I Hate These Word Crimes…

The Yeas and Nays of Building Beta Armor

This year, I participated in an anonymous beta event over on Absolute Write. They’re an excellent resource, even though I don’t say much on there. The Bewares forum is my go-to whenever there are #pitmads or magazines I want to submit to.

I participated in the beta project because right now, with how the non-writing life is going, I can’t commit to a long-term CP swap. I tried and I just cannot find the time between the child, the ever-changing work situation, and the extra classes I picked up to teach to afford reason one. My time is limited and I’m not very good at balancing critiquing and writing (oh, and editing).

This involved a mandatory three crits on the first 750 words (and the hook, if you wanted to) and that’s it. You could do more if you wanted, or you could stop at three. If you wanted to request something to beta, you were free to during or after the crits were submitted. It sounded perfect: minimal commitment to stretch those critiquing skills and an opportunity to be exposed to many critiquing styles.

Now, a little known fact about me: I am an origami crane.

My skin is as thin as paper. I don’t think it’s because I think my writing is immutable, magnificent art. I think it stems back to a feeling of not being good enough mixed with perfectionism. When people point things out, I experience this strange mix of acute embarrassment and shame.

Why didn’t I see that to fix? Why did I think that was good enough? I should rewrite this entire novel. Every word is bad.

I was hoping the beta project would help me stop that cycle of thoughts. It’s anonymous, which let people say whatever they’d like without it being attached to their names and reputation. It’s also something on a short amount: my first 750 words.

The amazing organizer of the event (who deserves a bottle of her favorite liquor and a few spa days after this) posted last night and my group of writing friends and I read/skimmed through them. I won’t lie: I skimmed and then went to erin and asked if any would make me angry. She said no, and she was honest.

Thank you for preserving my safe space, erin.

So I went back, in between rounds of being Grandma and Grandpa Shark because my daughter cannot curl her fingers to do that part of the Baby Shark dance, and read through them.

All of the critiques had solid advice. I saw where I had confused people. I saw where I had some iffy grammar and paragraph styles. I had one person do a lot of line edits, which I wasn’t so interested in this round because I’m still fiddling around developmentally, but s/he said that my writing was good so I’ll take that.

I even was able to see the common denominator and come up with was to improve it (where I started the start).

Did I feel that acute shame?

A little, to be honest. But nothing like I have in the past.

Did I see some that I scoffed at and went, “You just don’t get it!”?

Sure. And I’m sure when I look back, I’ll put that reaction aside and be able to see the good in it.

Did it help thicken my skin?

I think so. I’m nowhere near alligator (at least theoretically) and maybe haven’t even moved into chinchilla stage, but this is another attempt at putting myself out there that I can count as successful.

Will I do it again?

Yes. And I’ll look for CPs when I have a better time management and/or more time. And I’ll always ask for beta readers. Because even if I have that initial reaction, the benefit of having more eyes on a project and more brains helping me work through the sticky bits, the better the project is.

And if I want to publish someway, somehow, this is vital.

Anyone else have any fun beta stories to pass along? Horror stories and/or celebrations?

[WriYe Blogging Circle] This is How We Do It

It’s that time again! The monthly blogging circle topic. It’s a bit of #editnfriends and a lot of WriYe. Here are the questions:

Describe your editing process. What is your biggest challenge in editing?

I think I’ve mentioned this a few times on here in the past week, but in case I didn’t make it clear: I am overly critical and hate my words. I have low self-esteem when it comes to my own abilities as a writer. And I rely on friends to tell me that I’m being dumb.

Does that mean everything I write is horrendous and need to be burned? No. Wait… No. Right. No.

Have I found things that I like on rereading? If you asked me last year? It’d be no. But I actually reread a novella I wrote back in 2013 and loved it. Again with that long gap.

So what’s my process to avoid this sort of self-loathing? Here’s a bullet point list:

  • Wait a long time. Try to cut that down to a year. Or two years. Stretch goal: just months.
  • Reread as a reader. Not an editor. Not a writer. Just as if I was there to enjoy.
  • Absorb what I read. Drink a few J&Gs. Write anything else.
  • Go back and start to map out scenes and plot. Figure out what the hell my characters were thinking. Tell them to behave and act like real people. No, you cannot just run off and say “forget this.”
  • Take out The Book and The Pen and write down an editing plan
    • How does the plot need to change
    • How do the characters need to change
    • Basic plot arc with subplots noted on the bottom
    • Short description of how each subplot adds to the main plot and how they get all tied up
    • List of words to avoid during rewrite
    • Reassurance that I can survive
  • Get on the computer. And start again. Whether this is full rewrite, partial rewrite, or line edis.

With luck, The Final Rose will be the same way, even with the crazy word count.

Bonus:
Tell us about your ideal critique partner. What do you look for in a critique partner?

Well, I have a few good ones right now. We have a group that we’ve kept going for a number of years. We write different genres, different age levels, and for different audiences.

I think that helps when it comes to critiquing. We have a system where if it is genre-related or we think it might be, we mark it as [GR]. Other than that, writing is writing is writing. And sometimes it’s nice to have my romance-writing friend tell me that she likes scenes of my high fantasy story.

If I had to get a new one, though? I’d probably want someone else who is currently writing in high fantasy. And someone who is currently reading what’s coming out in the genre. I’m a bit far behind thanks to having a Little Monster, but I try to keep up on the trends.

I’d want someone who knew how to couch their harsher critique in the sandwich method (something good – a problem – something else good), as long as I had the bread to make sandwich, so to speak. And someone who would look at what I am asking for and give me that. Usually, I ask a few questions with my critique requests.

I’d want someone who wrote at a similar level to me, who sent me things that have already been self-edited to the best of their ability. I don’t expect perfection; I expect readability. And someone who has a goal with their novel post-me.

I’m always open for more partners, but I warn you: I am slow as a snail in a swimming pool of molasses.

Editing Update:

Chapter: 06/24

Pen refills: 0

Scenes sliced: 2

Planned Scenes to Add: 5

Darlings killed: 0

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Why did I make Ziove’s hand in marriage part of the prize? No.

[#editnfriends] We’ve Only Just Begun…

Image courtesy of erin foster as posted on Words n’ Friends

And so it begins, the quest for a nicely polished manuscript. Truthfully, it began a few weeks ago when I decided to re-read The Final Rose with the hope that it made some logical sense. Sense is there, but so is a sped through middle. Alas, poor words, I meant to write thee.

The re-read is almost over with, thank the many gods. It’s hard for me to go back and look at what I had written because I am overcritical of myself. Common writer problem, I find, and one that we should all work on together. There’s good and bad in all of our writing and becoming self-aware of our strengths would do us good. It’ll make us better writers in the end.

Stepping off that soapbox, I will admit to doing something that goes completely against bettering myself as a writer. I had sent part of this tome of words (About seven chapters or so) to my loyal critique group. I read the critiques years ago and put them aside, never looking at them again.

Well, Saturday, I opened up what I thought was my clean version of chapter one. And it was not. It was covered in critique from erin foster. Critique that I did not want to see at that moment. What could I have done? Closed the damn tab. What did I do? I read it.

And, ladies and gentleman, I have finally seen the light. Nothing in that critique hurt. Everything made sense. (Granted, this was on the second draft so it better have been good.) I think I have discovered the right distance from this novel to start working on it. To mentally acknowledge that these are just words and words can be rewritten.

So, if you are like me and pretend to be tough but have the weak skin of paper, give yourself a few days before reading that critique. Or read it, thank the critiquer (always! Even if you disagree with every letter on that page), and step back. Maybe not three years, like I have, but for a few days. A week. Maybe even a month.

When you look at it again with fresh eyes, remind yourself that the critique isn’t on you, your story (most of the time) or your personal family members (though they may feel that way). This is just letting you know that your words aren’t conveying what you want them to convey. The story isn’t shining through because it has the wrong clothing on.

Change the words, change the outfit.