My husband used to stop me in the middle of my workday story to ask who somebody was.
I’d groan, “Candace. I just said her name.”
“No, like who is she to you? She’s just a name right now.”
Well darn. Can I just get that voice in my head when writing stories too?
See, characters are more than names. They are more than blue eyes, jet black hair, or freckles. Characters have eyes that roll, droop, dart, fixate. They have raven hair about as disheveled from lack of sleep as the actual bird after fighting a cat. Their freckles dance about their cheeks and come alive when they grin.
In the beginning, there were Pantsers and Plotters. One group roamed the earth looking for meaning while the other group stayed put and told the earth what to do. Both groups had a very compelling idea of the earth when they were through, and both lived peacefully in their separate camps. Occasionally a few members would break off and camp in between the two, or cross over completely, but nobody took notice.
If the earth represents characters and plots, what group do you suppose you belong in? Here are two extremes. I bet most people fall in the middle:
It’s your baby, and you’re letting somebody else tell you what they like and don’t like about it. Who does that to their children? The same people who know they must “kill your darlings”. Thank you Stephen King for telling us how it is. For many, beta readers are a must. For some, they are a waste of time. You get to decide!
I wish I had known a thing or two about betas when I first started this adventure. A quick internet search told me that betas read manuscripts and gave feedback. Well, that sounded fantastic! What I didn’t know was that beta readers are generally reserved for polished manuscripts. Alpha Readers are for that first read. Critique partners are for bouncing ideas off of and discussing your work. These definitions vary greatly, but if you want to get technical, I asked for the wrong thing at the wrong time. Yeah, I’d polished my manuscript. But I hadn’t actually done the restructuring a first draft needs in order to be anything but a first draft as far as plot goes.
Thankfully, two of my five beta readers were excellent critique partners, and they became great writer friends. They even put up with and participated in my awkward, sleep-deprived Facebook messages and accidental video calls. *Note to self: SLEEP IS GOOD. Take care of yourself.* Mind you, I’ve never done a video call before and would probably freak out if it happened for real. As it was, I frantically pushed all the wrong buttons trying to hang up.
Some things I learned about the process of matching up with people to read or trade:
I’m working on my first full-length novel, and I thought that by now I should have an author blog. If not for fans later on, this is for me to go back and reference some helpful advice I picked up along the way. It’s been a year, so I can’t go back to the beginning per se, but I will do my best.
I’ll be dropping tidbits I learn about craft, grammar, software, plot lines, etc. Whatever I want to keep around or think others may like, it’s going here. Of course, maybe a line or two from my writing will appear as well.