About a year ago, I sat down and started writing a book based on a scene that played in my head. It took a long, long time to write it. Eleven months, to be exact and boy oh boy, did I learn A LOT along the way.
I feel bad for my early Beta’s – they had to read it! But they were so awesome. I really do love them – (yes Nori and Tricia, you guys!)
When I began, I had a little bit of writing experience. I was editor for two of my school newspapers, won some writing competitions at school and ripped off a point horror book when I was about twelve. I wrote a dissertation for Uni – and where that’s proved helpful in some cases, for the most part it’s proved to be a pain in the butt.
Take a look at some of my blog posts, particularly the earlier ones. Notice anything? I do, at times (most times) my writing style is very formal. I tend not to use contractions and every now and then, I use big words, words you usually need a thesaurus to find. I do it when I talk too. Instead of saying – ‘your new house looks lovely’ – I say ‘it’s aesthetically pleasing’, and instead of saying ‘we have to let the kids be independent’, I say ‘we need to allow our children a certain degree of autonomy’. I don’t do it all the time, I’m pretty flexible, varying my language to my audience so you’d think I could do the same when I write – right? Nu uh.
My manuscript was absolutely littered with formal writing. From not using contractions to using words that were too flowery, it was a mess. Worse still, I entered into a slush competition not even noticing. But it was there that I met my super duper awesome critique partners, Wonder Tash and Super Kathy.
Wonder Tash picked up on my formal language from the get go, insisting I use contractions and man alive, was she right! Once I amended these I brought the story into this century – well the chapters that take place in this century anyway. Another thing she spotted, and for a seasoned writer like Tash – it wasn’t that hard, but for a novice like me, easily overlooked. Bloody adverbs, they are now the bane of my existence. They were EVERYWHERE. I hadn’t realized this was lazy writing, I just thought the words sounded good, and you have to admit – adverbs do sound good, but when writing, they are not your friends. So the vast majority of these have been outed and replaced with sentences that don’t require an adverb. I could waffle on for ages about all of the things Tash found – because there were THAT MANY errors, but it would require probably a months worth of posting daily. <<Argh, evil adverb, poke it with sticks, burn it with FIRE!!! Tash is also an expert at finding ways to eliminate backstory without losing the details.
So with all those mistakes, you’d think there couldn’t be that many more. Oh, there SO was. My dialogue was as dull as a thousand year old tailor’s needle. Flat as a pancake driven over by a fleet of army tanks then stamped on by the stay puft marshmallow man. He said, she said, I said, he said, she said, I said blah blah BLAH. On and on the dialogue went with no action, thoughts or emotion in between. Dull. You could probably get even the most cantankerous teething baby to sleep just by reading them an excerpt of my dialogue. Enter Super Kathy. Zap, zap, zap – GIVE ME MORE! She found every bit of dialogue that needed emotion and action. She helped me bring my characters to life. She also forged a connection between character and reader by saying ‘keep me in your characters head’. My book is written in 1st person passive, yet for pages on end my main character disappeared and became a robotic observer. No more, now she tells you everything she’s feeling and everything she’s thinking.
Between Tash and Kathy – sorry, Wonder Tash and Super Kathy, my book has grown muscle and skin to go with the bones.
Once the amendments were made, I then had to focus on the blurb. Ugh! No matter how good you are at writing blurbs for others, sometimes when it comes to your own, it becomes very, very difficult. That’s where Awesome Kate came in. Actually, she came in long before that. She Beta read Fractured Immortal, helped shape my query and provided untold support. That girl can wave pom-poms, actually – she really can. She’s always there to listen, lend support and she wrote the blurb for Fractured Immortal. Which I think is awesome. She is also the editor that Fractured Immortal is currently with and I highly recommend her. You can find her website by clicking on the link to the right of this page or the link at the end of this post.
My experience has been, that as much as I thought my book was good, there is no better tool a writer can have than excellent critique partners, and I really feel like I’ve struck gold with mine.
Since they helped me to shape Fractured Immortal, the beautiful Dena has read it and her feedback made me squeal with joy. She also found some hilarious mistakes that I have been able to rectify.
One of the best things I did was start up a Twitter account. There you’ll find an army of people to keep you company and make you laugh and guffaw during the hours that you are sitting alone writing. I feel the need to salute Amber, Bill and Jake at this point.
It’s a joint effort to write a book, it really is. For every writer, there is a team of people behind him or her, helping, advising, cheering and offering virtual cake. That has certainly been the case for me and I owe my thanks to so many, many people. Thank you, all of you, so very much.
To follow any of the amazing people that I mentioned here, either on Twitter or their blogs, click on the links below!
Amazing Beta Readers: