Tag Archives: beta readers

Beta Reading Roundup

As promised, here’s what needs to be done, in rough order. This might make no sense to you, but I know I have some readers that’ll find it interesting.

Plot refactoring comes first; normally I’d say characters except there were fewer criticisms of them than I’d expected. But the plot definitely needs work, especially the main plot. Especially on Venus and Mars, the actions of the protagonists and antagonists suffer a pretty extreme disconnect where Joanna and Eileen are merely reacting to imminent danger while Rosetta and Belt Group are planning ahead. They should be more directly at odds, or at the very least, dealing with the same situation.

A lot of sub-plots gain precedence over the main plot, a thing that should not happen. I’d hoped that they might function as little vignettes within the greater framework of the novel, but I don’t think that worked very well, and the readers agreed. All of my revisions have been the story of gradually tightening up and reintegrating plot points, and I’m just going to have to do that whole hog this time. No excuse.

Regarding the ending, I think that I was closer than I expected. Eileen and Joanna should capture the Atlas and use it to save the Free Jovians, not for Gracelove, but for the people. It’s also a final eff you to Belt Group if they happen to destroy the Atlas in doing so.

One thing that really needs work is Eileen’s plot in Part III. It’s gone through three major revisions already, and I’m still not happy with it. Neither were the readers. Changing it does allow me to kill two birds with one stone, however, since I can make it have more to do with Free Jove and the Atlas (which, ironically, it did in the very first version) and less about immediate concerns and new characters. This is going to be pretty tough because I have to invent it out of whole cloth, more or less.

After the large-scale plot refactoring comes work on the character arcs. As I mentioned, this won’t involve as much work as I was afraid of; things just need to be smoothed out. Joanna’s character progression needs a crowning moment of awesome, and Eileen’s feelings for Stephen need to be worked out in a way that changes her thinking for the rest of the story.

Oh, did I mention that her plot in Part III needs work? Because it does.

There are lots of little, incidental things that also need playing with. The Free Jovians are interesting, or so people say, so let’s put in some more information on them, shall we? Likewise, Belt Group is everywhere, so let’s drop in some more background, let’s say what it is that gives them so much influence. And UNASCA—where do they come from? Why do they have such power? These questions and more should be answered. Not in huge data dumps, of course, but naturally over the course the story.

Finally, the prose needs to be tuned up. Obviously the language is the very last thing I want to change, since it’ll take time and I don’t want to have to throw out any fine-tuning by suddenly realizing that there needs to be more plot work. It’s hard, lengthy work, but on the other hand, this is my favorite part of editing. It’s almost relaxing to me; it’s like doing a crossword puzzle, except that I get to make up the clues and the answers.

And that’s it. Tomorrow, I start on the actual work, starting from the very beginning. Fun times will be had. And the eight week countdown starts…yesterday.

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The Cool Kids are Hanging Out

It’s Friday, and that means it’s post time! What better way to go into the weekend? None, I say.

On the writing front, I’m trying really hard to get a revision of my hopeful cyberpunk story done before I need to dive into my novel, and I’m not having the best of luck. I had a good run of a couple of days where my writing was just buzzing along, but I think I’ve lost steam. Nothing dramatic about it, I just need to pull myself back on track.

Actually, there is a bit of a reason. I’ve been a lot sleepier in the mornings because my wife and I have been getting up early to work out. I enjoy the workouts themselves (great chance to catch up on my reading) but the 5:30 AM wake-up calls are playing hell with my schedule. When I get back, if I don’t get right on the ball and make myself some coffee, I’ll just lay my head down for a little rest, and then wake up two and a half hours later unable to remember what day it is. So, good for the body, less so for the mind.

Are you on Google+ yet? You should be, and not just because it’s far less annoying than Facebook. The circles feature is nice and everything, but what I’m really, really getting into are the hangouts. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but several writers that I follow have started doing hangout write-ins, and it’s probably the best idea anyone’s ever had.

Write-ins provide an awesome burst of productivity for me because, being around other writers, my professional pride tends to outweigh my laziness. At home, where there’s nobody but the dog around, that’s not quite the case, but it is more comfortable. So, being able to have a write-in and stay at home is the bee’s knees for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. As long as you have a webcam, a microphone, and someone in your circles who’s interested, you can get the best of both worlds.

It’s even better when there’s some well-known writer in the mix. This week I’ve had write-ins with both Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary) and Mary Robinette Kowal (Shades of Milk and Honey). Wonderfully productive both times, and I’d recommend it to anybody.

Finally, today’s the ostensible deadline for my Fugitives beta readers. I’m going to be pretty busy this weekend, so in reality they have a few extra days, but I’m hoping to get some good feedback by Monday. So far two individuals including my wife have gotten some to me, and I know at least one other will get the book done. Check back here on Monday for a round-up of the critiques and a game plan from yours truly.

Beta Readers, Away!

Yesterday afternoon, I finally released Fugitives from Earth into the wild lands of the beta readers. Five gentlemen (and one lady) of discretion and class  now hold in their hands my labor of the last two thirds of a year. It’s pretty fulfilling to finally get to this point; I was starting to think I had Zeno’s Curse. On the other hand: terrifying. The novel isn’t good, at least not yet. I know that. I told them that in the email. But still…holy crap. It’s hard to escape the fact that I’ve made myself very, very vulnerable.

Still, I need the criticism badly if the novel is going to succeed. I can only hope that the two to three months between getting the critique back and reaching my deadline are enough to fix whatever it is they find. Crossing my fingers.

So, now that I don’t have to work on FfE for four weeks, it’s short story time! First up is a little piece I’m calling Finagle’s Law, that is being written with an eye for submitting to Machine of Death Vol. 2. I’m intrigued by the concept of the anthology; basically, there’s a machine of some sort that can, with 100% accuracy, determine one’s cause of death from a blood test. It’s not realistic, sure, but it’s a good jumping-off point for stories, and the first volume did pretty well for itself. Here’s hoping!

I want to get the first draft of that story done in a week or less. Hopefully, I can get three full (that is, possibly publishable) stories done over the next month. Certainly, I’m very much looking forward to writing something a little different. Fugitives from Earth is fun, but man cannot live on bread alone, you get what I’m saying?

In future plans, the wife and I are going to Mary Robinette Kowal’s book signing on Wednesday, at the Cedar Mill Powell’s, feature the Oregon Regency Society and a puppet show. I’m really liking all these book signings I’ve been going to; they make me feel more connected to the community.

Finally, the submission deadline for the NIWA anthology is Wednesday! If you want to submit something but haven’t, now’s the time! Better something than nothing, certainly. Tomorrow evening the submission committee is having a short meeting to hash out the review process. I’ve only read about half of the submissions, but don’t tell anyone.

It’s a Fixer-Upper

Jeez, has it really been five days without an update? I’ve been trying to do them every two or three days but apparently I slipped this time. Allow me to assure you that I’ll never let you go that long without hearing from me again. Unless I’m on vacation. Or exceptionally busy. Or depressed. Or lazy. Continue reading