How I wrote a novel in five weeks. Part four

It’s off to beta readers. Sounds simple, right?

Your first question should be: How do I find a beta reader? The answer is: everywhere.

Over the years, I’ve met people who share the same interests as me. Be it, reading or writing or simply staring at the rain holding a mug of coffee. These are my people. Over the years I have also come to choose a little more wisely when it comes to who reads my manuscripts. I want honesty. I want it raw and I want it fast.

That being said, I’ve learned to give a timeline. 2-3 weeks should suffice for a manuscript that one is critiquing. If they can’t give you that time, skip them. I’ve learned the hard way. I still have beta readers with my novels from years and even months ago. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but they don’t understand the urgency unless you spell it out for them. Even then, you’re going to run into some failures. This brings me to my next point:

Not everybody is going to love your book.

Which is why I give a little synopsis beforehand. If they express interest, awesome.

I send along a list of questions for them to answer as they read which helps them keep track of their thoughts and helps me determine what’s good and bad about my manuscript. You can find them online.

I try to go for 2-3 beta readers. When they’re done, I compare their answers and their notes. If it’s something they all agree needs to be fixed, I fix it. This is a fourth draft type of edit. Usually it’s not as comprehensive, depending on how well you executed your last two drafts. It’s usually little fixes here and there. But some can be a little more in depth. For example:

In this manuscript it was brought to my attention that one character wasn’t as developed as the others. This is a big problem because it stretches out throughout the entire novel. This isn’t just going to a certain page and fixing a word. This is a full manuscript edit. If I were the outlining type, maybe it wouldn’t have been as much as an issue. Alas….

Also, I had negative feedback on the ending. I thought it was wonderful, tragic and beautiful. I also forgot that I write for young adults and an ending like I had just wasn’t going to work. This wasn’t as big a change as the missing character development and it was actually kind of fun rewriting it since most of it didn’t change except for a small detail and an added epilogue. Sometimes, as a writer, you get a sort of tunnel vision. You need other eyes to look at your story. They can reveal things you didn’t see before. Betas, for me, are pivotal in the development of a novel.

Now it’s time to format your manuscript. More to come!

How I wrote a novel in five weeks. Part three

Ah, the dreaded third draft! This is where it gets fun.

“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” — Mark Twain

Overview:

In this draft I focus on grammar which includes removing all of my darlings (overused words), look at punctuation, spelling etc. This is all I do on my own. I don’t use any sort of program to do it for me (though if you wish to do that, all the power to you). This is where your MS gets shiny and bright.

 

  1. Adverbs. They can be used sparingly, but a manuscript with too many adverbs is typically viewed as weak. Example: He turned and ran quickly down the hall. Better: He turned and sprinted down the hall.
  2. Be careful of tense. I used to have this issue BIG TIME and I still do on occasion. If you’re writing in past or present, keep it at past or present.
  3. Shorten and tighten. Not every sentence needs to be flowy and filled with description to a point where it drags. Get to the point.
  4. Look for too many times you have used the word very. This is key.
  5. Opt for more powerful words. Instead of saying, he was large, try, he was built like a concrete house. It makes your reader’s imagination go wild.
  6. For myself, I write in mostly first person present or past tense. If you’re like me, ,try to avoid starting your sentences with too many ‘I’s.’  Example: I felt a hint of sadness. Better: A hint of sadness washed over me. It’s simple things like this that can strengthen your writing.
  7. Contractions. Instead of I cannot go that way! Try, I can’t go that way!
  8. Showing versus telling. This can be a major crutch for writers and it is for me.
  9. Remove what doesn’t make sense. I can let thoughts drag to far too long with my characters especially if they’re in a situation where thinking quick is vital. We don’t need two paragraphs of what he or she thinks about the situation. They need to act.
  10. Last but not least, formatting and chapter headers. Make sure your MS is ready to be read per submission guidelines. I keep mine double spaces, Times, 1 inch margins, 2 inch tabs. Use your word processor to adjust accordingly.

 

Yea, it seems like a lot, but once you get through the second draft and find your plot solid, editing can be a breeze. You’re able to focus on just that and the more you do it the faster and easier it will be because you can avoid the heavy editing by doing it right in your first draft.

Now it’s off to your beta readers! To be continued.