So I’m about to submit the first chapter of my novel for a critique. I have to admit I’m a little anxious, scared, and excited all at the same time. This is my baby I’m putting on display what if people don’t like it?
I keep reminding myself that this is a good healthy part of the process. Other readers, other than family and friends, and hopefully members of the writing community, are going to give me their first impression and what works and what doesn’t. But what if they don’t like it?
Well if they don’t like it and can explain why it isn’t working, I’ll take them seriously especially if more than one person is saying pretty much the same thing. Some times we get too close to our work and fall in love with certain scenes that shouldn’t be there. If more than one person says something isn’t working, we need to take a closer look.
With this being said, you really need to look at the critique closely. Is the person doing the critique trying to offer suggestions to make the story better or change it into what they think it should be? Remember this is still your baby. You need to be pliable enough to accept feedback but strong enough to stay true to your vision.
If you disagree with a critique, explain what your were going for, don’t argue. In doing so the person critiquing your work may get what you were trying to do and offer suggestions that will make it read clearer and more true to what you initialy had in mind.
Above all be humble and polite. Remember these people are taking time from their busy schedules to read your work and tell you what they think. They’re not getting paid and want to see you succeed in your endeavors.
I would love for you to join me on this journey to becoming published. I have been writing for five years and I am using this blog to provide information that I wish I had known when I first started writing. It is my hope that this blog will enlighten you and make the journey a little easier. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I made.
It’s really easy. Really. Once you’ve identified one just go to the site and register and you are in. Most are free with the option of upgrading and paying a small fee for additional support. I thought about joining an online critique group for years but kept putting it off.
This past week I took the plunge and joined Scribophile. I have only been a member for a few days but am already connecting with and talking to other aspiring authors. Scribophile offers critiques on your work also but you have to earn a spot by doing critiques for other members and accumulating points. Once you’ve accumulated enough, you can trade them in for the opportunity to post your work.
I enjoy doing the critiques. I have to admit I was a little intimidated at first. Who am I to read other people’s work and tell them what’s wrong. But after the first one I realized I could help and hone my own skills by exercising what I’ve already learned.
I’ve seen great work and I’ve seen work that was obviously written by newbies. There will probably be people on the site (whichever one you choose to use)that are further along on the journey than you but there will also be a lot of people who are new and need your help.
My only regret is that I didn’t join a group earlier in my writing career. I can now see the benefit and help you get from being a part of a community of writers who want to help and welcome you with open arms.
While I’m trying out Scribophile, there are other critique sites out there. Wattpad and Critique Circle are others I may look into. If you want to find a group closer to home, try meetup.com.
You will find one that works for you and the sooner the better.
- Starting your story with the mundane. You want to provide a picture of your characters everyday life but it should be clear, concise and short. Provide just enough information about normal so that when the situation changes, there is a notable difference. Don’t bog your reader down with page upon page of happy normal character or backstory. Get to the action. Create the potential for conflict from the very first page-even while sharing normal and backstory. If your story takes forever to warm up, your reader might not make it to the good parts.
- Information dumps. I hate to get bogged down with description overload. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. I could care less how many yards of silk and lace went in to making that dress or that it had three gold buttons on the front and pearl closures on the back. Unless it’s playing a large role in your story don’t go there. I’m impressed that you researched but I don’t have to know everything you learned about the era. The most common dump is introducing to many characters in the first chapter. That’s one I didn’t think about. The more characters you cram into a scene, the harder it is for the reader to keep up with. Makes sense to me.
- Lazy Language. With your first chapter you can’t afford to have careless mistakes. Cliches, mispelling, structural and grammatical errors-if it’s something you can catch while proofreading, then there is no reason for it to be in your first chapter. Don’t give agents a reason to toss your work to the side.
There is so much to writing. While these three pitfalls are keys to writing a great first chapter, you can’t just forget everything else you’ve learned. You are including dialogue in that first chapter. Make sure it is seamlessly integrated into your work (I have previous blogs on writing dialogue-check them out). Make sure you have established your POV(see previous blog). You should never have more than one POV in a scene. If you do you are head bopping. No on the nose writing-the number one mistake of new writers (I have a post). What about pacing? Is it moving the reader along or has it stalled? So much to keep up with but you can do this 🙂
Hope this helped someone on their journey to being published. There is so much to keep up with. That’s ok though it doesn’t have to be perfect after the first draft. Remember-get it done then get it good.
It’s the beginning and more specifically the first sentence, then paragraph, then page, then chapter. You have to grab your reader the minute they pick up your novel.
If you’ve moved far along enough on your journey, you’ve probably sent your manuscript out to a few agents or are making last minute adjustments in preparation for sending it out.
One thing I’ve noticed with all of them, they don’t want to see your entire manuscript. Don’t try to be bold and overconfident by sending them the entire thing. They probably will toss it to the side for your failure to follow instructions and even if they do read, they won’t get very far if the first pages aren’t compelling enough to draw them in (which was the part they wanted to see in the first place).
Agents as a rule, only want your first few pages. Some will ask for more but none want to see the entire manuscript until they know you can write and write a compelling story. You have to make them want to see more. Leave them hanging on the edge of their seat. They will ask for the rest of your manuscript just to find out what happens next.
That’s the same thing that will happen for your readers. You want to do it in an e-book and bypass the literary agent, that’s fine but your readers will do the same thing the agent does. They will read a sample prior to buying the book. It had better be compelling from the beginning or you lost a sale. Remember you’re asking people to invest time and money when they purchase your work. Make it worthy of their interest.
Look at your first chapter as a promise to your readers. Remember your first pages set the tone and ground rules for how you will tell your story. No matter how polished your manuscript is, how compelling your characters are, how tightly you’ve plotted the story, that first chapter has to draw the reader in or they will never know.
I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments or suggestions please share them. I would also like to ask that you consider following me on this journey. I blog twice a week and you will receive an email whenever I post a new blog or edit an older one.
Enough already! At least that’s how I feel sometimes. I’ve been through my book more times than I can count. In my own defense, no one taught me how to write. I had a great story idea and decided to give it a whirl.
I thought it was ready and then real life happened. My wonderful work was rejected by the five agents I sent it to. One of the them did see something promising and took it upon herself to provide me feedback about what I was doing wrong (there was a long list) and what I needed to do to improve my work.
I was totally humiliated. Grammatical and Structural errors are kindergarten stuff and completely unacceptable. Even I should have gotten those right. I could understand a little more my issues with head bopping and on-the-nose-writing. Those terms were totally foreign to me. I wasn’t a professional novelist. I thought all you had to do was put words on paper and create a wonderful story that everyone wanted to read. And what was the deal with dragging dialogue? My people were talking. How was I suppose to know dialogue moved the story forward or had to have some significance? I can’t believe I sent an agent such inferior work.
When you’re a newby you don’t know how bad your work is because you don’t have the knowledge and skills necessary to produce publishable work. You just think you do. While there may be a few prodigies out there, you probably aren’t one of them. Sorry!
Like myself and many others, you’re going to have to pay your dues and learn the craft. Then you will be ready to write that New York Times best seller.
I hope this got you newbies to thinking. After my slap in the face, I began reading ‘how to’ books, taking on-line classes, watching seminars and following blogs of people who were successful at their craft.
For the record just because it has taken me five years doesn’t mean it will take you that long. I lost some motivation after the initial rejections and took some time off. I regrouped, looked at the feedback I had gotten, and started educating myself on the art of writing fictional novels.
I would love your comments! I would also like to ask that you consider following me on this journey. It is my intention to provide you with useful information in every blog.
So you’ve completed your manuscript and want to have a beta reader review it prior to sending it to an agent or editor. Having your work reviewed by a new set of eyes is a great idea! We are so close to our work that we don’t pick up on things that a new set of eyes would see. You might think it’s great and it might be but odds are, it still isn’t where it needs to be.
Beta readers are a great option. Unlike family and friends, they are impartial and will tell you the truth. Also if you find the right beta reader, they will be experienced in writing and reading manuscripts. They will know what to look for and what works and what doesn’t.
Warning! While most beta readers are great people who want to help you out, because they are in the same boat, there are those who will steal your ideas. Choose your reader carefully. If you choose someone you’ve developed a relationship with, they may think twice before pinching your content. Loyal readers of your blog, or previous books would make excellent beta readers.
In my last post Beta Readers, I pointed out a few websites you could follow up on as well. Wattpad and Scribofile are probably the most popular. If you want a local group, try meetup.com.
So if you do decide to work with a beta reader there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Don’t give them a draft. Give them your very best work. Give them the manuscript you thought was ready to submit. You don’t want them bogged down in structural and grammatical errors. You want them to see the content.
- Ask them what format they would like it in (mobi, epubfile or pdf). They may want to print it out or read it on a kindle.
- Let your beta reader know what kind of feedback you are looking for. If you create a list, they want spend their time punctuating sentences.
- Don’t take it personally. Your beta reader may not come back with platitudes. Thank them for their comments and move on.
- Return the favor. Most Beta readers aren’t being paid to read your book. They are offering input because they want to help or are interested in your books premise or topic.
Hope this helped you on your journey. I would love to hear from you. If you have any comments or suggestions please let me know. Also I would like you to consider following me. I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays of each week and you will receive an email whenever I enter a new blog or revise and existing one. Thank you for your consideration.
So I’ve been at this for five years and thought I had a good idea how things worked and the tools available to assist with publication. I was wrong. I read a blog by Joynell Schultz this past week that mentioned using a Beta Reader. I had never heard of that term.
I can talk all day about dialogue, settings, character development, on-the-nose-writing, head bopping. I think you get the idea. I’ve been so busy learning how to write and getting my manuscript ready that I haven’t put a lot of time and effort in to the getting it published side of things.
So I am hoping to have my work ready to go in about three months. I am doing one more read through with minor revisions and then hope to have it reviewed before I send it in again.
With this in mind I thought I should follow up and find out just what a Beta Reader is. I have had family and friends read my work in the past but they are not always the best people to ask to read your work. They care about you and have a tendency to overlook flaws in your work. Also, most of your friends and family probably don’t understand the craft. If you’ve been writing for a while you know there’s more to it than putting pen to paper.
So Beta Readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context. Elements highlighted by Beta Readers include things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterizations or believability, in fiction or non-fiction. Beta Readers might also help the author with fact-checking.
A good Beta Reader would be a person who would buy and read your book if it were on the market. This person would also know more about the writing craft than you.
Places to find Beta Readers include Scribofile, Wattpad or a local writing/critique group (meetup.com). You may have to pay a small fee for a Beta Reader but many will review your work for free.
I do plan to discuss Beta Readers a little more in my next post. Hope this helped someone on the journey. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions to make my blog more useful.
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