Who decides?

Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn’t have the power to say yes.

― Eleanor Roosevelt

Sometimes we have difficulty with finding the correct audience for our writing.  Beta readers are not easy to come by, and as introverts– generally speaking– we are not likely to approach strangers to solicit critiques of our writing.  Certainly never for first or rough draft.

But sometimes, we elicit the overall negative response which incites others to tell us something just isn’t working.  If the reviews are mixed, let’s say 50-50 division on when a turn in the writing is working, or when it isn’t, it’s up to the writer to decide.

But let’s address the endless number of people who are quick to point out flaws, foibles, and faux pas in a genre they do not normally read, or are wholly unfamiliar with, even on a good day.  Those people are not your friends.  They are not seeking to help you.  Let me say this again, not helpful.

When you ask for help with a writing project, ask the appropriate person.  Someone who knows the genre, by virtue of being a long-term avid reader.  Or someone with a proven track record, preferably someone publishing– and publishing well, in the same genre. This is the type of author who can give you valuable advice about readers of the genre. This is they type of help you need, and you should always be specific about the type of reader you’re looking for on a project.

Do you want a line edit?  Ask for help from someone who does line edits, or purchase the service.

Do you want someone to read for content?  Then ask some one who reads for pleasure, hopefully an avid reader, to just read and please tell me where and when you put the book down and why.  If the baby was crying, they needed to put the book down.  If it became slow or boring, you need to examine the portion of the manuscript in the next editing pass. These readers will also tell you “I just didn’t believe he/she would do that, it didn’t seem realistic.”  Now that is a motivation problem, and also is easily fixed.

Just plain beta readers, those who are not aspiring authors, are sometimes they people who help you to correct the worst of the manuscript mistakes.  They will tell you the important things, like “Not believable”, or ask the ever important question of “How could she?”   These readers also better with pin pointing POV problems that new and aspiring writers don’t see.

Most often when we ask for help, we get exactly what we ask for, but it is also unpleasant to know you’ve made a mistake.  The wrong thinking in having your mistakes pointed out is the inability to just fix what’s wrong and move on.  Fixing is learning, and we don’t usually repeat the mistakes we correct.  Sometimes, but not always.

In the end, only you can decide.  Who will be your beta readers, those who can and do help you?  Or those who just want you to know how much they know. You decide.

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What really works best for aspiring writers. . .

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

― Leo Tolstoy

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the hopes, dreams, aspirations and desires of the aspiring writer.  We all know who we are and how hard we work to make those dreams come true.  But Leo Tolstoy–a writer himself– had it exactly right.

Most of us believe we are patient people.  I don’t even attempt to kid anybody about what I’m not, which is patient.  Anyone who’s ever met me will tell you I have the patience of a gnat in heat.  Not good.

I have good intentions though, and we all know how those are used.  Oh, and I do have time.  As the old song says, “Time is on my side. .  .yes it is.”

That’s because I’ve been writing, and consequently learning to write for the last ten years.  I’ve studied craft in every aspect.  I’ve learned from masters in the field, experts in every genre, and mentors as well as writing coaches.

All that’s left is to just do it.  After another round of editing, professional this time.  If I learned nothing else, I learned you always need a pair of professional eyes on the final manuscript.  So that’s where we are now.

The blog will continue and I will continue to share what I learn each and every day.  I do know truly successful writers never stop learning.  They work on improving their craft every day.  So that’s the plan.

I will continue to blog on Mondays about all things writing and reading.  About storytelling of every kind.  Occasionally I will do a movie review, because to me it’s simply a different sort of storytelling.  I will be happy to share some serial stories throughout the year along with my blog mates, and even on occasion a little flash fiction.

Now all I need to know is, what interests you?

Leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to hear about.

Finding Your Voice

I don’t watch television often, but last fall while living with the folks, I had the opportunity to watch television (both good and bad).   In a particular episode on the The Voice, one of the judges – I forget their names, made a big ol’ speech about being unique and making a song your own.  This stuck with me for a bit because the important thing for a writer is to find your voice, and make their story their own.  I thought about this for a while – how do I make the story my own and find a voice that is unique to me.  I came to the conclusion writing is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – your voice is comprised of little bits and pieces of what you know and who you read.

When I read “Lolita” a year or so ago, I fell in love with author’s taste and feel for particular words, as if the actual letters came alive with his description. Here is the opening line, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta” Valimir Nabokov – Lolita – published 1955 – Page one.  This descriptive is so perfect, I can move my tongue to make those taps, I can imagine an older man telling is story of his young love.  (Thanks to Jeremy Irons for his excellent narrating that masterpiece) –  The imaginative narrative of “Lolita,” gave the author a voice that would make me read more and more of his work.  I want this gift to be a part of my books.

I’ve raved about Jim Butcher – why because I like this sarcastic wit, his descriptions, and his style.  The voice of his characters and the easy flow of his writing make me more engaged as a reader.  I want to have my characters become friends of my readers, I want them to cheer for the hero when he’s met with an impossible task.

Speaking of characters, I recently read Olivia Cunnings, Sinner Series, and I’m addicted to the complex relationship between all of the characters.  I’ve learned from her writing how to give life and purpose to secondary characters, to make them unique and support the lead story.   This is something I haven’t focused on in my writing, but I’m working now to flesh out the secondary characters and enrich the story.

My all-time favorite author – Anne Rice – has the gift for over writing or being too descriptive. (I don’t not say that in a negative way at all – I believe this is a bonus)  It is her gift of describing a setting, situation, or crisis, that makes my heart race and my fingers turn pages.  I have no doubts this is a piece of my writing voice.  I love love love long narrative, description, and giving the story an ambiance uniquely my own.

I could give you a dozen more examples of things I’ve picked up from other authors, internalized and made come to life in my own work.   I can see the influence these masters have imparted with their talent, and I’m eternally grateful.  The unique blending of my own preferences as a reader gives me a voice as a writer.

How about you?  As a reader, what things do you love about a particular author’s voice?  As a writer, who has influenced you as a writer?

Toodles,
Michelle

Endings

Endings are so important.  I never want my readers to be disappointed at the end of my novel.  I create characters and put them through hell so that they can have a happy ever after that will satisfy my readers.

Ending a book can be difficult.  You never want to throw something in at the end that wasn’t hinted to or introduced somewhere else in the book.  That would leave your readers feeling cheated.

Don’t let your characters do something that isn’t in their personality, or something they would never do, just to wrap it all up.  Your readers have invested time with these characters.  Don’t cheat them by allowing your character to do something contrary to their nature simply for plot.

Wrap things up.  In real life, everything is not neatly wrapped up.  But in novels, they are.  Don’t leave unfinished business unless your novel is part of a trilogy or a series.

Endings are important.  Don’t skimp on this part.  Take your time and do it right.  Let your reader turn off the ereader, sigh and say ‘that was a great book’.

My favorite television series, Supernatural, has a perfect quote for endings.  Chuck the Prophet says, “Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up to something. I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass.”

Make your pain in the ass shine!