Beta Reading At The Writers Bloc Part 2

betareadingSam van Zweden, the editor at The Writers Bloc, asked me to write a check list to help readers workshop writing. Late last month the first of two articles, Beta Reading as Translation, went up. Today, the companion piece, A Practical Guide to Beta Reading, is live.

The last few months with the Magic Puppies (yes, my writing is group’s name is abbreviated to ‘magic puppies’) has given me new insights into beta reading. Even so, these articles have been the hardest non-fiction I’ve written in some time: trying to quantify, qualify and then articulate what is often a gut feeling informed by time, experience and the story at hand.

Today’s article covers etiquette, basics, a six-point frame of focus for looking at problem areas and an extended list of questions that can be used by beta readers as a guide for deeper deconstruction of work or for authors to assist in constructing a beta reading brief.

From A Practical Guide to Beta Reading:

Beta reading is the truthful evaluation of a story’s effectiveness.

  • Beta reading is a request from an author for assistance to improve their story.
  • It provides the author with an overview of what is working and not working in the story.
  • It is framed as an opinion and is only one of many on the story. Adding a caveat at the bottom will reinforce this.
  • Opinion is always influenced by taste and experience. Biases need to be transparent.
  • There is no place for ego gratification or back-slapping.

You can read the full article and get the extended downloadable question guide here.

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A Very if:book Week

I highlighted the exciting work of if:book Australia in my Snap Shots interview last month. This week I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two of their projects.

The n00bz

In July the word was put out on Twitter for digital innovators to blog their projects and have a chance to be part of the revised edition of The N00bz: New Adventures in Literature. This coincided with the opening weeks of the #6in6 weeks challenge and I was encouraged to write about it as an example of establishing digital communities. It didn’t seem terribly revolutionary to me, as I’ve been doing it since 2009 but this was the first time a community spontaneously sprung to life.

My tiny snippet of an article ‘#6in6: A Look at Accidental Community’ made it in and I can now claim (rather sheepishly) to share a table of contents with authors the likes of Sean Williams, Carmel Bird, and Benjamin Law.

From Simon’s preface:

… The intersection of technology and publishing is full of contradiction, competition, and conflict. Technology today exists in a kind of attention-deficit hyperspeed: products inspire anticipation, passion, adoption, familiarity, and finally boredom in an increasingly fast cycle. The book is drawn into this amped up environment—write, publish, write more—even as it clings to an authoritarian and timeless gravitas that may or may not still be relevant.

For writers in such an environment, the possibilities are as intoxicating as they are bewildering. Telling stories is a craft that adapts and changes to meet the technology of its time and writers are a generally curious bunch.

It was with such thoughts in mind that if:book and Editia pitched the idea for The N00bz to the writers collected in this volume.

We challenged twelve Australian writers[1] to step outside their comfort zone and try a new professional experience – something related to their craft that they had never tried before, whether it was a tool or a technique at the cutting edge or whether it had been around for centuries. It only had to be new to the writer.

The n00bz launched on Tuesday in Sydney and is available here as an eBook ($9.99) or paperback ($23.99).

Open Changes

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Open Changes is a flash-fiction/remix project from open to all writers, artists, musicians and film makers and is part of the Lost in Track Changes project for 2014.

This week my story ‘Poppies Grew Scarlet From Her Tears’ is one of four stories up for remixing as part of week three of the project. I was inspired by the line: Somewhere in there lay her true name, buried beneath the rubble she’d left behind a long time ago from Omar Sakr’s story ‘Redback. Tiny. Queen Of Spades. Deserter.’ I threw ideas around with Dave Versace until his comment about a ‘sin eater’ filled me with the dark delight of what I could create.

Here is a little snippet of Poppies…

Somewhere beneath the rubble her true name lies, the syllables torn from each other and buried in the foundations millennia ago. All attachments to herself severed to step from the shadows of personhood into immortality. To abide forever in a delicious nothingness, freed from pain and disappointment. From longing, grief and uncertainty.

And the anticipation builds as to whether any of lines or imagery grab the next round of remixes, and what might come of it.

The deadline for the next round of remixes is this midnight this Sunday, AEST. Get to it!

PS: If you are a fan of Tiny Owl Workshop, the very lovely Sue Wright has a story, ‘Tulips’ in the Week Two remixes.

Of New Endings and New Beginnings

August is set to be a massive month if my to do list is anything to go by.

August_mismatch_socks

Oddly matched

Submit Submit Submit!

I managed to make my target of six stories for the #6in6 challenge (literally by the skin of my teeth about 9 hours after the Australian deadline – hooray for international time zones!). From that massive outpouring of words (I wrote over 24,000 new words!) I have five stories still to be submitted. They are all beta read and awaiting rewrites. This is where the new endings bit of the title comes from.

Several of the stories need (or needed new endings). My science fiction story ‘The Leaves No Longer Fall’ requires a massive rewrite of the final third and it’s taken time to get all the pieces to fit together in new way. ‘At Arm’s Length’ needed a new ending (because I believed the characters deserved a happy ending rather than the bleak one it originally had). At this point in time, the response has been positive for the new ending of ‘Arm’s’.

The plan is to work on one story a week leading off with ‘Leaves’ (it is the most time sensitive – wish it wasn’t the one requiring all the work though). Two of the stories should be easy rewrites and coexist nicely in a single week. The plan is to have them all submitted by the end of the month.

New Collaboration

On the beginnings front, I am working with Tasmanian writer, poet and musician Claire Jansen on a short story collaboration as part of Ben Walter’s digital residency. Ben’s using his residency to pair Tassie writers with those on the mainland (or further afield). Claire and I met randomly in one of the comment streams on the Facebook group set up by Ben and and we have been throwing ideas around via email for the last week. This morning I wrote the first installment of what will be a look at various lives as they crisscross in a 24-hour period. We’re aiming to each write six short pieces each.

Here’s a small taster of the rough and ready words that poured out this morning:

From where he lay, the crack between the curtains glowed with the golden fissure of dawn and he imagined the light stealing in. Seeking him out. Exposing him for what he was.

And he deserved it.

He’d told Helena, just one night to get it sorted out with Amber and ensure she had somewhere else to go. Now, oh Christ.

Amber slept curled in a ball, her head on his shoulder, sour breath grazing his neck. He extracted his numb arm, climbed out of the tangle of sheets and stood naked at the window watching the dawn creep across the city. The clouds curled and whisped, lit by the rising sun, in such a way that it looked as though fire rolled across the bay. A pending immolation of the guilty, he thought and pulled the curtains closed, plunging the room back into darkness.

New Look eMergent Publishing

After dragging myself through the wilderness of distance education and home school, things are finally starting to settle down and after all the beta reading I did for the #6in6 I am hankering to get my editing and publishing hat on again.

First up is a revamp of eMergent as a business entity including a new website (oh, how there will be cries of joy and probably a few tears when that old, grey, miserable site is gone!). The new site will be breezy and colourful but maintain the minimalistic feel of the original. We are working toward all that happening for a 25th August relaunch.

And I’m plotting to possibly get a new project up off the ground. Several pieces have to fall in place for this to happen so watch this space.

 

What does August have in store for you?