#AmEditing | How #BetaReading Boosts #Book Sales

Beta Reading 8.5.16 Pinterest
From Pinterest

Some writers and authors may wonder at the real value of investing in a beta reader and what kind of services will actually be provided.

“Well, I’ve got a cousin who reads lots of books. He’ll help me.”

“My best friend is an English teacher; she’ll give me good advice.”

While these options may seem like solid and cost-effective solutions, relying on friends and relatives for constructive, literary feedback can put writers and authors at a disadvantage. Most especially if that close circle of advisors errs on the side of camaraderie over criticism.

Since Merriam and Webster kind of let me down in their definition of “proofreading,” I decided to test the vast information waters of Google and got a Wikipedia definition of “beta reading” that is a bit more extensive, and articulate to boot.

…a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context.

See? All kinds of fun things going on in that definition. Let’s unpack some of it, shall we?

“a non-professional reader” — Now, looking at that, you might jump back to the beginning of this article and say, “Hey, my cousin isn’t a professional reader.” Or, “Neither is my English teacher friend!” And this might be my only bone of contention with Wikipedia’s definition: beta readers should be professional readers. Granted, not every single reader in your audience will be a professional reader–they don’t need to be. However, if you want an honest, educated, and sometimes hard-to-swallow reading of your book and an effective opinion on how those non-professional readers will receive your book, you want someone who knows how to read books critically and not just for passing pleasure.

Ahh! Not “critically”?! Right?

Yes, critically, because there will be professional readers–critics, of course–who may (or eventually will) read your book, and their opinions are the ones that get passed around on social media and will reflect on your book. Which, for some of those non-professional readers, will determine if they buy it or not. What you need to ask yourself is, will your cousin or your best friend be honest with you about your writing even if their opinion is unflattering? This is where growth as a writer comes from, being able to take constructive criticism that doesn’t feel “constructive” when it’s being heard or read.

But, like Amanda Shofner’s quote above says, you need to remember that a beta reader’s opinions are not about you personally–even though your work feels deeply and inherently personal–but your book. The object that will reflect your work ethic, your effort, and your professional image as an author. Writers can also expect comments that are strictly personal opinions–even from professional beta readers. An author doesn’t have to take every piece of advice/criticism/guidance provided; you want the story to be yours, and it should be. But a beta reader can make sure that your story will be presentable and meet commercial readers’ expectations. Something a non-professional reader may not be able to provide, even if they are willing to be blatantly honest (with minor exception to that English teacher, actually).

“typically done before the story is released” — Unlike proofreading, beta reading does not have a specific place in the publishing process other than before you release the book to the public. However, if you’ve already published the book and you’re getting reviews that mention inconsistency in character development, plot structure, or the entire narrative’s arc, a single round of beta reading would definitely help to clear up those kinds of issues.

“not explicitly proofreaders or editors” — This much is true. Not all proofreaders are beta readers, not all copy editors are beta readers, and not all beta readers are proofreaders or copy editors, but they most certainly can overlap. Effective proofreaders and copy editors will comment on things that a beta reader would comment on, but they may not change them for you. On the flip side, effective beta readers will comment on issues with grammar, spelling, punctuation, even if they may not know how to change or correct them for you.

Overall, investing in beta reading services is making an investment in yourself, your craft, and your potential book sales. The adage that you need to spend money to make it didn’t become an adage for nothing. Hiring a beta reader will boost your book sales because the results will show every kind of reader that you cared enough to put out the best book that you could by making effective use of all the tools at your disposal.

Have you hired a beta reader recently? If you haven’t, would you consider it now? Would love to read about your experiences and opinions in the comments below!

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#AmEditing | How #Proofreading Boosts Book Sales

Proofreading 8.3.2016 Pinterest
From Pinterest

As if the very act of writing isn’t hard enough, right? The passion and dedication it takes to sit down and put your heart and soul in a Word document is highly commendable, but then you have to make sure your commas, semicolons, and parentheses–not to mention adverbs, adjectives, and nouns and verbs–are all in the “right” places (some of which are subjective) and consistent. And that is only the tip of the writing and publishing iceberg.

Did any of that sound like a foreign language to you?

That’s why you need professional proofreading services–especially in a publishing world that might see your genre or category of writing as “less than” (erotica, horror, and paranormal writers, just to name a few, I’m looking at you). Every ounce of validity and credibility that can be given to these genres is needed to generate strong book sales and fan followings. Two surefire ways to generate validity and credibility is to make sure your language is clear and active and to make sure your style choices and punctuation are consistent throughout your manuscript.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary takes a somewhat simplistic point of view on the process of proofreading:

To read and correct mistakes in (a written or printed piece of writing)

And I only say that because beta reading and copy editing, which I’ll write about in more detail in later blog posts, could technically be described the same way. However, the specificity of proofreading is based on where in the publishing process this particular style of editing occurs. In one of the last-ditch efforts to catch errors before going to press, a proofread is a penultimate reading that looks at every element of the document, from layout to commas, to make sure it is clear of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors and layout or style inconsistencies.

In most cases, a manuscript will be given a copy-edit, beta read, or developmental edit before it receives proofreading services. Proofreading traditionally “fixes” things like word usage errors (they’re for their, you’re for your, etc.), making all the quotation marks and apostrophes look the same (“curly” or “straight”), or minor formatting and layout inconsistencies (like applying a half-inch indent to each new paragraph or using periods, em and en dashes, and ellipses the same way in serial data).

Even though a good proofreader will make comments about larger issues if they have been left unedited (like plot inconsistencies, major language issues [subject-verb agreement or switching between past and present tense], and applying major layout or formatting styles [prepping for Kindle publishing]), these issues are usually met and resolved by a copy editor, developmental editor, or beta reader before sending the manuscript to a proofreader.

Have you invested in proofreading services recently? Why or why not? Did you have a good or bad experience? I’d love to see some of your stories or experiences in the comments below.

#Social | Follow MeliSwenk on Pinterest!

Even though I haven’t been very regular here at the blog–I mean, last year’s NaNo stuff is still up for Pete’s sake–I have been active in other forums. Mainly, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Though, I’m sure you all already know about FB and Twitter because I’ve employed modules here, I just thought some of my readers may enjoy and employ Pinterest for story boarding, collecting character-bio ideas, and sorting articles on publishing, writing, and editing advice.

And, I’m sure you all needed one more outlet to collect data from, am I right? #infooverload

Though I have plenty of other boards that may interest the casual Pinner, especially ones with an affinity for Marc Bolan or Tim Curry, here are the few of my boards that other readers, writers, and book aficionados may enjoy!

The “Language Lothario” Board:

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The “To Read” Board:

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The “Books by You” Community Board:

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The “Museums, Libraries, and Archives, Oh my!” Board:

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The “Love on the Shelf” Board:

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Those are the most literary of the bunch; so feel free to browse and enjoy, and I hope to see you on Pinterest soon!!

#NaNoWriMo Day 24 | The Dry Spell and Big Finish! #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

 

Holy Crap Bag! Talk about an extended, involuntary hiatus. I got some editing gigs (Yay!); they were bumpier rides than I expected (Yay for ‘lessons learned’!); and I have less than a week left to the month and for my goal (Yay for working under pressure!).

Good thing I have motivation:

Marc Bolan (pictured here in 1977), of T.Rex fame, has been my rock ‘n’ roll muse for the last month or so. And at his beckon call, in the last couple of days, I have been able to complete my rough draft of Survival Instinct! I was worried there for a bit, but it’s in the trunk and growing some flavor as we speak. It’s strange with the shortcut missing from my desktop now, but Midnight Ladies is keeping its spot warm. Making a beckoning call of its own.

I know I’ve been an absent parent the last week or so. I hope that you’re all staying on better track than I did. But, being able to blast out a couple scenes whenever I could take a moment or two to write was a great feeling! I haven’t written in bursts like that for years. At least not since graduate school. And, it felt really, really good!

It was also kind of nice to “know” which scene was coming up next; though, not necessarily what would happen in that scene. Because, as usual, my characters surprised me. And those things may get redacted in the beta-reading and editing phases, but for right now, I’m pleased with how my characters reacted or acted out in certain scenes, and then held back in others.

While I considered one track of evidence to hook my antagonist, it was a surprise character–that I’d felt lurking in the background, but wasn’t certain of his existence–who ended up turning the tables. The homeless squatter was not completely on his own, though, because some outlying character connections among the supporting cast also came to the surface that really brought the plot to a head. Again, while those “logical” connections seem so now, it’s going to be some distance, a round of editing, and then some beta reading that will really test how those connections support or detract from the story.

Overall, coming back to this story after considering the option of letting it go unfinished–not all of them are home runs, kids–has added fuel to the fire. I’m excited to get back into Midnight Ladies, even if I don’t meet the end of the month goal. I got halfway there, finishing this rough draft, and I’m willing to take that for a win!

How are you all doing going into the final week? Are you close to making the 50K goal? Are you struggling? Did life get in the way for you, too? Don’t let it stop you. Keep on keeping on, Authors!

 

#NaNoWriMo Day 5 | New Characters and a Face-Off #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

So, I purposefully took the day off to do some reading yesterday–I’m in the middle of Jack Ketchum’s ebook Peaceable Kingdom right now–and I’m so much the better for it! We met a new character and my antagonist and protagonist finally meet face-to-face, and it’s kind of unceremonial–but I like that aspect of it. It’s low-key (for being a response to the protagonist’s first escape attempt) and isn’t a big, bloody fight–at least, not right now. All that might change. There is a whole other 24 hours that they will have with each other. Does she get away? Will they be discovered? And by whom?

Like I mentioned the other day, I have scenes plotted, and there are a handful of people who may discover them. The new character already knows that a woman is being held against her will, but will he be able to make it to the police? Will the police believe him when he gets there?

Got over 2000 words today, cleared two scenes away, the new character and the instigation scene I started the other day. Now, we’re going into the third and final day for the story. I’m so excited to wrap this up! So glad I decided to go this route this year.

How are you all doing on Day 5? Are you making goals, struggling? Keep on keeping on, Authors!

Words written Day 5: 2,178

#NaNoWriMo Day 3 | Character Surprises #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

 

Today was a great stretch of writing. I’m one more “scene” (Well, sets of scenes because until today my antagonist and protagonist hadn’t technically shared a space, except for the kidnapping, which took place off-camera, in a word.) closer to being done, and boy, did my characters surprise me today!

The antagonist seemed so much more prepared for his captives, then my protagonist got a crazy idea. She’d, apparently, had enough of her antagonist, too. Though she didn’t articulate the reason why to me yet, she may still have a chance because my antagonist isn’t done with her. But, she took a chance, got creative, and felt like she had the power to. It flew out of my fingertips, and I love when the writing goes like that.

I’ll also be introducing a new character tomorrow, minor but important to what remains of the plot. Like some of the other minor characters in this book, I think I’m going to have some fun with him. I’m already working on a profile–well, in my head anyway–and I can’t wait to come back tomorrow and round out this surprise-laden scene!

How did your third day go? Are you making your daily goals?

Words written Day 3: 1,863

#NaNoWriMo Day 2 | Catching Up and Finding the Path #Writing

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

So, here we are, back at it a year later, and hopefully you’ve had a successful first day! Getting back into the swing of writing everyday has been bumpy for me so far, but I’m not going to let that get me down. I spent Day 1 re-reading my two-year-old manuscript and getting reacquainted with my plot and characters. Some of them surprise me, as if someone else had written them. Coming back to a manuscript I’ve left for an indefinite amount of time always surprises me.

For the sake of moving quickly, because I have much more ground to cover in Midnight Ladies later this month, I’ve plotted what I think will be the last five or seven scenes that will need to happen in Survival Instinct for the story to be completely told–without any loose ends, anyway–neatly tied up but not necessarily “done.” I don’t normally plot, but I also don’t normally “know” how the story will end.

In this case, because I was watching a lot of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit at the time that I started, I had an idea where the story would go. Having just a sentence of who is in the scene and what may or may not happen, how that scene will propel the story, is already making me feel like I’m close to the end. And, I want to be. I don’t like being in my antagonist’s head, and I really want my protagonist to get out. It’s just a matter of getting there.

How was your first day? Will you be able to write on your second?

Words written Day 1: 355 (Paltry, I know. But, I did spend most of the day re-reading, mildly editing the 74 single-spaced pages that already existed.)

Words written Day 2: 1,340

#NaNoWriMo2015 | This Year’s Goal

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

Hello Fellow Writers, Readers, and Annual Novelists!

NaNoWriMo is up and running, and I’m so sad to say that I won’t be starting a new novel this year. I won’t even technically be taking part in NaNoWriMo (or, National Novel Writing Month) as a word-tallying member of the website, that is.

I’m going to be taking part in my own version of NaNoWriMo, which I will handily call NaNoFinMo, or National Novel Finishing Month. In 2012, when I officially began taking part in NaNoWriMo, I actually completed the story I started writing. In 2013 and last year, I only got about 3/4 and 1/2 way through those stories, respectively.

So, for this year’s NaNo goal, I will be taking the first two weeks-ish to finish the serial killer novel I began in 2013 (working title: Survival Instinct) and the last two weeks for the dark lesbian erotica I chronicled last year (working title: Midnight Ladies). Though, I think that “little” collection may take me beyond that amount of time. Maybe Survival Instinct won’t take the full two weeks at the beginning of next month *crosses fingers, partakes in wishful thinking*.

What’s great about this is that I technically don’t have word counts to meet each day, because my overall goal is simply to finish the stories, get a rough draft I can “trunk” until I feel ready to come back and polish them. My plan right now is to chronicle the spectacle adventure as I did last year: so, tune in to the same MeliSwenk channel for the same MeliSwenk fun as you had last year!

You did have fun with me last year, right?

Because I certainly had fun with all of my readers last year. And, I’ll be glad to get back into some regular blogging, too! I have recently cut some of the fat and scored some extra time for networking and general, all-around friend-making.

Looking forward to getting started! Who’s with me? And, what are your writing goals for NaNoWriMo (Or, NaNoFinMo) this year?

Authors Publish | 8 #Quotes about Importance of #Failure with #Writing

Source: Authors Publish/ Issue 110
Source: Authors Publish/ Issue 110

Okay, maybe not so much the importance, but the inevitability of it. You will fail. You may not finish every story you start. It’s okay; there are other stories to tell. And even that partial chapter you punched out about the CEO-zombie attack will help you write the full-length KKK-zombie novel you knock out next month. The important part of failure here is that it teaches you that you can keep on going. Even if the first story you try doesn’t quite meet expectations. You gotta keep trying! These quotes aren’t all Issue 110 has to offer. Check it out, and then subscribe! Authors Publish Newsletter is free and drops right into your inbox; why not?!

T Magazine | The #Writer’s Room

What a delightful little read from the New York Times‘ fashion and pop culture supplement, T Magazine. “The Writer’s Room” explores the unique (if essentially similar) spaces where Tom McCarthy, Rachel Kushner, Paul Muldoon, Adam ThirlwellChinelo OkparantaPeter Carey, and Jonathan Galassi create.

Source: T Magazine / Peter Carey in NYC Apartment Office

A table or other desk-like apparatus, surrounded by mementos, pictures, notes, and other books, items of a writer’s and a reader’s life. Reminders of why we write to begin with, and silent inspiration looking down upon the creator from walls, or up from floors. The space used to create is special to each author, despite their inherent similarities. Not only do we create worlds for others, we ultimately create a space where we feel comfortable enough to do that creating. Nesting, in a special way, for the abstract babes that will eventually grow there.

Having a special room to create is not a new concept, nor was it something Virginia Woolf created out of thin air. Writing is often a wholly isolated action, and if we’re going to spend all that time alone we need to be reminded of the connections we have to humanity, to the world around us. That’s what makes for great writing.

Hopefully, these spaces will inspire you in the construction of your own writing room.

T Magazine | The Writer’s Room.