogue, or description.

Describe only what your character would see. For instance, in a chase scene, everything blurs as you run. Are they looking for a place to hide? They won’t notice the trees are beautiful, only that they are too skinny to hide behind. This is not the time to stop and describe the roses.

I read a book that began with a chase scene. The main character is running for her life when suddenly she falls. As the character is laying exhausted on her back, the narrator went into a detailed description of her clothes, hair, the scenery, and exposition.

So many problems with this scene. Where to start.

Firstly, she would not notice anything serene or pretty, like how the light shines through the trees. She is running for her life. She is focusing on survival, not the scenery.

Secondly, the exposition in this scene slows the action. The reader might want to know why she is running, but this is a horrible time to bring up all the events and politics that lead to her escape. It also kills the suspense. If the character had this much time to reflect, she didn’t need to run now did she? What probably was only supposed to be a brief moment in the story felt like an hour.

Lastly, the description of her clothes was pace-killing, and jarring. Description needs to fit into the narrative smoothly without disrupting the flow.

For example:

She ran, not caring that her new boots were ruined.

Her velvet dress hindered her in the brier patch.

She could hide, but her red hair made it impossible to blend in with her surroundings.

Create Rapid-Fire Dialogue 

Minimize dialogue tags, reactions, and attributions so your dialogue is short and snappy. This will give the impression that your characters are talking quickly in rapid-fire succession. This is great for arguments. Some authors believe readers rely heavily on dialogue tags to know who is talking, but as long as you make it clear who is speaking to start with, and as long as there aren’t too many characters in one scene, it will be understood.

How to Slow Pacing

Have you ever heard the expression, don’t rush the good things. Maybe it’s a Tina Turner song and not an expression at all. Anyway, sometimes it’s better to slow the pace. This is good for slower scenes, character development, or romantic scenes.

There is a difference between slowing the pace and killing it. Let’s look at some tricks for slowing pace. You might assume you can take the tips from above and flip them. You’d be correct. It really is as simple as that.

To slow pacing include:

  • descriptions
  • inner dialogue
  • exposition
  • all those things we crossed out from the list above

Avoid

  • info dumps
  • redundancies
  • being over descriptive
  • too much inner dialogue or dialogue that rambles

Be Descriptive

Just like the fast scenes, focus on what your character would notice. In a slower scene they might have more time to reflect on their past, focus on setting, or stop and smell the roses.

Dialogue

In a slower scene, you can use more dialogue tags, actions, reactions, and inner thoughts than you could in an action scene. This does not mean you should have wasted dialogue. Whether the pacing is fast or slow, dialogue should start with the introduction of the important information and end when the characters conclude the main point. Don’t let them meander too long. Leave out lengthy introductions, greetings, and small talk. Let’s return to that first example. For starters, you would still leave out the “Hi, Bob.”

They exchanged greetings.

“Did you hear about Jim?” Bob spoke into his coffee cup as he took a drink, his voice suddenly lower as if there was someone else in the break room who might overhear.

Ted rubbed the back of his neck. He almost wished someone would interrupt. “Yeah, his wife told me he died Saturday.”

Bob slammed his mug down. “Well, she should know; she killed him.”

So there you have it, just a little advice on pacing your narrative. Hope you found that helpful!

 

 

What’s So Good About Goodreads?

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imagesCAFEMBXEIt turns out I’ve been a member of Goodreads since January–not a very active member, I might add. I have an outdated list of books I’m reading, one review, and two friends (one of them is my sister).

Today I updated my profile because I’m going to try to use Goodreads as a platform to promote my books as well as connect with readers and writers. From the research I’ve done so far, I found that Goodreads has different free features as well as other promotional tools, like advertising, to help authors get the word out. For more detailed information, please click here.

Aside from researching Goodreads via the official site and the infamous Google, I checked out what my fellow bloggers had to say. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews, such as:

  • It’s a great place to connect with other writers/readers
  • It doesn’t help increase book sales
  • It DOES increase book sales
  • It’s a great site to promote specials and publicize events
  • It doesn’t increase traffic to author sites or blogs
  • It DOES increase traffic to author sites and blogs
  • It’s a waste of time

To be honest, whenever I see reviews split down the middle like that, I do what anyone would do in the name of science: see for myself. From now on, I’m going to be a more active Goodreads member. I’d like to take this opportunity to connect with all of you there. In the comment section below, or via email (which can be found on my contacts page), please leave your name. Or feel free to send me a friend request on Goodreads.

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1There are a lot of things to consider when you start writing a book: Who will be your agent? Who will design your cover? Who will publish it? But before all of those things, you must decide who will read it.

The decision is yours whether or not to let anyone read your book before it is released, but I believe the best books are those that have had an extra pair of eyes on them, or two or three. I believe the rule of thumb is to have 3 or 4 people read your book (at least one of those should be an editor). You may ask, why not make them wait until it’s finished? Because other people can alert you to problems with your writing such as grammar, spelling, plot, characters, etc. They can identify your strengths as well.

When do you let people read your work

I know a lot of writers who don’t let others read their book until it’s considered “done.” To be honest, I think it’s more beneficial to send a rough draft to them so they can spot plot holes and major character issues before you’ve wasted hours on grammar and re-writes.

How rough is too rough? The term “rough draft” is relative–like the word “pretty.” A lot of people call the first draft the rough draft. I prefer the term “throw away draft” that someone coined on their blog.

This is what many call the first draft. This is your writing when it first crawls out of the primordial ooze, before it gets fully-developed legs and loses its gills. I think this is too rough to send to readers. My suggestion is to revise it once or twice so that you can give them an accurate representation of your writing style, voice, the story, and the plot.

If a draft is too rough, your reader will get so hung up and slowed down by sentence fragments and unfinished thoughts and scenes, they won’t even be able to tackle your big picture. On the flip side, don’t wait until it’s too far along, or you might not be able to make the suggested revisions because you’ve spent so much time on each scene, you won’t be willing to change them. It’s easier to make changes while something is still being developed.

Example: The Lord of the Rings

In early drafts Aragorn was a hobbit and his name was something stupid like Trotter or Fosco. After it was read by another pair of eyes (the editor, or whoever he was), Tolkien agreed that there were too many hobbits in the story. Aragorn was eventually changed to a man and the rest is history.

Characteristics of a good reader

Now that you’ve agreed to let people read it, you must decide who those people should be. Beta readers, critique partners, and experienced writers and editors make the best readers, but what about friends, co-workers, and family? It might be tempting to let everyone you know read it, but you don’t want just anyone and everyone reading your writing. Choose wisely. It’s less of a time waste to find good and bad readers than to sift through good and bad suggestions.

Your readers should possess these traits

  • They should be your target audience
  • Their goal should be to help your writing
  • They should be objective
  • They can criticize constructively
  • They are regular readers
  • They are honest
  • They have good communication skills

Family failures

So looking at this list, it may surprise you that you are more likely to find a good, reliable reader in a complete stranger than your own family. If you think your loved ones don’t lie to you, wait until you hand them a snippet of your writing. Their best and worst qualities will come out. Here’s how:

  • They take it personally
  • They are not constructive
  • They are biased
  • They sugar coat
  • They make it about them and not about your writing
  • They are either upset because they think you wrote about them or because you left them out
  • They are not your target audience
  • They will look for hidden context

Really the list goes on. The only relative I let read my writing is my sister, and I often make the mistake of giving her too much context before reading. Because she is familiar with the plot and characters, she is not technically a fresh pair of eyes. But she is as objective as family can be, and her goal is to improve my story and my writing, not to spare my feelings or make me feel good. Believe me, I don’t come away unscathed by her criticism. I have a bag I put over my head that I drew a meme face on to hide my expression when she critiques. The faces I make behind the bag are much worse.

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Where can you find good readers

  • writing groups
  • twitter and other social media sites
  • seminars
  • referrals from other writers you know
  • Google (when all else fails)

Some will be happy to read for free, but be prepared to pay a little for good readers, or you can offer a free download of your book upon release. Gift cards are also nice. Sometimes the only payment expected is for you to return the favor.

So before you design your fancy cover, before you send out queries to agents, put your feelers out for readers. When you are ready for feedback, keep the qualifications in mind. Don’t waste your time with bad readers who will do nothing but offer bad advice. Find people you know will help you polish your work.