Monday, October 25, 2010

My love for beta readers and other things.

The most valuable tool in writing is not your writing program. It's not the computer you use, the editing books you read, the playlist you make or the coffee you drink (though, admittedly, coffee IS very important) - but the human element of revision. The person who you can trust to read for you, edit for you and give you a sense of what you need to do to be a better writer.

I've been so lucky in my writing life to have some wonderful people surrounding me to give me critique. Ebyss has been a constant. She is one of the only two people (the other being Kim) who have read my entire book. Without her, my book wouldn't be what it is today. Not even close. Kim gave me the kind words and confidence to push forward with the revisions. They're both amazing people, and I'm so lucky to have them!

But I also have the here and there folk, like those of you who read this blog and help me. That kind of consistent shove into the writing world has helped keep me focused. Just loading up Twitter, and seeing all of the writing world converging in on itself is a blessing all it's own!

So, I guess this is a shout-out to everyone who has been so unbelievably awesome and helpful. I appreciate you all so, so very much!

Also, looking for one last beta read after these "final" revisions. 

Have the time to read a 75K word novel? It's an adult thriller. Themes to be wary of: female homosexuality, sex scenes, violence, torture and child abuse. Just as a warning. But seriously, wanna read? BethanyRay.Goodman at gmail.

In other news,

I'm torn on NaNoWriMo... My novel is in revision - that one final revision. Part of me says to keep revising. To just look at submitting queries around Christmas and do NaNoWriMo for my own sanity. The other part of me says I have minimal revisions to do, and if I could just put down Fallout: New Vegas for 10 seconds I could knock them out.

Perhaps I'll work through them today and tomorrow, and make a decision after that. I could say I'd have them done by Sunday, no problem, except that I'm going back to see my family for Neewollah, and my mommy's birthday is on Thursday.

Sigh. I'm SO ready for a new project.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Where is 'snark's' place in writing?

Though this isn't a "trending" topic, it seems to always lurk around the internet world.

There are sites where snark prevails and is expected and cherished for the no bull criticism it offers.

AW Query Letter Hell - where posters willing place their queries on the chopping block in hopes of making it better.
So what if it's no longer there. Miss Snark herself has some of the best blogs with the most pertinent information out there.
And of course, who could ever mention the word (lovingly, of course) snark without Janet Reid's Hyde side. 

Then you have the other face of the writing world - the ones who offer mostly honest yet toned down advice that boosts confidence and keeps writers writing.

The mysterious Authoress' amazing blog of all things helpful and amazing.
Kristin Nelson's and Nathan Bransford's blogs of all things query and pre-publishing.
And most writing sites like Scriblerati, and tons and tons of others.

Now, the question is, which is more effective? 

Without running the risk of sounding passive - neither. Personally, I'm usually all for the snark, because I feel that it's honest and I can trust it. But even when we subject ourselves to the brutality - there always seems to be that ONE person who crosses the line. If it was a party scene it would go like this:

Lady: "Yeah, so I totally feel like this dress makes me look fat."
General murmur: Niceties including "No it doesn't, I promise!"
Helpful person: "You look fine, but maybe if you crunched it around your stomach a little it'd look even better. I mean you look great, but that might make you more comfortable. Your call."
Overhelpful: "Don't you have something else you can change into? I mean, yeah, that doesn't look good at all."

Then the general murmur falls into a shocked silence, followed by some tool-bag saying "Ah man, over the line."

I think the goal is to fall somewhere around the "helpful person" character. When writing reviews or informative things to people I tend to use the following formula.

Step 1: Say something nice. 

Option A: Compliment the work. 
Option B: When it really is horrible, at least let them know you're on their side. 

Step 2: Give HONEST critique

You don't have to hold their hand, and you don't have to tell them "I wouldn't change a thing!" Because you would change a thing or two, because our human nature and compulsive need to be right won't let us say it's perfect. If human nature wasn't this way, there would be no such thing as interior designers. Or writers. 

Don't take away their voice. Just because they phrase something a way you wouldn't, doesn't mean they're wrong. Stick to grammar, pointing out awkward sentences, plot holes or general misunderstandings. Leave the voice to the writer. 

Step 3: Say something helpful

Something as simple as - "You're on the right track, take my suggestions with a grain of salt!" Will give writers back the power. Reading "suggestions", especially when there are quite a few of them, can be overwhelming. We've all been there. Just a single closing line that puts the emphasis back on the writer a good way to move forward. 

So, readers. Weigh in. How do you like your feedback? Sugar coated? Snarky? Sugar coated snark? Snark flavored sugar? 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Holds Breath, Pushes "Publish Post"

Alright. I've been dreading doing this for a really long time. I get so many comments/emailed responses to my blog, and all of you are so dynamic in your own writings and opinions that it scares me to think what your internal reactions will be.

But, internal musings aside, I'd be delighted to hear some of your thoughts on this (completely new and revised) first 300ish words. Disclaimer: This hasn't been seen by anyone but me. Feel free to make ANY corrections. My poor beta reader has been run through the mill with this book haha. (Hugs to Ebyss!)


Shivers ran down my arms, and I cradled my purse to my chest. It wasn’t just the chill of the parking garage; something was wrong.
Taking a deep breath against the ensuing tingle of other minds, I lowered the barriers that usually protected my brain in public. Close to midnights on campus, there wasn’t a lot of activity to bombard me. Except for one familiar signature.
“Chloe?”  My voice was hoarse, barely resonating a yard in front of me in the empty parking garage.   
The sound of one of my students struggling made my shoulders tighten in surprise. Her thoughts were already quieter than they had been a moment ago. I closed my eyes to focus, to see what she was seeing. A rag of foul tasting chemicals over her mouth, unbearable pressure squeezing her from behind. She slapped at the man, tried to scratch him, but it was no use. She was fading fast.
I dropped my purse and shot off toward the elevator bay. It took two tries to get my shaking fingers to press the call button. Another mind sharpened. It wasn’t the same sensation as Chloe’s normally simple signature. The energy was fierce and angry.
My fist pushed into my eyes and my teeth ground. A glimpse inside of the man’s head pushed me into action. I closed my eyes and focused on Chloe before sprinting down the two flights of stairs to the third floor landing area.
Jagged pieces of the smashed security camera lay scattered over the floor . Turning towards the elevator doors, I felt the man’s mind enter mine again. He was hoping the person who had called for the elevator wasn’t on this floor.
I crouched as I frantically searched the small area for something to act as a weapon. The doors started to slide open and my gaze fell to a broken piece of camera. The plastic curved like a scimitar and my hands trembled as I picked it up. Tested it’s weight. Silently, I positioned myself beside the mechanicals doors. Waiting for them to emerge. . Chloe’s red hair came first. Her carefully constructed curls were tossed over her face, blocking it from view. He carried her over his shoulder like a limp sack, knocking her head against the elevator opening as he started towards the exit. 

Okay. Thoughts? Opinions? I'll be biting my nails in the corner if you need me.

<3, Bethany

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Query Letter Post

Alright. Help me shred this thing into submission? Pwetty pwease?

Specs - MARTYR is complete and in it's very final revision. It's 75K and is a Paranormal Thriller.

Jamie's edits with a few minor changes --- what you guys think??

Evelyn Harper is no damsel in distress. A lifetime of childhood abuse and uncontrollable telepathic abilities have taught her to rely only on herself. But when she intercept the thoughts of a woman being attacked, Evelyn makes the choice to break one of her own rules. Never get involved. 

Chloe, the woman she saves, is the daughter of a controversial senator. She also happens to be everything Evelyn wishes she could be - frivolous, funny, trusting, and, kind. Despite her reservations,  Evelyn is drawn to the woman. But Chloe's family has their own secrets. When members of her father’s household start turning up dead, she turns to Evelyn for help.

Having a friend is rare, but keeping one harder. With her knack for survival, and a supernatural arsenal, Evelyn is determined to find out who’s threatening Chloe, and stop them. No matter what it takes. 

The path to vengeance leads her straight into the torturous hands of a corrupt political game. Now Evelyn must decide if opening herself to others is worth the price - her life.

More Monologue!

I just finished reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Can I recommend this book to everyone I know? And everyone you all know? I want to shout it's praises from the rooftops. In fact, were there no police to worry about, I'd find a ladder and do that right this second.

At this moment I'm going through and working my dialogue tags, checking for -ly endings and looking for patronizing passages. I'm so happy to be revising with a purpose! I mean, believe me, I understand and have seen first-hand the progress of revision. But still, going through and reading to look for tricky sentences, messed up commas and plot-flaws can only be done so many times before your eyes cross over.

Now I'm reading and revising with purpose, making changes that matter. Already I'm transofrming tricky passages and fixing troubled dialogue. In other words, I'm feeling hella productive.

But, yes. So I had a little, teensy, weensy little writing meltdown the other day. Real tears and everything! Just a little overwhelmed. It's very hard to face something that you've put SO much work into and realize that your writing barely matters. What matters the most (pathetically) is one stupid little letter. I keep hearing the same thing on my queries - "I'd put that book right back on the shelf. I'd never read that." WHICH IS DUMB. Especially when those people see my first 250 words and fall in love. Ugh. Speaking of the first 250 words... I'll be posting that soon. :) Grumble, grumble, query letter, grumble.

Until next time, 

<3, Bethany

Monday, October 11, 2010

Query Redacted

Alright, so I've been trudging away at this query letter for months.

There are so many sources out there for query letters. Every single one of them tells you to do it differently. So what did I do? I read everything I could get my hands on. I went through the AbsoluteWrite forums and ready every critique on every query letter for pages upon pages. I read blogs - Nathan Bransford, QueryShark, Kristie Nelson. I read books. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again. The key is putting as much effort into that letter as you did the book.

My book, itself, has been edited more times than I can even count. I did the same thing with my book as with the query - read every book I could find, took notes on what they did wrong (or right, of course) and went back and edited accordingly. I read genres that had nothing to do with the thriller or paranormal genre. I read romance books (which is how I found Kate Johnson... which is how I greatly improved my dialogue) - I read literary, I read YA - Seriously everything I could get my hands on. 

So what happened. After all that time, all that dedication, what happens now? 

Now I just hope that I did a good enough job. Is Martyr going to be the book that makes all my dreams come true? Sigh. I can only hope. If not, I'm kind of resolved with it, honestly. I mean, I have learned SO much from this book. As I'm starting new projects, I can already tell that I'll have much less editing to do. My writing is stronger. My new books will be better. I can only hope that I've done enough work on this one to weed out all of the initially weak parts.

So, in a mass, that's what this entire year has taught me. Everything I know about the writing craft. So even if this book doesn't make it to publishing, I've lost anything but a year of my time. 

Life hasn’t granted her many chances for friendship. Evelyn Harper would kill for the only friend she has. Or die for her. Whichever comes first.

Born with telepathy and mind control, she is no one’s damsel in distress. Evelyn has learned to save herself from everything life has to throw at her. Whether that be her drug abusing mom or a sexually abusive plague of potential step-fathers. She wasn’t, however, prepared for anyone like Chloe. Acerbic by nature, Evelyn finds herself drawn to the woman, touched by her frivolous thirst for life.

When Chloe’s father goes into debt with a powerful mafia family, members of his household start turning up dead. Scared her friend could be next, Evelyn goes on the offensive. With her knack for survival and a supernatural arsenal, Evelyn promises to pick the members off one by one. That is, if she isn’t killed in the process.

So, SO?  :)

Anyway, that's all I had to tell you all today. Once I get that query hashed out, I'll be posting some first chapter goodies.

Hopeful query submission date: October 22nd. 

<3, Bethany

Friday, October 8, 2010

Contest is over, now what?

So now that I don't have to worry about pushing the contest off the front page, I can post like a crazy woman again!

Let's see. Right now it's 1:25 in the morning. It's a Friday night and I've spent it working on my MS and perfecting my query letter. I have a social life, it just happens to encompass imaginary people for now. I'm sure Josh understands. Not so sure about the rest of the world. I forgot to ask.

I'm getting so close to having this submittable that it's making my skin itch. I'm so nervous, so excited and so damn ready to put MARTYR down and never touch it again. Not that it's bad (I swear), but I've read the entire thing close to 100 times. I haven't even read The Witching Hour that many times. Blasphemous, I know.

So I've come up with a list of agents to query to. The very first round is full of feelers, honestly. I have that one agent in my head, of course, that I will be DEVASTATED if she says no. So I'm going to wait on that one... give some time for the initial sting of rejection to take hold before I send it off to her.

It's kind of amazing how much we relay our hopes and dreams of publication on that of a lottery drawing. So much about querying is timing. It all depends on the mindset of the agent upon reading. I mean, unless you're horrible. Which I don't think that I am.

I just... sigh... I want this to happen so bad - but I'm only a spec on the entire writing community. A star in the Milky Way. How can I possibly hope to stand on the publication platform among writers who have entertained me for days on end. Am I out of my mind to even consider it?

No, I don't think I am. I mean, I'm a strong writer. I have ideas that are new, fresh ways of entertainment. I am worried about starting with something so commercial. It's either going to be my saving grace or my downfall. I'll either hear - this is commercial fiction! This is marketable! Or I'll hear... hmm. I've seen this before.

Which is so utterly contradictory it makes me rabid.

I guess, in the end, I just want someone to hold my hand and tell me I can do this. I want a close friend to read my book and tell me it's amazing. P.S. - I hate that my close friends and family have no interest in this whatsoever. If it wasn't for my beta readers, I would have gone insane a long time ago. Have I mentioned lately how much I want to hug every single one of them?

Seriously, my beta readers are the only reason I'm still going. To Willow, to Ebyss, to Jordan and most recently - To Kim - Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Okay, well this is disjointed and I'm feeling a little vulnerable. I'm just super emotional. Apprehensive. Excited. Worried. Angry. Frustrated and overwhelmed. But also, I'm just happy to be writing, and to have characters in my head and on paper. Because that, really, is what being a writer is all about.

Much <3, Bethany

Contest Results!

So, the results are in! Thank you to all of you who submitted a total of 498 entries all together! I started off with 8 blog followers, and tripled that in large part to all your linking!

Also, sigh, there were so many entrants I couldn't give away just one prize. So I added a second and third place. Yeah, yeah. It's what I do. Thank you all so much!!!!

Third Place:

Congratulations! Send me the first 3 chapters of your MS here.

Second Place:

Congratulations! Send me your entire, yes your entire MS!

And the grand prize goes to:

Congratulations!! Please email me to claim your MS edit, gift card and get your link set up.

To all the other entrants, please enjoy this complimentary blog posting in all of your honors. Enjoy ;)

Hugh, Oh hugh.
Noms. Young Clint Eastwood.
Yvonne Stahovski (Don't worry guys, didn't forget about you)
Zachary Quinton as Sylar.

The two hottest people that have ever lived. Ever.

Much, much, love! More to come. 

<3, Bethany

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Interview - Kristie Cook

This summer, I stumbled across one of Kristie's interviews. She was so charismatic and fun that I was excited to read her first novel Promise. I was absolutely not disappointed! 

If you've ever been curious about self-publishing, this is person to get your information from. Her debut novel came out in July, and the sequel Purpose is schedule for release this fall. If you haven't had a chance to check out Promise yet - do it! 

To the interview - 

First off, the bio:

Kristie Cook is a lifelong writer in various genres, from marketing communications to fantasy fiction. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and riding on the back of a motorcycle. She has lived in ten states, but currently calls Southwest Florida home with her husband, three teenage sons, a beagle and a puggle. You can find her on her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook

When did you first decide that being a writer was the life for you?

When I was 8 years old and in the third grade, we had to write a short story. I wrote my first contemporary fantasy, about gnomes living in a cave and helping a brother and sister (both human) find their way out of the cave. I loved writing it and the teacher thought I was good – awarding me the only A in the class – and I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Nothing like good ole self-confidence to push you to write! 

Do you draw inspiration from real life? Where do the ideas come from?

Some from real-life and from asking what-if questions based on real life, religion, philosophy, etc. And some from other books, movies, television, video games, etc.

How long did it take you to finish your novel? How much of that was editing?

I wrote a beginning, middle and end – all 160,000 words of it! – in 6 weeks. I’ve been rewriting, revising and editing that into 2 books for over a year and a half now.

Oh my goodness! That is some epic writing. 

What’s your favorite genre to write?

contemporary fantasy / paranormal

What’s your favorite genre to read?

contemporary fantasy / paranormal / urban fantasy

What character of yours can you most relate to, and why?

Definitely Alexis, my MC. People see a lot more of me in her than I intended (but I think sometimes they make assumptions on things J). I know what it’s like to be raised by a single parent and to move around a lot. I wasn’t such a good girl, though, and, although I was often the outsider and incredibly shy (and still am), I didn’t have much problem making friends.

Favorite line from one of your books?

Um…all of them. I love this answer! ^_^ No, I guess that’s not true – there are many I wish I could go back and change now. It’s too hard to pick one, though. Pretty much anything Tristan says. J Oh, here’s one (I’ll let you guess what “it” is LOL): 

“The thing about men, Alexis, is they generally don’t find any of it wrong. In fact, the more wrong it is, the more they like it.”

Self-Publishing Questions. 

Why self-publishing?

It’s a natural fit for me. I’m impatient and have control issues, making traditional publishing difficult. I’m also an entrepreneur by nature and I see an opportunity in the publishing industry right now for new ways to achieve the goal of getting books from authors to readers. I also think authors should be more empowered. With traditional publishing, they are powerless. I hope that by learning the ropes with my own books, I can eventually help others accomplish their dreams of getting published.

Personally, I really admire those who have the power and confidence to go the self-publishing route. I just can't see Promise not doing well! I know I am waiting very impatiently for Purpose. 

How does it differ from the query, agent, editor, publisher process?

Drastically. With the traditional route, each step along the way is designed to shut an author out. There are good reasons for this – so publishers, which are for-profit companies, don’t shell out a ton of money on crap. I totally get it. But there are so many books being written and submitted these days, that many good ones go unnoticed because of the selection process. All these people along the way are making the decisions on what readers get to read. 

With self- or indie-publishing, you’re responsible for everything, but you also skip over all those other people and go straight to the most important decision-makers – the readers. If they like the blurb, they buy. If they like what they buy, they tell their friends. If they don’t, they either give bad reviews or don’t mention the book at all. Either way, the book’s sales fall instead of grow. With indie publishing, it’s between you and the reader. With traditional publishing, you have all those other people mixed in, too.

Where can readers find Promise?

It should be available more widely soon, but for now at:
Apple’s iBooks store for the iPad and iPhone
Various eBook formats at Smashwords 

Release date for Purpose?

Um…Fall 2010…as in, late Fall…but in time for the holiday season. 

Sigh, I'm totally squeeing like a fan girl. Haha! 

And finally, a little get-to-know. 

Favorite book? 

Too many! Unless I can say Purpose? J

And you can! 

Favorite movie or TV series: 

Right now, True Blood is/was all I watch on TV; Legends of the Fall is one of my all-time favorite movies

Do you have a writing playlist? What’s on it?

Depends on the book – a lot of 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, some U2, Smashing Pumpkins and Cranberries

What do you do when you’re not writing? 

Editing, working or sleeping. OK…sometimes you can find me wasting time on Twitter or Facebook, watching my son play football, hanging with my kids by the pool, reading, cooking, sitting on the beach or riding on a Harley.

Thank you so, so much for taking time to do an interview! For all the readers, hop out there and pick up a copy of Promise! Already have one? Then buy one for a friend, of course. 

More to come, of course. Leave some love in the comments for Kristie!

<3, Bethany