So I am on the tail-end of going through my first session of Beta Readers. I have gotten a ton of great feedback and I have a lot of work ahead of me. Overall, I have positive feedback on my world-building and characters. My biggest problem is my prose and tightening the story.
What does that mean?
Well, I have no problem writing in first person. I do it all the time on my blogs. It is the voice I am most comfortable with in regaling my own story and, at times, sprinkling a bit of my own humor. However, for fantasy, tradition dictates that my novel should be written in third person limited omniscient (literally a character point of view – POV – that is not limited to the characters thoughts).
What does this have to do with my prose? Well, unfortunately, I tend to repeat a lot (a lot) of the same words. One of my beta readers took the time to highlight all the words I repeated. At least I was consistent with my repetition. But it was embarrassing, nonetheless. I need more variety in that writing. But not only did this Beta reader tell me what I needed to fix; she also gave me the tools to help!
This Beta reader’s name is Amy Butcher. I say this because she is in the process of wanting to start her own copyediting service. I found her through Goodreads and I must say that she is a gem. I will definitely continue to work with her as I take on my novel and there will be more testimonials and praise for her as I go. I just wanted to put her name out there because she is good at what she does and I definitely recommend her for anyone looking for a copy editor.
Anyway, back to my tools. Amy has recommended to me a number of books to help with my prose and working on my, so far, unstructured novel.
Here’s a brief list and what makes them useful:
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel II by James N. Frey (both help with developing a character biography and pinning down the villain)
- How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey (though I may not be writing a thriller, it can help with finding a good method in plotting a book)
I know that’s a lot of Frey novels, but he’s been recommended for those who write genre fiction but haven’t taken a lot of classes (like myself).
- For prose: Vex, Hex, Smash and Smoosh by Constance Hale.
- After you have rewritten a draft: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King.
- Story by Robert McKee. This guy goes over different types of plots (mostly from a screenwriting prospective – but doesn’t mean it’s not useful). He has been recommended also for help in writing good dialogues and scenes
- Anatomy of a Story by John Truby. Also recommended to plotting and mapping out a clear structure to your story.
Phew! That’s quite a list! But you know what? If you want to write the best you can, you need to acknowledge that you should get all the tools you can possibly get. Simply reading and writing for over twenty years (I am 28, do the math) does not make one automatically a good writer. Maybe some have that gift but for the rest of us it’s just only a good start.
Off to work!
Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in
the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the
second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going
to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.
This is important for any storyteller in any medium. Only write what
has relevance and make sure you fulfill your promises to your
I never watched Lost but from what I heard the audience was left with
a lot of unanswered questions and that left the viewers disappointed
by the time the final episode aired. They have since learned their
lesson as they write Once Upon a Time, but this is something you
don’t want to do with their audience.
Another example: in Volocio I wrote how one character bought a
necklace with the intent of having it show up later. Upon rereading
it, I found that I never did anything with it like I had planned. So
now I have to make a decision, do I go back an incorporate it like I
had planned or do I get rid of it all together? I decided to keep it
and use it as a small detail that will help with a bigger plot line
later. I looked at my notes and found it entirely possible so that’s
what I will do.
You don’t have to sit down and carefully outline every little detail
before you start writing. This goes back to my ‘Revision’ post; write
every thing – get it out there. Then go back and fine tune your
details. But don’t worry, if you miss those details or forgot about
them then chances are your Beta readers will see them and point them
out to you. Don’t fret.
But remember, dear readers, don’t go too crazy and write yourself so
many elements that you can’t keep track. Remember the advice I got
from a publishing house: You have great ideas just too many.
Have plot twists but also try to keep it simple.
Until next time,
I can’t tell you how many times I have started and reworked Volocio.
Actually I can and I will: I finished my first draft (at the time it
was called So It Begins) when I was about fifteen. It was one whole
book and at the time it was a huge accomplishment. Then I started my
freshman year of high school and I remember sitting in English class
when it dawned on me….it had to be a trilogy. So I took the story
and broke it into three separate pieces and then I totally revamped
I finished that draft a few years latera and had a friend of my mom
look at it. Naomi was my first real editor and she was great. She
was very positive and constructive. I also really needed help with my
grammar (which is still not perfect, by the way – speaking three
languages tends to mess you up from time to time). I was very lucky
to have her.
By the time I was eighteen and a senior in high school, I decided to
try my hand at sending my manuscripts to publishers. I believe I sent
out 26 packages (yes packages….this was before you sent queries by
e-mail). While I waited it dawned on me that this was still not the
story I wanted to tell, but it was too late.
But then I was rejected by all. I did get one piece of advice that I
still cherish greatly: You have a lot of great ideas, but too many.
Yes….just a big yes!
So now we are entering my freshman year of college where I gutted
Volocio and made a third a final draft that I am still happy with to
this very day. Once I finally finished, I put it away for a few years
and worked on some other projects in the same world. But every time I
come back, I am still ok with the story.
Now I need to finally get off my ass and get Beta Readers.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is to just write because you
will make revisions after revisions but the point is to get it out
there in the first place.
Until Next Time,