Monday, March 30, 2009

Grim Light lights the way to being a beta reader for all.

I've read another beta draft, this one for Kristophrenia's Grim Light. I think she's outdone herself and I enjoyed it even more than Battle of the Hexes. The concept was original and fun where death lives in cottages and reapers are just ordinary people, going to school and driving cool cars.

I couldn't put it down. I read it while I was brushing my teeth, while I waited in line for hand packed frozen yogurt (yum), while exercising, when I woke first thing in the morning and right before I went to bed.

I've been enjoying my new role as beta reader. Having laid my writing pen to rest, I'm able to provide feedback in a timely manner to those who need a beta reader. So far I've been lucky and I've loved what I've read by both Tia's (Starcaster and Forging a Legend)and Kristophrenia.
If you have a great story and want to bounce it off someone who will actually read it and provide comments, well, here I am.

Why my willingness to help? Well, I've been in that situation where friends/family will say that they'll read it, but they don't, whether it's work, family commitments, or just not their kind of story, they don't read it, and sometimes they forget all about it. Sometimes you find other writers, but their own style sometimes inferiors with their input, instead they tell you how they would write or rewrite it, rather than what they've read and how they interrupted it.

What do I get from this? Think of it as a 'game show'. In this case, I'm the audience, the beta reader, and you, the writer, is the contestant. When you win, I'll have that warm fuzzy having known I helped in some small way. I'll buy my copy (hopefully autographed) and proudly tell people that I knew you when . . .

Kristophrenia sent me this lovely little poem, Sadly the poet didn't take credit so we don't know who wrote it:
Unattributed Ode to Beta Readers

I file off the burrs and I fill in the potholes,
I beef up the verbs and make note of the plotholes.
I tighten the phrasing and cut to the bone
Killing "that", "then" and "suddenly", paired or alone.

I'll shorten the sentences, clear up the scene,
Canonize dialogue, oil the machine.
Activate verbs and cull adjectives back,
Annihilate adverbs and tighten the slack.

Make all the characters speak in my head
If their words are not right then rewrite what they've said.
The cadence important and phrase plays a part
Or canon is ruffled and readers depart.

I beta-read fanfic, I beta-read filk
I beta-read much of the worst of that ilk
I fix up your stories, I clean out the murk
So readers will want to read more of your work

It's your name as author, it's your name on show
My name isn't something your readers will know
But we both are aware that your textual grails
My fingerprints sport on their finer details.

So think of your editors, once in a while
When fans of your stories queue up for a mile
To Betas: a toast. Ladies, gents, raise your glass
To friends who make sure you don't fall on your ass.
In spite of how lucky with the beta reads I've had so far, I'm quite picky about what I like to read and very sensitive to material. The following would NOT be a good fit:
  1. Horror, bloody, violent, cruel
  2. Animals suffering, especially cats
  3. Novels with many sex scenes, even one can be tiresome for me, I might read over it - I find them boring and a distraction from the 'real' story.
  4. Racist (unless the evil character is the racist and will meet their just rewards in the end)
  5. Hateful to those different from the norm.
On a final note, if, as I read, I find I really don't care for work, I'll let you know and why. Contact me via my website, and provide your email.


Kristy Baxter said...

Thank you so much for all your help and your kind words, Lisa. And I might just have to steal some of the opening paragraph of this post for my query letter!

Lisa said...

Pleasure was all mine! I kept forgetting to even think about comments as I as enjoying it so much!
If any comments in the post might help in your query, help yourself. I'd be doubly pleased to think I was able to help this story find its way into the hands of happy readers - where it should be!

Bevie said...

Suddenly, I'm terrified at the prospect of you reading what I wrote. (You've so enjoyed the first two. What if mine s*cks?!)

I'll probably contact you about reading my manuscript next week.

Thanks, Lisa.

Lisa said...

Hi Bevie, your blog entries have been enjoyable, so that's a good sign! And, in the end, it is only my taste, which don't reflect what the agents/publishing and other readers might like! If it did, Tia and Kristin would be swimming in million dollar publishing offers!

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm afraid I ran afoul of Lisa's dislike for animals suffering. I think she helped me make a better manuscript for it.

Thanks, Lisa, for all your great beta reading!

Kristen, I'm curious about how you would use Lisa's blurb in your query letter.

Kristy Baxter said...

I wouldn't use it as a blurb, per se--I just like her phrasing, and how she describes the world I created. Something like that might squeeze its way into the synopsis portion of my query.