Tuesday 11 February 2014

The Pros & Cons of aquiring a Beta Reader. Part one.

I know, I know. What possible con could there be of a beta reader? These people volunteer their time and opinions to help improve one's work. I completely agree. Every writer is indebt to the people that offer their time this way! There is everything positive about Beta Readers. All PRO!

I have been avidly hunting down Beta Readers for over a month. I hadn't really contacted any friends or family... I don't know why specifically. Something in me wants my work to be PERFECT before letting them at my work ;) Not that I don't value their opinion just the same. It's that I have some nagging nerves with regards to sharing this big part of me with them. We all have our ticks. This seems to be one of mine.

So, when a colleague whom I really get along with at work expressed such great interest and support when she learned I was an aspiring author, I figured may she'd be the one. And it seemed as though I found my first Beta Reader! She was super excited and interested in the task so I forwarded my first 3 chapters.

Let me clarify first, that my chapters are not 25 pages deep. They are on average 10 pages each.

As weeks tick by without any response or comments of any kind, worry starts to grow. Has my first chapter bored her to tears and she can't bare to tell me? Do her eyes glaze over whenever she starts to read on? Why hasn't she responded? Even an email touching base to see how things were going, telling her she can let me know either way, even if she changed her mind, has still gone unanswered. To the negative thinker in me, it tells me she doesn't want to hurt my feelings so isn't saying anything at all. Isn't that what we learned from Thumper?

Instead of drowning myself in pessimism, I started to shop for more beta readers. Can't have all my eggs in one basket or so they say. I have managed to find a couple other people who have now expressed interest and a willingness to help. In total, I have sent the start of my book to four people and now, it's waiting that's excruciating! I know that these beautiful volunteers are reading my project around obligations of their own. Understandably and acceptably so. Doesn't make the waiting any easier.

What I also am starting to realize is that with each Beta reader I send to, since I read my chapters over before sending, I am starting to fine tune and improve (hopefully) some of the paragraphs and dialogue. Knowing someone else's eyes will run over these sentences, I want them to be good as possible. So, even if my worst fear is answered by lack of response which can sometimes be interpreted for the WORST possible outcome - a dud. At least it is already improving with each nervous click of 'Send.'

So, thank you Beta Readers for all your help! :)

(Part Two will be written after I <hopefully> receive some feedback and critiques on my work).

Monday 10 February 2014

Soliciting Myself. A New Writer's Realization.

I caught a hint of this when I attended my very first Writer's Conference in October 2013 - the SIWC or Surrey International Writer's Conference. Introducing myself to people at the same table or workshop, they almost ALWAYS would ask "Amanda ..." It took a few goes at it until I realized giving your last name was the norm when introducing yourself to other writers. Who knew? And, that wasn't all. People were passing out business cards left right and centre. There were a couple tables with business cards and bios splayed around amongst front covers of some latest releases. Being completely new to the writing world, it was somewhat a surprise.

Okay, let me clarify. I have been writing for nearly a decade and a half. Other than a couple college classes - which confirmed my apparent talent - that writer's conference was the first time I took that next step forward: to learn more, to become a part of what I am quickly learning is a beautiful community and to see if I really have what it takes. It's one thing for me to think I am a good writer. Another for my creative writing professor to insist I never stop writing - and for classmates to demand to know what happen next from short story entries...all of which was very warming and encouraging. It's another altogether for online readers to rave that they still can't believe I am not a published author. That was an awkward pill to swallow. And while that may have been a few years back, but it still warms my heart that readers out there do believe I have what it takes to be a published author.

So, delayed response as it may seem, I finally am pursuing this could-be career. I want so badly to see the cover of my story, to hold the paperback in my hands, to inhale that new book smell as I turn the pages. This is what I truly want.

What I wasn't expecting in all of this was the self-promotion that is part and parcel to bringing this dream into reality. It is as necessary as having the ability to put the words on the paper, as I am quickly catching on. For me, while I am not quite at the stage of business cards or bios and front covers to share, I am already feeling the need in something so simple as finding some beta readers.

Hahahahaha. Okay, so if you are a pre-published author like myself, as Jane Porter called us in the footnote at the SIWC, sounds so good right? You will know that finding a Beta Reader is not simple. At least I haven't found it to be so. And, here I find myself completely soliciting myself as a person: as a writer, selling the product: selling the characters and their story all in hopes of baiting the right person. Hook Line and Sinker. I have so far emailed my first 3 chapters to 4 people over the course of a month. I have yet to have a response back one way or another. Let me say this, my chapters are not 25 pages long. They are short and sweet. Or so I think. The lack of response does tend to fuel the doubt. They all hate it, I'm sure that's why they aren't responding. Or the worry, great, now I've sent my story off to some strangers across cyber space...what will they do with it?

They don't mention this in school. No one ever suggested that sales skills were a pre-requisite to finding success as a writer. I have never really thought myself any good in sales. It's why I steer clear of any commission-type jobs - fear I'd end up owing money instead of earning it! But I need to dig down and channel my inner Sales Superstar, because even if I sometimes doubt my skills as a writer as I am sure many of us do, I believe in my characters. I want to introduce them to the world. Share their stories. I need to! And since I know introducing myself to other writers and fetching beta readers is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to soliciting myself as an author, I am quite prepared, if needed, to sell myself like a pro.

Thursday 6 February 2014

It's the Smallest Things...

It's been a year and a couple months...
Some weeks go by, and my heart remains intact.
Only because I don't allow my thoughts to go there.
Too long or too far and another crack will break through.

Just when I think things are okay, that I am okay.
The smallest things trigger a reaction so instantaneous...
It not only knocks the wind from my lungs,
and the tears from their ducts,
but also stops my feet in their tracks.

December: The Most Difficult Month.
So treacherous, it's unbelievable that I managed to survive.
I tried to get into the spirit of the season.
 I bought some gifts, and decorated my tree.
But the least suspecting moments seemed to get to me.

Walking through the mall, seeing a stocking with "MOM" on it,
Hearing Carol of the Bells chime through the air.
Caused my heart just another tear.
All at once I remembered how
Much I missed you and alone I feel.

Somehow, I made it through.
December is far behind,
Another year starts without you.
Still shaky, recovering from the heart
wrenching weeks around Christmas.

January, another reminder that something's amiss.
I watched two ladies step down off the bus, arm in arm.
As the younger assists the elder down the steps and along the path,
I draw a shaky breath and blink back sudden tears.

February is barely here.
It's not the hearts and lovely sentiments that pinch deep in my chest.
It's simply watching figure skating on the Olympics.
We used to view this together.
But now I sit here alone.

I don't care what they tell say.
Despite the days I pretend to be 'okay.'
It's never going to get easier.
It never goes away.

This hole in my heart
Will be forever gaping.
I love you.
I miss you.
And all of the smallest things.