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How a Writing Career Changes in Two Years

22 Oct

Announcements: 

Read to Write Stories posted a writing exercise called – How to Begin and End Chapters – and it features Take Me Tomorrow. Check it out by clicking the link. The post also includes passages from my latest novel. If you’re looking for a fantastic website to enhance your writing, I definitely recommend Read to Write Stories. The weekly pieces are great setups for new writers and wonderful practice for writers hoping to tune their craft.

How a Writing Career Changes in Two Years

The other night, I was doing something that most writers dread: Cleaning old documents off my laptop. Pretty much everyone I know dreads this, but writers – I believe – have a little extra to sift through. Between years of daydreaming, note-taking, and attempting to start numerous novels only to shelve them, writers can stack up hundreds if not thousands of mislabeled, unfinished, and probably unorganized pieces of writing, and I doubt I am alone when I say this, but it is so impossibly difficult to delete old writings…but I manage to do it anyway. When I do, I hold my kitten to make the pain bearable.

It was on one of these horrid nights that I found a document titled “Book To-Do.” I, being the unorganized cat lady that I am, had no idea what to expect from this docx icon I found buried among old college assignments and music wishlist bulletins, but I knew I could not delete it without reading every word of it, so I opened it.

I found gold.

Book To-Do was written on September 04, 2012. At this point in my life, November Snow was my only piece of work released, but I had quit publishing a long time ago. This document was also written approximately 20 days before I began this website, and the entire point of this single document was to outline where I was with my writing as well as label where I wanted to go next. I can’t share all of those notes (Spoilers are everywhere, even about books I haven’t told beta readers about yet!) but I am showing notes on pieces you will recognize:

November Snow

  • Old version: 125,978 words
  • New version written as of now: chapter 1—11: 30,265 words
  • Currently writing chapter 12

Take Me Tomorrow

  • Finished editing, sent query, responses gained, speak with author in contact.

The Dark Trilogy

….

So, where am I going with this?

The gain! Look how much has changed in two years alone. The Dark Trilogy became The Timely Death Trilogy, and Death Before a New Day morphed into Death Before Daylight, and all three received a rewrite, an edit, and a contract. Same with Take Me Tomorrow, and although I’m still working on November Snow’s rewrite, I am still moving forward with it, but the important piece was how I felt upon seeing this dated list: I realized how easily all of this hard work can be forgotten.

My friend made this two years ago, purposely using ‘right’ instead of ‘write’ to give me a hard time

Two years ago, my friend made this, purposely using ‘right’ instead of ‘write’, and the joke has stuck. I truly was writing a paper for college, and that is my lucky Elvis t-shirt.

You see, as an author, I am always looking forward, and I never think I am doing well enough (and especially fast enough) to further my career in order to meet more readers. That focus isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes I believe I get too caught up in moving forward that I forget how much work I have done to get to where I already am, and I found a lot of excitement in seeing physical reminders of that progress. It reminded me that I am – in fact – working hard, but it also forced me to take a step back from the pressures I put on myself, and it allowed me to pat myself on the back for a little bit (all, of course, while thanking anyone and everyone who has helped me along the way).

It’s safe to say that I didn’t delete this document. Instead, I updated it with today’s date, and I left a little encouraging note for my future self to stumble upon another two years from now.

Who knows how far we can all be by then?

It’s definitely a practice I would recommend other authors try. I know it brought a smile to my face, and it is for that reason that I want to take a moment to thank all of you again – for allowing me to share my words and for sharing your words with me.

In two years, I hope to see you again,

~SAT

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

24 Sep

Announcements:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 18,000 followers! As a surprise, I shared the meaning behind all the chapter titles in Take Me Tomorrow on my Facebook page. Every chapter title is actually a direct quote from the chapter you’re about to read. This is to represent the clairvoyant drug, tomo, since it allows takers to experience the future. For those who haven’t read the story, tomo does not necessarily give you clear visions. It affects all people and all senses differently. Sometimes, you hear it, taste it, smell it, or feel it. In fact, it’s hardly ever clear as to what is happening. Only those who are experienced with the drug are able to interpret what they are experiencing, and even then, everything is just a guess, and the drug itself is debatable. But the chapter titles aren’t! If you go through the novel you will see the titles later on in the prose. Chapter One – Don’t Come Back – is found in this quote, “My heart lurched at his sudden change in demeanor, but I managed a nod toward the north. The forest opened up to the only park Topeka still had. ‘Don’t come back.’”

When Eat Books For Breakfast reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, she said it “was definitely an intriguing read—different from most of the other books in its genre…I would recommend it to readers of young adult dystopian fiction.” Read the full review by clicking here or check out my latest novel here.

I would also like to take a moment to thank Dan Thompson for including Take Me Tomorrow in his post Two Books Are Better Than One. (And no, believe it or not, we’re not related.)

Thank you for reading my announcements today!

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

The other day, I was sitting in a hookah house while attending an online event. (I don’t always have the Internet at home, so I go there to work.) That’s when a good friend of mine came up to keep me company, and I was telling him about a novel I am working on. The main character is an orphan. That’s when we got to talking.

Why are parents always dead or absent?

This isn’t a new conversation. I’ve had it with many people, mainly in regards to Disney movies, but I think it applies to most fiction, especially young-adult fiction, but I’ll get to why I think that in a minute. First, I would like to admit that my stories are no exception. The Timely Death Trilogy involves two protagonists – Eric’s biological mother committed suicide, and his father doesn’t have the best relationship with his son, while both of Jessica’s biological parents died in a car wreck, but she was adopted, and she does have a good relationship with her adoptive parents. In Take Me Tomorrow, Sophia’s father is practically absent due to his traveling job, and her mother hasn’t been in her life since she was seven, but she does live with a mother-sister figure named Lyn. Why did I do this? I can’t speak for every author when I explain my theories, but I will explain my personal reasons for deceased or absent parents as well as a hypothesis from the literary side. Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am (in general) talking about fiction for children and young adults.

Literary reason:

Coming-of-age is a popular topic among fiction for teens and preteens, mainly because they are going through it themselves. That being said, I think a huge factor of “coming-of-age” is finding yourself through independence. This is one of the main reasons I believe parents aren’t included in fiction, whether that is through death or absence, but another reason includes freedom. I know. I know. I sound horrible for saying freedom in regards to an absent parent, but I don’t mean “freedom” as a good thing. I mean it as a driving force for a character to venture outside of their home, to go on adventures, to strive to survive on their own. If they had a perfect family at home, this need for survival or adventure would be hard to justify. But I would like to point out one thing that others seem to forget to mention. Even if a character is an orphan or under other unfortunate circumstances, the character (usually) has a parental figure, and I think that is just as important as having a “real” parent in the story. To me, a “real” parent doesn’t have to give life to a child or adopt a child or anything in terms of a traditional definition. I believe a parent can be anyone who is the main guide and protector for a child. In that sense, I don’t believe we take parents out of fiction. I think we show readers that parents (guidance) can come from many places, which can be vital during a time in which young people are striving for independence outside the home.

From The Write Catch

From The Write Catch

Personal reason:

I am only including this section to give insight to an author’s reasoning behind it (rather than my above section that simply guesses as to why we find ourselves in those instances.) When it comes to dead or removed parents in fiction, I can relate to it. My mother died when I was 11, and my father was a traveling businessman. I hardly saw him growing up. In fact, I saw nannies more, and we never had the same one for long. Mainly because my brother and I were rather…well…angry might be the best way of saying it. The only time we did have another parent in the house was my stepmother, and she was only married to my dad for a year before they were divorced, and we definitely didn’t get along. Whew. Is that enough personal information? I don’t necessarily have a problem sharing it, even if it makes others uncomfortable, because it was my life. My life is much better now. But it’s hard for me to imagine a teenage-life with parents being actively involved, so I personally write about orphans or absent parents because that was my life growing up, and my characters are going to reflect certain parts of my life, even when I don’t realize it. That being said, I still believe that parents are in my fiction (like Lyn with Sophia in Take Me Tomorrow or Jessica’s adoptive parents in The Timely Death Trilogy, not to mention Eric’s stepmother.)

So where am I going with this?

Sometimes authors aren’t writing about orphans or neglected kids for literary reasons. Sometimes they are writing from their heart, and – in reality – I have met more teenagers who can relate to absent situations than not. Having a “perfect” family is…let’s be real…impossible. No one is perfect. Everyone is human. And families will reflect that both in life and in fiction.

The reason that parents are generally dead and/or absent is simple: it happens. But that doesn’t mean we can’t add more parents to story lines. In my little opinion, including them is just as fine as not including them as long as the author is being true to the story.

Feel free to comment below with your reasons or thoughts on this topic! I know we’ve all at least read a novel or seen a Disney movie that includes this debate, so chat away,

~SAT

When Reading is a “Fad”

22 Sep

Announcements: 

During my latest interview, I had to fight a blush when The Random Book Blogger asked me which Take Me Tomorrow character I would marry if I had to chose one. Read my answer by clicking here, or read her book review by clicking here. The Random Book Blogger shared a favorite quote from the story, so I thought I would share it, too, “Family,” Noah emphasized, “is important.”  If you want to know why Noah said this, you can check out the book here. ::wink wink::

When Reading is a “Fad”

Fad, according to the dictionary, is “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze.”

I think we can all agree that fads happen in the reading community often. Even if you aren’t a reader, popular titles have taken over the big screen. Twilight, Divergent, Harry Potter, Fifty Shades of Grey, and The Fault in Our Stars were everywhere, and even more novels will pop up in the future. Anymore it seems like most movies are based on novels, which is understandable considering most major production companies want an audience before they spend millions creating a film for the big screen, but it has only increased the visibility of reading fads. In fact, bookstores have even changed. The one near my house have an entire shelf dedicated to books for the big screen, and it includes books that are currently in the theatre as well as books that will be released as movies later this year. Someone is always standing by that shelf, and it was my recent trip to the bookstore that forced me to think about this.

Are reading fads positive or negative? Should we pay attention to them or write them off as nothing but entertainment?

That’s what I’m talking about today. Below, I’m going to be focusing on the pros and cons of book fads, including why you should stay updated on the latest and why you shouldn’t care. (Because that’s the unbiased thing to do, right?)

trending-intro-image

photo from myshopsdiscount.com

Why you should care:

For me, this is a given, but I’m also involved in the publishing world. I want to know what’s in and what readers are talking about mainly because I’m obsessed with the book market (and it is a part of my job). That being said, I want to ignore that part of my life for a minute, and talk about this from strictly a reader’s perspective. It can be fun to share reads my friends and family who also read. By reading what is “in”, I’m increasing my chances to being up-to-date in my personal life as well as my work life or just plain ol’ conversations at the coffee shop. Paying attention to reading fads can be like paying attention to fashion fads. No one wears poodle skirts anymore, but people love that side braid, so I’m going to attempt that side braid, and when I try it, I might like it, and I might dislike it, but at least the trend pointed me to an opportunity I didn’t previously consider. Not a bad thing if I actually find myself enjoying what is “in”. (And that never means that I have to give up my traditional ponytail – a.k.a. my other books – that I’ve always loved and will continue to love).

Why you shouldn’t care:

Who cares if poodle skirts aren’t in anymore? I want to wear one, and I’m going to wear it to the bookstore. (Is this metaphor weird yet?) No one has to read what everyone is talking about because we don’t have to conform to the same conversations that everyone and their cousin is having. So what if everyone cannot wait until Valentine’s Day for Fifty Shades? Good for them. I can’t wait for chocolate, and that’s me. (Okay. Not going to lie. I probably will see the movie, but that’s for the top section. Oops.) But readers don’t have to care about what’s in or what might be in or what is in the theatres or whether or not they read the book before the film or even if there is a film at all. Just enjoy the entertainment like you want to, and if someone wants to talk about the in thing, let them (or talk about something else). There’s so much to discover in the world, and who knows? You might discover the next “big” thing before anyone else knows how big it is. That makes you a hipster. (In a good way….no PBR allowed…okay. Fine…PBR allowed, but only if the bookstore is BYOB).

In the end, there are many reasons as to why one reader might enjoy keeping up with the latest trends and there are just as many reasons not to. Being a reader means the reader is allowed to read whatever they want to for whatever reasons they want to. I have no problems with “fad” readers, and I have no issues with readers who strive to avoid trending books. I’ve personally found myself on both sides of the argument only to realize there shouldn’t be an argument at all.

Reading is what we enjoy, and that is enough for me.

~SAT

10 Things Authors Worry About

20 Sep

Announcements: 

The next section of my interactive poetry series on Wattpad has begun! You can read the first poem – The grave of my teenage daughter – by clicking the link. Remember to vote, comment, and/or share for your chance to be mentioned during my next YouTube video.

In other news, Star-crossed Book Blog reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, and she included excerpts and viewpoints on the characters. Read the full review by clicking here, but here’s a small quote, “Noah was a mystery that I enjoyed unraveling. He was broken, dark and even though he never showed it, I couldn’t help but feel as though he was suffocating from having the weight of the world on his shoulders.” Click here to check out Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon.

10 Things Authors Worry About:

One of my more popular posts has always been Being a Writer: Pros and Cons. So much so that I even receive emails about it to this day – mainly from aspiring writers who want a little more detail about an author’s lifestyle. That’s why I got to thinking about this topic, and that is also why I thought it would be fun to share some of those pesky worries authors can go through on a regular basis. Honestly? I probably could’ve gone on forever, but here are ten topics I’ve had a giggle at to start the conversation:

1. Is my title catchy enough? – This is my first one because I dealt with this while writing this piece. In all honestly, this should be titled “things I worry about as an author” but…A. That’s too long. B. Using “I” is generally frowned upon because…A. It’s self-centered B. It subconsciously removes readers from the center of the piece; therefore, taking down your chances of being clicked, read, and commented on. (This is true. Google it.) And let me just point out that this is just a blog post. Titling a novel is even scarier! That’s when even more questions arise: does it make sense, does it represent my novel, will readers enjoy it, is it eye-catching, how will it look on a cover? Even worse: how will it look like on a spine or as a thumbnail? Just. Title. Me. (and by “title” I truly mean “hit”)

2. Can I stare at this picture of myself forever? – Generally in reference to whatever photo we decide to use for various purposes, including our websites, business cards, and book covers. I don’t care how awesome someone looks or how stunning a photographer makes you look, seeing the same photo day-after-day-month-after-year is really strange (and borderline creepy). It is almost like staring in the mirror too long. Eventually, you start thinking, “Do I really look like that? Is that how people see me?” Ah! I just want to hide my face in a book.

3. Are my characters (fill in the blank)? – Too happy, conceded, whiny, or – the worst one – flat. It’s this solid shadow of worry that is impossible to forget.

4. What am I doing wrong? – Okay. Okay. This is just a question that I’m sure everyone has about numerous things in their life, but I feel like this question represents so much for authors. Why are my rankings so low? Why haven’t I gotten more reviews yet? How can I connect further with my darling readers? Everything is lined with this “I know I can do better, but first I need to know what I’m doing wrong so I can improve” and it slowly becomes this obsession of Googling for advice and begging fellow authors for some sort of know-it-all secret, but it results in one thing: you’ll get better. And you slam your forehead on your desk because you know they’re right.

5. Ratings, Reviews, and Rankings (Oh! And sales!) – Even if we try our hardest to ignore them, they are often discussed within the writing community. I can admit that I try to pay attention to everything – especially the reviews my readers post, because I look at it this way: if they are going to take the time to read and review my book (not to mention send me a link), I am definitely going to take the time to read their thoughts. Thanking them is the least I can do. That being said, this combination of numbers and scales can be just as exhausting and discouraging as it can be enthralling and encouraging, so there’s definitely a careful line we have to keep in mind if we’re going to keep our minds on these things, and I definitely don’t recommend that every author pay attention to these things. It’s completely up to the author’s personal preferences, especially in terms of whether or not someone can just have fun with it. (But that’s a different discussion entirely…that I’m already planning on posting about in the near future).

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6. What am I going to do in 2017? – Yes. 2017. I don’t know about many authors, but I think a lot of authors have year-long plans if not longer plans as to what they want to work on, release, and distribute next. While we’re publishing one novel, we’re probably already writing another one, and we might be writing a second one when we’re on break. It takes years to write and publish, so writers’ lives are generally planned out a year in advance. It can get overwhelming sometimes, especially when you want to fit in a new project or change directions entirely.

7. When will I write next? – As contradicting as this can be, a writers publication calendar can be set for a year or three, but finding time to write or edit or a number of other writerly things is entirely up to the writer and their personal life. Wait. I’m open from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. next Thursday? Not anymore. #amwriting

8. Am I reading enough? Am I writing enough? – Reading and writing go hand-in-hand into the sunset…while riding separate horses…that sometimes like the go in different directions. Balancing two passions can be hard, sometimes impossibly difficult, but we find a way.

9. Am I writing for fun enough? – Much like the above issue, it can go hand-in-hand with simply writing, but writing with deadlines can sometimes take that original fun out of it, and even authors need to take time to write something silly they never have to worry about releasing or sharing with four editors and the world.

10. Social Media – It was the best of nights and it was the worst of nights. I love it, and – sometimes – I do hate it. (Please don’t tell social media that.) It can be repetitive, and it can be so exciting that you fall off your desk chair and your cat leaps five feet in the air due to your sudden movements. Even then, your eyes can only stare at that little glowing screen for so long before you have to step away and remember what real-life colors look like without an alien illumination behind them. I can still love how it connects me with you all, though, and I enjoy speaking with everyone in the comments below, but I also worry about whether or not you’ll enjoy my next article, my approaching poem, or my non-HD video. (Sorry, a writer’s life isn’t always a rich life. I can’t afford HD yet, even though you all deserve it!) But I try to push my worries away, so I can fully enjoy the ride.

Let’s enjoy this ride together! Comment below, and we’ll chat about what you worry about as a reader or writer. Honorable mentions go to editing, mistakes that make it through editing, and other writer problems we all tweet about.

~SAT

Pros and Cons of an Author Blog

12 Sep

Announcements:

It’s Friday, so you know what that means: it’s also Poetry Friday! In case you missed it, I’ve uploaded a new poem to my interactive poetry series on Wattpad – How She Loved Me. This is also the last one of this particular set. Depending on your vote, one of the four will be read on my YouTube channel, so check them out before it’s too late by clicking here.

But – in other news – two fantastic readers sent me book reviews, and my latest interview was posted, so here we here:

Tranquil Dreams wrote, “Take Me Tomorrow is absolutely impressive. It’s engaging, intriguing and is an absolute page-turner.  I took every single second opportunity to resume reading whenever I could because I just couldn’t wait to see what happen next with Sophia and Noah as the story unfolded.” But you can read her entire review by clicking here.

For The Timely Death Trilogy fans, Read Watch and Think reviewed Minutes Before Sunset: “Do not skip over this book thinking that it is another paranormal romance, if you want to read a quick, interesting plot with a whole new captivating world of shades and light. The core of the story may be romance but the book is not all about it and that makes it worthy enough for me.” Her full review can be found here.

But you can also read my latest interview at Into the Written World. I mainly speak about Take Me Tomorrow, including information on the possible sequel, but I also discussed my passion for writing and reading, so be sure to check it out by clicking the link above.

Whew! Thank you for reading today’s news. Onto today’s post:

Pros and Cons of an Author Blog

On September 25, it will be my two-year anniversary of blogging here. Over time, I have blogged about many topics, but I mainly focus on writing and reading. Because of that, I have received many questions about my decisions regarding blogging. Ex/ how do you choose what to write about, do you think it’s a good platform for selling books, how did you get 17,000 followers, what do you recommend I do? All fantastic questions. (And one of the main reasons I write Ketchup posts and provide a social media assessment through the Author Extension Community.) But today I wanted to share some of those pretty pros and pesky cons for all those that are curious about how blogging can be uplifting but also a stressful adventure – one that I will gladly continue.

Pro: You can share your thoughts

That is the point of blogging, isn’t it? Having a blog is almost like having a public diary, one that includes carefully thought-out posts (instead of emotional ranting about personal topics). Even better, we can connect with others who share the same opinion or be challenged by those who do not. It opens streams of thought from one person to another, even people the entire way across the world. How amazing is that? On top of that, you are cataloging it over time, and in the future, you will be able to go back and see what you were thinking, how you changed, and where you began friendships with readers and fellow bloggers. This is when you realize blogging is beyond blogging. It’s family-building.

Con: People may not enjoy your thoughts, and they might be really mean about it.

This is also a reference to the ever-illusive-but-always-present trolls. I like to believe that I’m fairly open-minded. I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me or a commenter, but the second name-calling or some other form of incredible immaturity happens, I delete it. (You’d be surprised to know how many times this has happened.) Call it censorship. Call it what you want. But I don’t want my blog to be a place people reference when they talk about online bullying and harassment. This means that I take an extra fifteen minutes to monitor my comments so I can guarantee a safe and happy place for everyone to come to without worry, but it was very disheartening to experience it the first few times it happened. Now, my shell is tougher, and my group of readers are (probably) happier – even if no one knows it since I delete all the evidence of my troll-destroying.

Original image from ms. ileane speaks: October 2012

Original image from ms. ileane speaks: October 2012

Pro: You connect with supporters

Everyone always says that writers have blogs to sell books, but that’s bullshit. (Excuse my French.) It’s not to sell books. It is to connect with people. It is not to connect with potential fans of your novels. It is to connect with potential supports of you. (So you can support them, too, of course.) For instance, one of my readers might HATE paranormal romance, but they may have a cousin who loves it, and since we talk, they might tell their cousin about me, but no one is obligated. I don’t expect anyone to do anything at all. I’m simply glad that my reader is here, and I’m grateful for every discussion we share, whether or not it is about my books. In fact, I had this blog long before I ever spoke to my publisher, let alone had a contract, but – Ultimately, I blog because I love to blog, and I love people, and I love blogging with people and for people. It is my other passion. It is a part of me. It is even permanently on my iCalendar. In case you’re curious, my website notes are in orange.

Con: You connect with haters

Ugh. Trolls.

Pros: You created an enjoyable platform

Again, I must repeat myself – writers don’t blog every other day because they want to sell books. Writers blog because they like writing, and blogging is another form of writing. It’s an easy way to express ourselves and connect with others who are interested in sharing their thoughts. Of course, I’m not trying to speak for every writer out there, but writing novels can (sometimes) feel like work, so blogging can be a nice way to take a break but still be involved with everything. That being said, if someone is wondering about starting one for platform purposes, I do recommend writers try it, but I don’t think it’s the end-all-be-all of an author’s social media. It is just one way to tackle it. And my final advice is this: readers can tell if an author isn’t enjoying writing a novel in the same way they can tell if a blogging doesn’t care about their post. Blog if you love it. If you don’t, find another social media venue to try. You can find one you love, and it will work. Just trust that passionate gut of yours to guide you.

Pros: A never-ending array of topics await

There is so much to talk about! Like, so much. And this is coming from someone who strictly focuses on anything to do with writing and reading.

Cons: A never-ending array of topics await

But sometimes, I feel like there are so many things to talk about I cannot decide what to speak about next. This can be overwhelming, and there are other parts that can be overwhelming, too. The amount of time that goes into every blog post builds up, and reflecting on it can be…well…exhausting. But so can novel-writing. So it’s easy to remind myself of my love for it (which might be why I wrote this specific post in the first place).

On September 25, it will be my two-year anniversary of blogging here, and I love it more and more every day. I want to thank all of you for following me. Every time you read, comment, and share, I smile with gratitude, which is why I add this.

You are my biggest pro.

What are your pros and cons of blogging? Share your thoughts below,

~SAT

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers

21 Aug

Announcements:

My short story, The Pink Scarf, was published in the second volume of an adult anthology collection, Ashtrays to Jawbreakers. It is completely free on Smashwords, so feel free to check it out by clicking here.

Take Me Tomorrow was reviewed by A Literary Mind recently, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but check out this small excerpt: “I can’t say how refreshing it was to have a protagonist that felt real. Knife-throwing abilities aside, Sophia is like the rest of us; she’s stubborn, flawed, and simply cannot control her curly hair (I feel your pain!).”

The Pros and Cons of Beta Readers:

I love beta readers. In fact, I consider my beta readers some of my closest friends (and secret keepers.) But they are close to me because we were equally careful in deciding whether or not we were good for one another, and that is what I’m talking about today: how beta readers can be both fantastic and destructive, depending on how your relationship is decided.

Why Are Beta Readers Important?

I hate to be egotistical and quote my novel when I say, “Sometimes an outside perspective is the clearer perspective.” But it’s true. (Shout out to Talk Show Host, Illuminating Now, for quoting Seconds Before Sunrise yesterday and inspiring this piece.)

But, yes, having an outside perspective is vital BEFORE the novel is published. Why? Because authors often get too close to the story. They understand too much. They know all of the answers to all of the questions, and because of this, they sometimes forget to clarify enough for a reader to understand. Beta readers prevent this confusion by reading, reviewing, and even editing as they go. If writers, publishers, editors, and beta readers were a team, beta readers would be your very first fan who still shows up to all of your games, even when you lose. And they always have great advice that even your coach didn’t think about.

Are they really THAT important?

I stand my ground when I say that the importance of editors should also be on beta readers. Like editors, beta readers are vital in creating a professional, understandable story. I think most people in the publishing industry would agree that editors must be chosen with care, but some think I’m extreme when I say that beta readers should be treated the same. Yes, it’s okay to have your friends and family read your story, but you wouldn’t rely only on them to edit, so don’t rely only on them to beta read. Find trusted colleagues or join a writing group. This might take a long time, but it’s worth it in the end. Their dedication, encouragement, and ideas might be the clarity you need.

My beta reader, Bogart

My beta reader, Bogart

So how can they be destructive?

Like any relationship, two people who are wrong for one another can be destructive to one another. In this case, a bad relationship with a beta reader can cause more confusion, a horrible change in a manuscript, and more. This doesn’t mean the beta reader is bad. This doesn’t mean the author is bad. It just means they are bad for one another. Just because two good people are in the same room, doesn’t mean they are meant to be together. This is actually relationship advice my father gave me when I was an awkward preteen that hated life in general, but it stuck with me because it is true. You must find a beta reader who likes your work as much as you do, but you also must find one who is willing to be honest about it (and an author must be willing to listen and consider.)

Is there anything else I should know?

Definitely! This small list is just an outline of basic advice I’ve given to fellow authors in search of a beta team. But the one that scares them the most is the one that scares me the most: you often have to find different beta readers for different novels. Sure, I have my go-to team, but – like readers – beta readers have genre preferences, and they work better when they focus on those particular types of novels. Just like I can’t expect a sci-fi cover artist to create a romance cover, I can’t expect my beta readers to jump on any piece of writing I hand over, and I definitely can’t expect them to praise it. You want them to give you constructive criticism so you can grow together as a team – which brings me to my last point:

Thank all of your beta readers

Even if they drop your manuscript after twenty pages, the outside perspective might suggest what type of reader will also drop the manuscript. Any advice is helpful. (Yes. Even if you hate it. Because it allows you to figure out what beta readers are good and bad for you.) Plus, having a beta reader to discuss your novels with is like having a best friend to write with, and I think all of us authors can use a few more people to talk to other than the characters in our heads. (We know how confusing they can be.) So take the time to thank them, and if you’re feeling extra thankful, put them on your acknowledgements page in your next bestseller.

P.S. I would like to take this moment to thank my beta readers past, present, and future.

~SAT

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