Category Archives: beta readers

I’m On My Speculative Journey

The other day, a good friend of mine (I’ll call him Clayton) came by to visit and, inevitably, he brought up the subject of my book. Clayton was an early beta reader of this novel; in fact, he read what was very nearly a first draft. Stop editing! Stop editing! That’s always his heartfelt cry. I explained to him that 7 out of 10 beta readers had told me I should do xyz, and wouldn’t he listen to 7 out of 10 betas? Not if they were wrong, he said. Listen, he told me, do they read science fiction and fantasy? I thought about it–I wasn’t sure. I also didn’t want to admit that I don’t read science fiction and fantasy, at least not regularly. Finally, he sighed and told me he would read my edited book in one month when he drove back down south to visit me and my family.

But he left me feeling a little off kilter because, in ignoring 7 out of 10 betas, I would be ignoring their advice to develop the relationship between the female protagonist and the male hero. I understood why the betas needed this–in the end, the protagonist goes on a suicidal mission to rescue her man, and they didn’t see why she would bother. How Clayton read the book, however, was exactly as I’d meant the book to be read. I don’t write romances. I never have and never will. The relationship aspect, from Clayton’s perspective, occurs after the end of the book–after the protagonist has set things right so that a relationship can develop in the first place. That is what’s at issue–that they have to find a way to be together. Now that I’ve rewritten most of the book with a more fully developed in-plot relationship, I feel uneasy about it.

Later, I expressed this to my husband, who has to listen to all my story problems, poor man. He interrupted me by shouting, “Clayton reads science fiction and fantasy. You have to listen to him!” There it was again. I hung my head. But I don’t read those genres, I admitted. Except Ray Bradbury, I added. Bradbury was my favorite author in junior high and high school. Oh, and C.S. Lewis and Ursula K. Le Guin and Madeleine L’engle and . . .

At what point in my life did I forget about speculative fiction? It’s no wonder that the first book I loved writing falls into the realm of  the speculative. Childhood reading affects a person more than any other period of reading. What does all this mean for the book I’ve very nearly finished rewriting? I don’t know. I’ll wait to see what Clayton thinks. He might find he enjoys the deeper relationship between the protagonist and hero. Or not. In his own words, romance is the vilest, the worst. . . splutter, splutter, splutter.

Would you listen to 7 out of 10 betas? What’s your favorite genre? Would you go with me on a new blog theme of rediscovering speculative fiction?


Moment by Moment Fiction

Long about January of this year, I began to make an overhaul of my book (when I say “my book”, I mean the one I’m currently working on. I’ve written about five, so far.) Funny things began to happen every time I set about to work on this novel. My computer broke. I fell down the stairs and busted my ass, but not in the way that phrase is commonly used. I got sick, really sick. And then I got sick again, really sick. And I started to wonder if I was supposed to be overhauling my book. You may think I’m superstitious, but I don’t care. I was hurting!

Out of desperation, I reverted back to an older version of my book and put my feelers out on Facebook for beta readers. With a big sigh of relief, I sent off several manuscripts to willing guinea pigs and waited for the results. Because my book is, if nothing else, a quick read, most of my betas responded within a week or two. I’m not going to tell you what their comments were. It’s not in my best interest to brag about or denigrate my book online–with one exception. One beta reader said something that has stuck in my head ever since hearing it. I’d never heard anything like it, and it fit so beautifully with my writing philosophy that I have to share it.

She said, You have a real gift for moment [by]* moment writing.”

Just to clarify, I’ve never met this person or talked with her outside of e-mail and blog comments. She’s an online friend who writes a different style of fiction than I do. But she found words to describe my writing better than I could have: moment by moment.

What does it mean, exactly? To me, it means that I’m not a scene-by-scene writer. And I don’t particularly like the trend of books mimicking movies. At a certain point, all books are a series of consecutive scenes, but when the scenes open, follow through, and close as if a camera somewhere is panning in and panning out, screen to black, then new scene, I feel like I’m watching a sitcom or a movie rather than reading a book.

When I write, I want my stories to flow like romantic episodes (yes, s*e*x, but this is a clean, child-friendly blog). The episode begins and it builds moment by moment toward a climax. Can you imagine it any other way?

What do you think of this beta-minted term, moment-by-moment fiction? How do you prefer your books? Do you write by scenes?

*Her exact phrase was “moment to moment”, but I keep remembering it in my head as “moment by moment”. There may be a subtle difference in these phrases; moment to moment seems like a connected chain, so perhaps that’s the better line.

p.s. Examine the painting and you’ll see the possibilities of one moment working into the next.

p.p.s I have continued with my writing overhaul. If I break my neck, don’t be surprised.