Beta Readers!

girl-hugging-teddy

That’s how I feel about beta readers right now. They are a wonderful breed of people.

Today I received some surprise feedback on Vengeance Will Come from a beta reader. I’d assumed I wasn’t going to be getting a response, but the email had been left and forgotten in their “draft” folder. Needless to say; every beta reader’s comments are precious, so I feel like I’ve just found a $100 note on the pavement.

It also doesn’t hurt my mood that their comments were largely positive. I can’t begin to express how that spurs me on to continue writing – both to finish this project and others.

You mean I haven’t wasted hundreds of hours writing? You mean you’d willingly pay money for it and be happy you did at the end? Music to my ears.

Of course not every beta reader is so complimentary, and I do genuinely also appreciate the constructive criticism. I know some of my beta readers have picked up on weaknesses – because I had those same doubts. What’s even better is when they detect a problem which I hadn’t seen without their perspective.

 

I’m still looking for a few more readers for up to five chapters of my novel. More details on the previous post.

Revising Vengeance Will Come, Again

Previously I stated it was my intention to not further revise my first novel, Vengeance Will Come unless of course a publisher decided they wanted it. (Not that I’ve sent it out yet).

That decision was born of the knowledge that many first time authors get stuck in an endless rewrite cycle, and I didn’t want to be one of them. Especially considering how long this project has taken.

However since making that decision I’ve learned that professional authors can regularly do 6+ revisions. (Granted, some of these would likely be under the direction of publishers and editors).

My beta readers have also alerted me to the fact that there are numerous improvements to be made. This new-found knowledge of my novel’s shortcomings means there are two options:

  1. I revise, or
  2. my book goes in the bottom desk drawer, never to see the light of day again.

I realise that I’m still learning the writing craft (very much so) and my novel won’t be perfect. Ever. However, I’m not willing to let the book out into the world with simple things I know how to fix. It’s about quality control, and respecting my readers to do the best I can.

And so, the revision process begins anew.

PS: I’ve taken “The Hostages” off my progress chart. I’m still very committed to writing it, but it’s not going to progress any time soon, hence it’s disappearance.

Writing Plan 2017

I’ve been meaning to write a longer post about re-capping 2016 and planning 2017, but I’ve been busy fixing up my punctuation in Vengeance Will Come.

Without much discussion here are my plans for 2017:

writing plan 2017.PNG

  • I want to finish Vengeance Will Come (my first fantasy-action novel) in the first few months of the year.
  • Then I want to revise and get beta readers for The Rebel Queen a shorter (parallel) story to Vengeance Will Come. (If you do a search, you’ll find more posts about that).
  • Also noteworthy I want to start working on book 2 of the series. In addition to that, I’m also thinking I might do a few short stories or have a few side-projects just to vary my writing diet.

 

VWC Almost Done

My first fantasy adventure novel Vengeance Will Come is nearly complete. All I have to do is:

  1. Revise the final chapter and a half.
  2. Write a new chapter or two. Initially I finished the draft in a marathon writing session, and I think that caused me to finish things off a little too quickly. An extra chapter or two to draw out the ending will likely provide a more satisfying read.
  3. Check all of my alpha reader comments to make sure I’ve caught everything. This might result in a few changes and includes checking the punctuation.
  4. Draw (or have drawn) a map or two.

Then I’m done with the revision process. Being so close you’d think I’d be inspired. Not so much. In the couple of days I’ve done no writing. I think it’s because I felt intimidated.

The closer I come to finishing the closer I am to not “finishing” and then not being able to fix things.

But now I’m back – writing mojo reinstalled. One day of holidays left and I plan to make it count for my writing.

 

Millimetring-forward

The phrase goes “inching-forward”, but I have two problems with that:

  1. Sorry to my US friends, but “inches” are only still being used by three countries on the entire planet (Liberia, Myanmar and the USA). The fact that everyone else has gone metric, might suggest something; I’ll leave that for you to ponder. (Maybe that could be one of Trump’s first-day executive orders?)
  2. Inching-forward would suggest a movement of 25.4+ millimetres per day. I think it’s more accurately a fraction of that.

I’ve said before on multiple times that I find editing hard work. OK, so said in this context is a synonym for complained. I probably sound like a broken record, or to modernise the phrase, a looping mp3.

I’d like to think that editing would be easier if I wasn’t diluting my efforts by working, volunteering and dealing with other responsibilities and commitments. That at least salves my conscience somewhat. I’m now a long way off from my ambitiously crazy goal for Vengeance Will Come.

I am, however, still making progress. I’m almost under 100k words and am over 40% of the way through the revision process. It feels like I have crawled over every single one of those sharp words. (Sharp as in painful, not sharp as in really-well-honed). Still, that’s a reduction of some 14k words, not to mention the scenes I have added.

One of my problems is that when I lose momentum I have trouble keeping it all straight in my head. Not only am I trying to remember the story line but I am also keeping one eye on pacing, tension and character arcs. That’s a lot to remember.

To help with this I’ve been toying with a couple of visualisations.

The first is simple: drawing a box for each chapter and writing a 1/2 sentence to describe the main thrust of the chapter. It’s tempting to try and add more detail, but more is less in this case. At a quick glance I can see plot progression.

chapter-plot-cards

The second is what I call a Character Emotional Map, which is a diagram describing the key aspects of a characters personality and their motivations between characters. Each character gets their own box and has key personality attributes written underneath. (More than four and they are no longer key). Then there are directional arrows between the characters which describe how they feel/relate to one another. The boldness of the text or arrow should signify relative importance. (Except when I’m using an old version of Excel, and it’s limited).

CEM1.PNG

This diagram should keep in my mind important points to emphasize. For example Menas as a developing alcoholic should be drinking, or thinking about drinking, on a semi-regular basis (without overdoing it, pun intended).

As character arcs progress, new Character Emotional Maps should be developed, adapting as the plots progress.

That’s two methods anyway. If you have any silver bullets or tricks that you use, I’d love to hear them.

TMI: (Way) Too Much Information

Here on BenEzard.com I’m sharing my writing journey which includes the ugly and the good. If I’m being generous to myself I’d say its a ratio similar to the chemical composition of Hydronium: three ugly for every good.

A while ago I created a method of secret communication for my novel, Vengeance Will Come.  (Lacking expertise in this area I have no idea if this is a plausible solution…) The idea was that one tremendously large file hid the secrets of anyone who paid to use the storage service. To any observer, it would appear just one long piece of encrypted text, with no way of knowing where one message began or ended. Only the sender/receiver would know the coordinates of their message, and the encryption keys to decrypt it.

This was my first attempt at ‘writing it’ (many, many moons ago).

He went to the DataBank site which required no login and no password. After entering his credit card details – one of the number of fake identites he had on Drasius – he entered two coordinates. The Databank held a single file stream which was yottabytes in size.

Unmarked portions of the file ‘belonged’ to the tens of millions of users – individuals and companies who wanted to store data securely. Any person could upload/download any portion of the stream (paying per megabyte). The trick was, only you knew the coordinates in the stream where your data began and ended, and the encryption used on it. Without knowing where the ‘data ownership’ began or ended, or the type of encryption that was used, decrypting it was nearly impossible.

Cameus entered coordinates that were hundreds of megabytes on either side of his desired data block. This cost far more money, but also meant that anyone tapping the planetary-net would have to try decrypting a lot more data. The download process to his computer took a few minutes. Cameus then disconnected from the net and entered another two coordinates into the computer with the encryption details.

These coordinates were where his message was, ignoring the padding on either side. His computer was powerful and compact, but the decryption process would still take about twenty minutes. Cameus headed back toward the warehouse.

Congratulations if you read each of those 226 words. You’d be among the minority, and I don’t blame you if you didn’t make it all the way through. No one – except for me and a very rare egghead care about how the encryption specifically works.

For this reason in the next editing pass I savaged my creation, diluting its so-called brilliance for the sake of brevity.

He went to the DataBank site which required only one of his false identities credit cards. Entering in coordinates that were only known to him and his employer he began to download data. The Databank held a single file stream which was yottabytes in size, the unmarked portions of the file ‘belonging’ to tens of millions of users on Drasius. Cameus had downloaded hundreds of megabytes on either side of his desired data block; which cost more but would exponentially increase the difficulty for anyone trying to locate his message. The download process took several minutes after which Cameus entered the two precise coordinates of his section with the encryption details. His computer was incredibly powerful for its size but the decryption process would still take about twenty minutes.

So I had cut it severely down to 129 words but it was still not enough. The passage was a mouthful without flavor – calories without enjoyment – ready to frustrate the reader. I don’t know about you, but if I’m absorbing calories I want enjoyment: reading is no different.

So now my creation is rendered invisible, for the greater good of the story:

On the roof of the drinking shop he used his wrist computer to connect to the dark side of the net, downloading the encrypted stream from the DataBank. Cameus started the decryption algorithm and headed back to the warehouse at a run.