Posts Tagged With: novel

Care and Feeding of Your Beta Readers

I now have seven Beta Readers.  Lest you think, well, that’s not very many early readers, I remind you that I will be receiving feedback  from seven different sources, all of whom may mark up the manuscript.  That means pouring over  seven new versions of my book.  Seven is great, I’m not shooting for overwhelm, I’m shooting for concrete opportunities for improvement.

I did not just fire off the manuscript to the volunteer reader, I also included what I needed and what kind of feedback I was searching for.

Bunker in Albania

This bunker in Albania inspired the bunkers in the book, Future Girl

Dear Beta Reader  (or insert their actual name here, I promised to keep their anonymous in case the book was terrible and they wanted to avoid any association with it in order to protect their academic reputation.)

Thank you so very much for volunteering to be a beta reader for my book.

You are welcome to mark up the document and return it, or simply send me a few notes. (I wanted to give them a choice depending on how they approached a paper or manuscript, some of the volunteers are accustom to line editing and I welcome that feedback, but others may just want to make a list and send it off, that is welcome as well.)

Of course, what I need is feedback to improve the book, but I do ask that before completely ravishing the prose, do offer some initial encouragement, even if you only liked the font and found the margins pleasing. (Seriously, some people do not know how to give constructive feedback, help them.  I do not want to open seven emails  and be immediately assaulted by lists of   negative comments, so I am working to protect my sometimes fragile ego ahead of time).

Please send feedback by July 19, 2013 (Give your readers a date, people work better on a deadline, it gives the project a finish time, and I will not be waiting on anyone in order to move forward with the fourth drat of the book)

Some questions  to inspire your feedback:

  • Is the heroine, Charity, believable?
  • Do you care about her journey? (Remember this has been written, more or less for a YA audience)
  • How is the future?  Did you discover inconsistencies in the invented world?
  • Does the narrative (Charity’s adventure)  make sense?
  • Does the motivation of all the characters made sense?
  • Did you like it?
  • Where should it go –  YA boutique publisher, general  ebook,  Sci-Fi POD, Boutique Science Fiction publisher?
  • Who would you give this to?  (Helps me figure out the audience)
  • What was the underlying theme?
  • Do you have an idea for a better title?

Thank you for your help!  This is the first time I’ve reached out to Beta Readers and of course you will be acknowledged and publicly appreciated.  Or if the book is horrible, I am equally happy to leave you out of it.

I reserve to use your comments on the show – Newbie Writer’s Podcast,  but won’t use your name. (I produce a weekly podcast, of course we’ll discuss this process.  If the feedback is particularly trenchant, I’ll interview the Beta Reader on the show, again, I have no wish to surprise people who are helping me).

I scheduled  the  beta reading  project to take place while I was away on a trip.  That helped prevent me from fussing and emailing my friends and family  with “have you read it?  How about now?  How about NOW?”  A distracted author means a happy reader.

Give it a try.  Some authors have enormous followings and can solicit hundreds of readers for their upcoming books, some, like me, have a few readers.  Either way, it’s worth the feedback, and will create  some early buzz for the book.

Ironically, your Beta Readers will  be some of your first customers, they will not only buy the finished product, they will be some of your best fans.

Remember that your Beta Readers are helping you out of love and/or loyalty, so remember to thank them.  A lot.  That’s what your acknowledgement page is for.  And lucky you if your book ends up with a two page acknowledgement list!

Let me know when you try this and the results.  I’ll discuss my own results when they come in.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

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Categories: Newbie Guide Notes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Fish for Beta Readers

I don’t belong to a writing group, so when I “finished” the third draft of my novel, Future Girl, I needed opinions, readers, feedback, anything.  So I gathered a group of willing Beta Readers.  These readers are not strangers, although strangers would be ever better, much like what Guy Kawasaki does, but for me, I needed to start small.

So I contacted 15 friends in the hopes of gathering up at least five readers.

Here is the email for the invitation.

Guy Kawasaki

Guy is a genius at soliciting early readers.

Hi,

I need your help, I just finished the third draft of my Young Adult Time-Travel novel,  Future Girl (give my readers an idea of what the book is, because volunteering to read a text book is a different commitment than volunteering to read a copy for a thirty second video)  and I need a couple (so the reader knows he or she is not alone) of Beta Readers (I like Beta Reader as opposed to copy editor, or proof reader – those are more difficult jobs and are better paid)   to read the manuscript and tell me if it’s total crap or not.

If you choose to take on this project (the book is about 140 pages), I’ll send you the book in a Word doc so you can either mark it up, or save it as a PDF suitable for an e-reader. (Give them a choice as well as remind them they CAN transfer the copy to an e-reader).

I am asking for feedback – yeah or nay, by mid July (give them a rough due date in the invitation, the follow up letter will contain more instructions and a specific due date).

Interested?  Let me know, and thank you ahead of time!

Very Best,

Catharine

(I included a summary of the book in the invitation as well, so again, the reader knows what he or she is getting into, they know what to expect – much like any reader – and it forced me to start thinking about how to summarize the book, something I will need to do over and over as I promote it.)

Future Girl

On February 10, 2112 Charity Northquest has her whole future ahead of her – and the future sucks.

On February 11 she is offered the chance to fix it.

When Charity’s best friend is reported killed, but then re- appears as an old woman,  everything Charity has been taught is called into question.  Even if she doesn’t believe, the village rebellion  has already put her family in danger,  so the ill-prepared Charity is transported back to a irresistibly appealing 21st century where she must not only struggle against the  seduction of the past , but also the men who seem to help her.

Her single purpose of  changing the future fades with the increasingly more urgent question, can she survive the past?

Within 24 hours, seven of the 15 requested Beta Readers volunteered to read the book, which was very encouraging!   I immediately responded with the word doc manuscript and further ideas and instructions.

It’s a risk of  soliciting Beta Readers is you must throw your baby outdoors, you must take your brilliant idea and make it real by the very act of handing it out.  This is a huge step, congratulate yourself for doing it, for making the effort.  And I’ll keep you posted on how my experiment works.

You are welcome to re-post this article in your own blog or newsletter – please include this entire statement, “Catharine Bramkamp is a Writing Coach and podcaster, find out if you’re ready to go from  Newbie to Known visit http://www.yourbookstartshere.com or bramkamp@yahoo.com for a complimentary consultation.”

Categories: Newbie Guide Notes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Post Your Novel?

Flower and wireA strategy that writers employe when working on their fiction books is to post sections of the book  on their blog and solicit feedback from their blog readers. Successful writers like Guy Kawasaki   – routinely post their books in progress and get immediate feedback and in turn, make immediate changes.  But why do it? Should a writer be concerned that someone will steal the work?  Nope.  In the US the work is copy write  protected as soon as it leaves your fingers.  And if it is “stolen,” the providence is easy to prove.  And if you are lucky and it’s stolen and distributed – you just increased your fan base, possibly your klout.

So if you are stuck, or if you’d like to experiment, posting your on-going story can accomplish a number of goals:

  • It builds your base of fans who will purchase the book
  • Those fans will be the first to purchase your book, why?  Because they are involved with the book already.
  • Those are the fans you count when you   approach a publisher or agent
  • And if you are lucky, those fans give you feedback you can use
  • Those fans will give you encouragement to keep writing
  • Conversely they may give you feedback that encourages you to stop writing – which while depressing, is at least an answer.

This week on Newbie Writers Podcast we are reading a section of my current project and commenting on it.  I have posted a section here so you can play the game at home.

Comment here or email me.

And thanks!

 

Opening chapter – The Five Elements of Time

Premise: what if you have your whole future before you, and it sucks?

A rock shattered the stained glass window scattering shards of red glass at Charity’s feet.

She glanced up at the hole, almost perfectly round.  Through it the sky hovered  gray, heavy, and un-changed. The hole let in the escalating chanting outside.

 

Preacher John stopped Charity from reading any more from the One True Word.

A big imposing man, twice the size of slender Charity, he never the less, glanced out at the men in the congregation for approval.  Charity didn’t see a single nod, or twitch from any one, but there must have been some sign.

“We will exit, this way.”  The man of the One True God gestured, and the fathers pulled their wives and children from the   cavernous temple and through a narrow door behind the pulpit.

Charity carefully set down the One True Word on the pulpit and silently waited to join her family. She was not frightened, the village riots had been increasing in the last few years. The Government Guards would protect them.  It was just a aberration.

She glanced at the shattered window.

The families didn’t  pause in the walled courtyard, where Charity used to play after daily Temple service.  Her father led their family of five out  through another door to the  old abandoned parking structure and finally to narrow alley.

The sound of the chanting rose and fell, punctuated by the shattering of another window, of the temple or of a house, she was not certain.

The low beamed ceiling of the old parking structure was oppressive enough to hurry the congregation to the far door.  She looked around for their preacher, their leader but he was no where to be found.

Did he escape and leave them to fend for themselves?  You don’t leave your flock, or in the RC you never leave anyone’s avatar on the battle field.  Even girls knew that.

“Heathens!”  Preacher John’s voice rose above the babble of the villagers.  He must have stomped through the  front doors even as the last of the congregation members slipped  out the back.  His sudden words burst over the angry crowd.  Charity felt, rather than heard a lull in the chanting as the big metal doors of the Temple clanged open. There was a pause, but then the crowd roared again.

She didn’t know there were that many villagers to make up such a crowd.

“That was the last of the colored windows.”  Charity’s mother commented.  Father, with one hand pulling Faith and the other gripping Hope, said nothing, he pulled them all along as fast as they could run.

Charity was unaccustomed to moving this fast and her breath caught as she struggled to keep pace.  Young  ladies strolled sedately, took their time, did not call attention to themselves.  But now everyone was running, slowly,  Charity was surprised at how many she out paced, but it was evil to be proud.  Not proud, but opportunistic.  She took  advantage of the chaos to  pull  off her floppy brimmed hat and drag  at her scarf, she couldn’t breath. Father had not slowed his pace, Faith was struggling to keep up, Father pulled her relentlessly behind him. Hope wheezed next to mother, Charity keeping up behind.

Charity raised her head and looked directly up into the sky.  It loomed low and gray over their Great Suburb.  Familiar houses seemed to shimmer under the diffused daylight.

The homes in their neighborhood were a purposeful jumble of architectural  style, created to reflect the whim of the owners rather than display a uniform cohesion.  Half timbered Tudors butted up adjacent to Craftsman Modern, and Mid Century Glory.  All the homes in their neighborhood were Beautiful Mansions, fronted by lush lawns and gardens. Charity glance at them, familiar, solid.  But as she ran, the facades  seemed to  shiver  before her, as if they were painted transparencies.  Charity squinted wondering if she needed laser surgery so soon, at 18.

They raced to their own home, an  imposing Victorian Mansion,  Her father did not loosen his grip on her younger sister, even after they gained their own front walk.  There were no walls around their home so they were still vulnerable.  Charity glanced around and watched her neighbors disappear into their pretty homes.

Some of the C Executives the families of the very powerful. Like the Knight leaders, they all lived in low walled compounds, in the center of the suburbs.  She was sure they were all there now, behind bunkers of their own making.

Charity replaced her hat, not wanting to anger her father who was clearly agitated.  She glanced down at the earth, since there was no where else to look but down.  The ground wavered, it was lush green, then brown, then green.  She blinked and followed her family into the safety of their home.

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