Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beta Reading

Do you review others' work? Beta reading can be a challenge, especially if the voice is way different from mine. When making suggestions for revision, I try to make no impact on the voice or the flow of the work.

A tremendous amount of time and energy can go into beta reading, but it is a critical part of getting your novel ready for publication.

Some suggestions:
1) Don't be snarky. It adds no value whatsoever, and will alienate yourself from your reading group.
2) Check for the fundamentals. Paragraph and sentence structure, punctuation, spelling. It is easy for a writer to overlook a lot of these, since the brain will often see what it meant to put on the page, not what is actually there.
3) Does a word or a phrase cause to stumble, or pause to consider the message it conveys? If so, it may be best to revise that passage.
4) Is there a natural flow to the story, or is it hard to follow?
5) Characters are harder to convey, but check to see if the character motivation and actions make sense.
6) Continuity - if a character is wearing a red dress, then falls down and rips her blue slacks, a continuity check is in order.

Good luck, and let me know if these tips are useful. I'd also like to know what you look for when reading others' work.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Do you have a secret to share?


If I shared with you a secret, would you promise not to say
A single word about the things we whisper here today?

Come a little closer and I’ll murmur in your ear
But first you have to promise you will hold this message dear

And never tell another soul, but darling, if you do
Be sure that you extract from them their sacred promise to

Never breathe a word of this to any of their friends -
On second thought I think that I shall whisper to the winds.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reflections on Turning 100

No, not me. My Dad turned 100 a couple of weeks ago. That's quite a milestone for anyone to make, and we celebrated with a grand party at the home where he now lives.

He's only been in the home since March. For 99 and two-thirds years he's lived an independent life, hale and hearty. He always was a big man, over six feet tall, strong and healthy.

He loomed in my mind as larger than he really was. When I lived in the Netherlands, I bought him a sweater made in Denmark. Knitted of fine wool, the sweater was meant to ward off the North Sea gales and would do well against the rugged winters of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"What size should we get?" asked my wife. Holding it up, I replied. "Better get the extra large."

When we called that Christmas, Dad laughed. "How big do you think I am, anyway?"

"Just wash it," I said, "it will shrink."

It was a shock to see him at the nursing home, in a wheel chair, face bruised from a nasty fall taken a week or so earlier. He's nearly blind from macular degeneration, diminished in strength and stature. I gave him a CD player along with several audio books so he could listen to the stories he can no longer read.

But his spirit is undiminished. His mind is clear, and his memories are sharp. We talked about the old days. how he and his cousin hoboed their way out to California in the early days of the Depression.

"I worked in a bakery on LaBrea," he said, "A Frenchman owned it, or maybe a Swede. It was so long ago, I can't remember. But he was fat." Never trust a skinny cook, or baker for that matter.

So I set up the CD player and showed him how it works. One button for the power, and he could see enough of the LED lights to tell if it was on or off. One button to make it play, and one button to open the cover to change the CD.

I wished I could do more. But fighting City Hall would be a piece of birthday cake compared to fighting old age. May God bless our Centenarians.