Beta Reading…For Myself?

I’ve discovered something that’s rather amazing: Beta reading can be really fun.

It’s incredible to me how I can spot typos, see where changes are needed, and come up with solutions to issues. I’ve spent years learning the craft, reading books, blogs, watching vlogs, and discovering all I can about writing.

There’s nothing like watching someone’s writing improve – or beta reading for a favorite childhood author – to make me feel like I’m really doing something with my extensive knowledge. I know a lot about writing, folks. I’ve poured so many years of my life into honing my skills and becoming the best I can be.

And goodness, am I ever good… In theory.

But, um, there’s this slight (wee, little, minuscule) problem. When it comes to my own work? To actually writing (huh! who would have thought that was such an important part of the process?), I have so, so far to go. And it gets rather disheartening.

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Since May I’ve not done hardly any writing. Life took off and between my other jobs, weddings, and more emotions then I knew what to do with (sisters getting married, y’all),  writing sort of fell by the wayside.

In the midst of the craziness though, I did do some hard-core beta reading. Then some final-look proofreading. Then some more beta reading. And do you know what? It was downright fun.

Folks: A year and a half ago my computer was stolen while I was in Mexico. That meant I lost some non-backed up files. And, the only current version of my most worked-on book was in an email I’d sent to a friend. When I tried to download said story from Gmail onto my new computer the formatting was all messed up and I couldn’t figure it out. I was already so done with the book (for the time being, that is), so I just decided to forget about it for a while. The only solution I could think of was to retype the entire thing, so I shelved it and moved on.

I haven’t even looked at the book this year. And considering I was thousands of hours and 23 drafts into the story, that’s kinda a big deal.

This weekend I randomly mentioned the issue to a techy friend, and he promptly offered to help. I pulled out my computer and whala! a few minutes later I was looking at my perfectly formatted book.

It was delightful and encouraging and amazing all at once, and also reminded me that I now have nothing to hide behind – no reason not to start on draft 24. But really, let’s be honest: Where’s the fun of slogging through another draft when there are so many new, shiny projects that are asking for my attention?

Then today I was beta reading for someone. I sat down with my computer and her Google Doc, and next thing I knew an hour had passed and I’d been having fun.

And that’s when it hit me: I need to beta read my own book.

Enough time has passed since I’ve been through it, that I should be able to set aside my confusion emotions where I feel attached to certain scenes and lines. I should be able to see it with new eyes. I should be able to listen to my own, true critique and make this draft the best one yet. I should be able to trick myself into going through the story like I’d go through a friend’s story.

And ya know what? It’s an exciting thought.

Am I The Only One?

Back when my sister had Lyme disease, she wrote this. It meant so much to me and was so fitting that I ended up using it at the beginning of When Life Hands You Lymes.

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Am I the only one?
Has anyone else ever felt fear?
Not just any fear, but a seemingly never-end fear.
The kind of fear that, in the moment, feels like fear is the only thing you’ll ever know.

You thought you could outrun it, but you were wrong every time.
It’s now what controls you.
You almost respect it.
You listen to it and obey it.
It’s your gauge that tells you what’s impossible.

It holds you so tightly you can’t even scream for help anymore.
It’s like a bungee cord how it pulls you back and slaps you in the face every time you reach out for one of your dreams.
It says: Why did you even try? I’ve told you you’re a loser.
It tells you: Hope’s a fake, but assures you that pain is real.

It has to have your attention; without your attention it will die.
That’s why it’s so demanding and why it screams so loudly.
It’s behind your insecurity.

It’s the thing that asks you every night: Why would God love you?
It’s the thing that tells you over and over again what you did wrong and why you can never change.
It tells you you’ll trip if you take that first step.

I took that first step.
I didn’t trip.
It was all a lie.
I stopped giving fear my attention; it has now died.

Am I the only one?

Editing, Reading, and Sunsets

When I said I wasn’t going to stress if I didn’t blog on time, or if I didn’t blog at all during May, I hadn’t really expected to up and drop off the blogging scene for nearly a week. In fact, each day I awoke with the expectation of blogging, but then as the day wore on and I hadn’t sat down to blog, I decided to just try again the next day. (And obviously, that thought process was on repeat.)

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Yesterday I edited for twelve hours – basically straight. (I mean, I did stop to swing a few times, make rice, and of course to watch the sunset. But other than that, little ol’ me just sat and edited.) While editing, I came to the conclusion (once again) that it’s simply so much fun to accomplish.

I’ve been resting a lot this week, just like I’d decided to. But resting isn’t always fun. Editing until I’m exhausted though? Now that’s more my style. Plus, I drank coffee to help keep me going, because coffee is amazing. Unfortunately coffee also has that crazy side affect of keeping me awake until all hours of the morning, but at least I was able to catch up on some reading. (Who am I kidding? I’ve read ten books and twelve days – there’s pretty much no reading to “catch up” on.)

While editing, I was rather astonished by how many words I was able to cut out of When Life Hands You Lymes. Y’all. I was working on draft twenty. I’ve been editing and re-writing this book for over two years now. I thought the story was good and done by December of last year. I’d already cut the story from 150,000 words down 80,500 words. And yet, somehow, somewhere, during this draft I found 4,500 words to cut. I’m not sure how much more of this my book (or me!) can take. In reality though, it made the book a lot better. And so it’s worth it.

 

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And that, my friends, is a quick glimpse at my life recently. Lots of reading. Editing. Resting. I even got to eat some freshly-picked sugarcane, which of course was yummy. And watching the sunset every night…. That’s one of my favorite parts of being here. I’ll have to show y’all pictures of it sometime. (The picture in this post is of the one and only time I got up in time to watch the sunrise since arriving.)

What have y’all been up to?

Querying Update – WLHYL

After a much-longer-than-intended break due to my non-writing job and life, I’m finally back into the querying process. So yay!

It’s nice to be back in the rhythm again, although a bit strange, too. I queried all of my easily-found-top-picks during the first go-through. This time I’m having to spend a lot more time flipping through profiles and scrolling through Twitter to find agents who I even want to query.

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As it turns out, there are a lot of things to look for while querying. What’s probably most surprising to me has been how crazy much political stuff agents post on social media. For some reason I hadn’t thought that would be a huge thing. I thought they’d be posting about books, reading, writing, etc…. Apparently I was wrong. And, while it’s been interesting and enlightening to find out dozens and dozens of random stranger’s (who I’m trying to get a professional feel for) takes on the state of the leadership in the country, it sometimes makes me sigh, too. Cause yeah, that’s really not what I’m looking for.

 

Late last night I received another rejection email for a query I sent out a month ago. It’s the first rejection I’ve received for several weeks, and much more the pace that I had imagined I’d hear back from the agents. I’m hoping that as the weeks continue, that I’ll hear back from more agents; in reality though, life has been so crazy that I don’t think about it nearly as much as I thought I would.

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Scribbles and Whimsy, my bunnies, have figured out a system for while I’m blogging. Their cage is under the table that I sit at while writing, and they have discovered how to reach out and snag my skirt to snack on whenever I sit down. That means that I let them out to explore the room, which is probably exactly what they were hoping for.

As I was typing this post, Scribbles climbed up onto the desk (who knew bunnies could climb so well?), and hopped around exploring. I had to unplug my computer keyboard so she didn’t nibble the cord (again!), but then I just amused myself with watching her explore for a few minutes. Her name fits her well, because she’s especially fond of papers and books.

That’s all for today, folks!

It Might Be Hope

If you’ve been around Noveltea for any length of time, you’ve most likely heard me talk about When Life Hands You Lymes, which is my young adult novel I’ve been working on for the last three+ years.

The process of going through eighteen drafts with this book has taught me so much. I’ve read books about violins. I’ve learned how to accept huge amounts of critiques from beta readers. I’ve discovered how wordy I am when I write. I’ve delved deeper into how I come across to my readers and things I need to change about my writing style.

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Needless to say, it’s been a very good experience for me. I sometimes wish I would have been able to get this type of feedback and learning done back ten years ago when I first started writing, in reality though I wasn’t ready for it back then.

One of my beta readers sent me a link to a song after they beta read my book along with this message:  When I read the last chapter in Part 1, where Maddie gets diagnosed, I couldn’t help thinking how this song would make an awesome soundtrack for that part. Do you like Sara Groves? I’m confident that Maddie would.

Since then I’ve listened to that song dozens, possibly hundreds of times. Because the beta reader was correct: It is the perfect song for Maddie. And maybe it’ll be  a good song for you, too.

 

The Querying Dream

I know it’s trite and cliché to start a book out with a dream, but I’m guessing the same logic doesn’t apply toward blog posts. Even so, I’m gonna give y’all an introduction to my dream, just in case.

One of the query rejections I received recently amused me in a “Really?” sort of way. I’m sure the agent who wrote it was trying to be encouraging, and it probably has encouraged some reject-ees, but it came across as a vague form letter trying to masquerade as a good friend.

I read the rejection letter last night, just a little while before I went to bed. It must have still been in my subconscious thoughts as I drifted off to sleep, because I had my first ever dream about the querying process.

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In the dream I received a rejection letter – which was fine with me. Until I went back and reread the query letter I had sent. Then I was horrified by the typos, grammar, and how the letter made a complete lack of sense. Instead of sounding professional and interesting, I sounded like a kid who was hurrying through a task simply so they could go out and play. In the dream I was actually rather relieved to know I had gotten a rejection because that meant I would never have to face the agent again.

Thankfully it was just a dream and in real life I’ve not only checked, re-checked, and multi-re-checked the query letter, but I’ve also had multiple other people help me with it. But, the dream did bring to mind the fact that I’m probably thinking about the querying process a bit more than I had realized I was.

Maybe next dream I’ll have a manuscript request….

Querying, Rejections, and Reasons to Celebrate

There was a time when I thought seriously of not posting anything on Noveltea about querying for agents and all that fun stuff until I was on the other side of the process. But then I realized y’all have been with me for the rest of the journey, so why stop now?

Yesterday after months of preparation and research I sent out my first query letter at 10:32 in the morning. Throughout the day some other things came up – like cooking and dishes and babysitting my best friend’s little girl – but for the most part I stayed up in my office, drank lost of water and coffee, kinda decided to set aside the rest of my goals for the day, and focused on researching, researching, researching, and sending queries.

I sent out my last query for the day at 10:00 (although I did continue researching for another hour and a half). I was amused to no end when I received my first rejection at 10:04, literally four minutes after I had sent the query. At first I thought the email was simply a receipt, letting me know the query had been received or that the offices were closed (I received several of those yesterday). But no, it was a real, live rejection. (And yes, I had followed the guidelines on the website.)

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I took a few minutes to celebrate and sent a screenshot to several writerly friends because I figured the moment should be documented. See, I’ve decided that hopefully rejections are going to be an amazingly fun part of this journey.

Last year when I was researching the querying process nearly everyone talked about how hard it is to wait, wait, wait, and then receive rejection after rejection, after rejection. But it’s life! It’s part of what has to happen. (At least if you’re going the traditional route.)

So, I decided to make it into a game, and to celebrate a lot. For instance, I’m going to reward myself for every rejection I get. I’m also going to reward myself for every day that goes by and I don’t hear back from any agents. From the research I’ve done, that means I have a ton of rewards to look forward to.

I’ve not decided 100% on the type of rewards I’m going to give myself, but I’m fairly certain that each rejection and each day that goes by without hearing back from agents I’ll pay myself a certain amount of money or give myself a certain amount of time to work on Madalyn Emerson’s scrapbook. And yes, I realize that it sounds weird to pay myself, but there are some writerly things on Etsy and some books I would like to have, but generally wouldn’t buy. As for the scrapbook, that will have to wait for another post…. For now I’m just gonna reward myself by drinking way more coffee than normal and listening to Christmas music in January.

Have any of y’all queried? What did you do to make the process more fun?