SciFi and Fantasy Book Club discussion

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GoodReads Authors' Discussion > Seeking (writing) advice/help

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message 1: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments I realize that we're most importantly a group oriented towards readers, but I know we have some writers among us and some really helpful people, so I am willing to give it a try here.

So, I am working on my own fantasy story. For quite some time already. At this point, I'm at fifth draft or so, did several rewrites of many chapters based on my own proof-reads, squished bugs in masses, corrected swarms of typos, expanded parts that needed it, cut parts that contributed (almost) nothing, clarified things that were unclear...

Long story short, I am afraid I reached the spot where I can't move on without external feedback when it comes to actually making the story better. I'd like to find beta readers - and start beta phase within a few weeks - but have no idea where to start.

So, if anyone around could point me in the right direction, it would be appreciated.


message 2: by Kevin (last edited May 15, 2018 07:10AM) (new)

Kevin Carlin | 1 comments There's a specific beta readers group on here- https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

Took me a while to stumble on it myself, but I've had good luck with it so far. I've found the most surefire way to get beta readers is to offer to trade and do a beta in return, but there are also a few folks willing to read for free.

Edit: I gave you the wrong link the first time. This one is for the beta readers group.


message 3: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 52 comments Hi Tomas. I would recommend joining the Support Indie Authors group here on goodreads. I have not yet tried finding a beta through the group, but I know other people do and it is full of all kinds of useful help topics and discussions and you might be more likely to find a beta in that group rather than this one which is more reader focused.


message 4: by John (new)

John Siers | 255 comments I'll second the recommendation on the Indie Author's group. I'd offer to do the Beta Read for you, but I'm an SF guy -- not much into Fantasy.

I know what you mean about rewrites, re-reads, self-edits, etc. You really can't catch everything yourself. You need another pair of eyes. The problem is that after reading through it about ten times, you end up reading what you thought you wrote instead of what's actually there. :-)


message 5: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments Thank you for the answers, I'll definitely give the groups a look.

And John, you're absolutely right. Some things I could not see myself (because I know pieces of backstory the reader does not) or I did not want to see being wrong...


message 6: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Frale (draconias) | 7 comments I don't have a lot of money myself and only recently have been able to use royalty money to pay for it, but hire a professional editor. I know they are expensive. If there are three things that are worth every penny, it's editing, cover art, and ads (make sure you do your research though). If you don't have a lot, you can find editors for cheap at upwork.com but buy the most amount of editing you can afford (upwork allows you to set your price for the project). Beta readers are nice, but they won't catch everything.


message 7: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 157 comments A few bits and pieces of advice from my personal experience...
- join a local writing group if you can, it’s great having a community
- changing the font and text size can really help you spot errors
- as can printing it off and mixing the pages into a random order - that way you see the actual words, not the story
Good luck!


message 8: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Ruth, mixing the pages up is a good idea - I'll try that.


message 9: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments Thank you again for the answers, there's never enough advice.
Plus, I think starting with beta readers is good for catching some wacky points of the story, which is still larger concern than spelling.

Local writing community would likely be a problem - English is my second language, so finding a writing group that is local and likewise writing in secondary language would be quite hard. I am now trying Grammarly, it's doing well on showing me some mistakes I made that ordinary spellcheck won't catch, even though it seems to have its limitations on custom words (mostly names).

Editors, I know they can help a lot but by what I heard so far, paid by length which means that having my almost 230000 words edited professionally would probably drain my savings in an instant.

Again, thank everyone for the tips (and if they keep coming, even better), I'll see what I can do.


message 10: by John (new)

John Siers | 255 comments One other comment: I am using Scrivener for my latest novel, and I really like it. It lets you organize your "project" into chapters and subsections and you can see all of them in a "tree" on the left side of the screen (with names you give to the sections). Makes it very easy to go back and find something in an earlier section ("Did I really say that???") and you can reorganize by moving sections around as needed, or go back and fill in necessary details in the middle of the story. Then when it's all done, you can compile the project to a Word document and make use of Word's spell checking / grammar / editing features. You can also compile to e-book format to send to beta readers.
Anyway, it's available on a free trial from Literature & Latte (https://www.literatureandlatte.com/)


message 11: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 157 comments Another thought- 230,000 words?! That is a looonngg book. You may want to consider splitting it into 2 or even 3 parts.


message 12: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments I know that the "mainstream" today is somewhere in the 300-450 pages range most likely, if not lower, but I was reading some books that went over 600. Calibre conversion estimates my current draft at 680 pages.
I know that many would suggest splitting it, but I don't know if it's something I want to do. I fear that it would mean creating an artificial breakpoint that does not fit at all (or, in the worst case, ending it at a point not suited for it) and so going with a longer book is a risk I am, at this point, willing to take.

Plus, writing a trilogy does not sound as scary as 7-8 books, which would it be if all were to be split like that. Even though the length is still the same.


message 13: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 946 comments I agree, 230K is very long. When looking for Beta readers you might try asking if someone would like to start with 10-20 pages/1-3 chapters. It's easier to commit to something short; they can always ask for more.


message 14: by James (last edited May 18, 2018 09:06AM) (new)

James Terzian | 10 comments My question is if i have a series will it be a good idea to write short stories in another book of major support charactors. I was focusing on their back stories of how they become fighters and how they meet their master. My book is a martial arts novel.
Thanks


message 15: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments James wrote: "My question is if i have a series will it be a good idea to write short stories in another book of major support charactors. I was focusing on their back stories of how they become fighters and how..."
From reader's perspective, nothing against that. I believe some authors have side short stories in addition to the "main" novels. They are then probably numbered as #1.1 or something like that. Especially if it's optional backstory, I think it's good idea to have as a side read for those who want to see more of a character.
----
M.L. Roberts wrote: "I agree, 230K is very long. When looking for Beta readers you might try asking if someone would like to start with 10-20 pages/1-3 chapters. It's easier to commit to something short; they can always ask for more."
Yep, asking for a first few chapters is an option and I believe quite good advice.


message 16: by James (new)

James Terzian | 10 comments Tomas wrote: "James wrote: "My question is if i have a series will it be a good idea to write short stories in another book of major support charactors. I was focusing on their back stories of how they become fi..."
Thanks Tomas.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

A good advice came from Jef Geeraerts : Write and keep writing, even if it is gibberish. You need to get the excercise in your hands. That way you will not need to think when forming letters


message 18: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
Highly, highly encourage an editor. Even if it's just for the first 100-200 pages, especially if you're looking for professional attention, like an agent or a critical reviewer.

I also like reading it out loud to myself and then printing it out to read in physical format. I cannot tell you how many things I've caught doing these steps, even after beta readers! I usually write, edit, read out loud to an alpha reader, edit 4-5 more times, send to a couple beta readers, edit after their feedback, repeat that process 2-4 more times, print, edit, print again, final edit. That way I can use the print edits as a time to also check my layout and cover saturation.


message 19: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Frale (draconias) | 7 comments Allison wrote: "Highly, highly encourage an editor. Even if it's just for the first 100-200 pages, especially if you're looking for professional attention, like an agent or a critical reviewer.

I also like readin..."


I know this doesn't work with printing it out, but I like using the Microsoft Word read out loud button. It will read exactly what you wrote, mistakes and all. You still can get word misuse errors like affect/effect etc. but Grammarly is really good at those. I find between MS Word and Grammarly I get most of them. And then I hire and editor to get me across the finish line.

Of course stuff still gets through. But when someone points it out, review or otherwise, I thank them, fix it, and reupload, I mean Stephen King has a way to report grammar mistakes on his website. So even though I have a process for 97% effectivenss, I know it will never be 100.


message 20: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Frale (draconias) | 7 comments In case anyone is wondering:

https://stephenking.com/error-typo.php

Now all I need is millions of readers!


message 21: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments Aaron, glad you mentioned that. I actually installed the Grammarly plugin yesterday. It showed something like 3000-ish mistakes, of which many were comma use (some were just overlooked, some were things I was not sure), great deal is preposition use (my native language uses some differently, in that it's GREAT help) and, of course, a large number of false positives with custom names. It's not foolproof either, it especially struggles if a name/custom word has an apostrophe in it. I know it's not equal to hiring an editor but helps a great deal.


message 22: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new)

Allison Hurd | 13043 comments Mod
Aaron wrote: "Allison wrote: "Highly, highly encourage an editor. Even if it's just for the first 100-200 pages, especially if you're looking for professional attention, like an agent or a critical reviewer.

I ..."


I could see the read out loud feature being very handy!


message 23: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 964 comments Don't know if anyone has advised Critters www.critters.org

It's cooperative -- you read others, they read you. Well worth while to do this, because reading others' ms is so helpful. What you can't see in your work, you can see in others easy.


message 24: by Trike (new)

Trike Tomas wrote: "Editors, I know they can help a lot but by what I heard so far, paid by length which means that having my almost 230000 words edited professionally would probably drain my savings in an instant."

I can tell you without even looking at your manuscript that you can cut 130,000 of those words without any damage done to your story.

The number of 600-page books I’ve read this century which actually needed to be that long are few and far between. Maybe 5 or 6. The rest could easily jettison 300 pages and no one would notice.

Midnight at the Well of Souls is a genuinely epic story. It has a half-dozen main characters, numerous secondary characters, two dozen alien races which all get a turn on stage as they mobilize for war, visits three different planets (including the Well World which has 1,260 different biomes, of which we visit ~20) *and* has scenes on board an interstellar freighter. The original paperback was 360 pages long, which is around 105,000 words.

Unless your story is more epic than that, you don’t need 230,000 words. Arthur Quiller-Couch’s writing advice states, “Kill your darlings.” That means all the stuff in your book that you are just in love with is almost certainly self-indulgent and over-written. Stephen King even repeated this advice in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”


message 25: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments Trike wrote: "I can tell you without even looking at your manuscript that you can cut 130,000 of those words without any damage done to your story.

The number of 600-page books I’ve read this century which actually needed to be that long are few and far between. Maybe 5 or 6. The rest could easily jettison 300 pages and no one would notice."


Yet there are people that will say that "a story is exactly as long as it wants to be". I am not saying you are wrong, but the chance is there. It's what I hope to see in beta stage, to get some feedback about which parts feel unnecessary and so.

Maybe it would work well split into two books, even though I'd need to rework the middle part for that so the ending of first half feels like an actual ending and likewise the adjust the beginning of second half. Again, something I doubt I can judge well enough myself. Our discussion in this thread turned around several times, but the reason I started was to ask for tips where to find beta readers because I'll need some external feedback to go on. And I'd prefer it from somebody who would actually read it.


message 26: by Lori-Ann (new)

Lori-Ann Claude | 6 comments Sounds like you could use 2 kinds of feedback, a beta reader for the story itself and someone to criticize the writing.

For the story itself, find someone who likes the genre and ask for feedback on the story, not the grammar. What's the point of fixing grammar if you're going to turn around and change half the story?

For the grammar/style, submit 5 chapters to an editor. The kinds of mistakes they find are likely throughout the story. That would at least give you an idea of what to look for yourself in cleaning up the manuscript.

Editors are not as great as they used to be. I read bestsellers and it's amazing how many mistakes are still left in the story. It often comes from a word processor and copy/paste (to rephrase a sentence). And readers don't catch all errors either because as they read, the brain fills in the meaning and often doesn't notice all mistakes. Two people can read the same story and find completely different mistakes.

If no one has ever read your writing, it's good to have at least one critical person look at the writing itself and someone who can read it from a story perspective (that person doesn't need to be a linguistic/English major).


message 27: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 946 comments I clicked on the link from Kevin, post #2; it looks like a *good* group.
Just jump in and go for it!


message 28: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments As for grammar/style, I run the draft through Grammarly, which is helpful in saying why is it wrong (unless it's one of those many false alarms on custom names) and while many were typos from just having too fast fingers, it already showed me much about where I was actually making mistakes, enough for beta stage at least.

And you're right that readers don't catch all. The better a story is, the fewer mistakes I see when reading. I have a friend that is native English speaker, so I might also ask him for help, should he have the time for it.

M.L., yes, I gave the group a look and when I have everything prepared for actually offering it to beta, I'll definitely try that. I'll still do one more pass first. I am amateur, but still want to have it in as good state as possible for that.

Thank you both for your support!


message 29: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Percy (christopherpercy) Brenda wrote: "Don't know if anyone has advised Critters www.critters.org

It's cooperative -- you read others, they read you. Well worth while to do this, because reading others' ms is so helpful. What you can't..."

Thanks too for this information. I'd not come across critters before


message 30: by Micah (last edited May 23, 2018 01:15PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1436 comments Christopher wrote: "Brenda wrote: "Don't know if anyone has advised Critters www.critters.org..."

It's a very helpful group. But be warned, it's a LOT of work. You have to read and criticize a certain number of other people's work in a certain amount of time before you can put your work into the critique queue. Which means you have to spend a certain amount of time and effort every week or else your own work will not go in the queue. (Or at least that's how it was when I used to participate back in the late '90s ... has it really been that long? YIKES!)

It's work. But worth it over all.

Here's the thing about editors, though, (aside from the cost) ... there are multiple types of editors. I think it's far easier to get away with not having an editor to look at spelling and grammar and all that. We tend to call that editing but what most of us end up paying for is just a proofreader. Tools like the aforementioned Grammarly, beta readers, reviewing the book in sections out of order, text-to-speech readers, etc. all make it easier to do without a proofreader but it takes a lot of time/work.

There are multiple kinds of editors, most of which are only available through publishers with actual budgets. I feel like what most self-published authors really need are editors who do everything at once, from grammar to fact-checking (when applicable), from spelling to formatting to plot, sentence structure, characterization, setting, and voice.

When I read a self-published work that isn't up to snuff, it's not spelling and grammar that turns me off the most, it's sentence structures, plotting, characterization, poor phrasing, misused words ("vary" instead of "very", "then" instead of "than"), tautologies, subject ambiguity, and all the other faux pas of inadequate literary competency: things that really need a re-write, not just a correction here or there.

Most proof readers aren't going to correct all that.

And, shoot, I dare anyone to find a recently published book put out by one of the big publishing firms that doesn't have spelling and formatting errors (obvious cut/paste issues). It's pretty much impossible to put out a zero-tolerance work in regards to that. So I'm not much of a stickler on those kinds of errors. It's those other kinds of errors we self-published authors need help on and that requires a different type of editor, which DOES cost a lot for a good one ... And I'm not sure how I'd find one I trust anyway!


message 31: by Sara (new)

Sara Allyn Tomas wrote: "I realize that we're most importantly a group oriented towards readers, but I know we have some writers among us and some really helpful people, so I am willing to give it a try here."

I highly recommend you try www.critters.org. It's an online critiquing forum for new (or even seasoned) writers. I learned a lot from participating in the group. It's also fun!


message 32: by Trike (last edited Oct 09, 2018 02:38PM) (new)

Trike Brenda wrote: "Don't know if anyone has advised Critters www.critters.org

It's cooperative -- you read others, they read you. Well worth while to do this, because reading others' ms is so helpful. What you can't..."


Christopher wrote: "Brenda wrote: "Don't know if anyone has advised Critters www.critters.org

It's cooperative -- you read others, they read you. Well worth while to do this, because reading others' ms is so helpful...."


Micah wrote: "Christopher wrote: "Brenda wrote: "Don't know if anyone has advised Critters www.critters.org..."

It's a very helpful group. But be warned, it's a LOT of work. You have to read and criticize a cer..."


Sara wrote: "I highly recommend you try www.critters.org. It's an online critiquing forum for new (or even seasoned) writers. I learned a lot from participating in the group. It's also fun!"

Hmm, to use snarky comment or not, that is the question.
— Willy Shakespeare, Jr.


message 33: by Brian (last edited Oct 09, 2018 02:56PM) (new)

Brian Anderson You've already received plenty of good advice where to find beta readers, so I'll add that when selecting them there are a few things to look for.
Find out what books they read. If you are writing YA fantasy and they like grimdark, it might not be a good match.
Explain in detail what you are looking for. Is it a general view? A detailed opinion? Are there specific things you want to know?
It's important to remember that you are looking for consensus. If several readers say the same thing, it's something you should consider changing. If only one mentions it, you should still take a look. But it could simply be a matter of personal taste.

I couldn't help but notice you didn't mention an editor or proof reader. Before you release it, you really need to run it through an editing and proof reading process. I cannot stress this enough. No one is that good. Well, almost no one. This is not a step you can skip and expect your story, which I'm sure you've worked very hard to create, to be well received.


message 34: by John (new)

John Siers | 255 comments Just one more comment -- because I missed yours about the word count the first time around. I have to agree with Ruth, Trike, et. al. That's way too much for a single novel. Before you even look for an editor, get into it yourself, get ruthless, kill all your darlings... you know what I'm talking about.

My first novel was 170,000 when I first wrote "The End" to it, and then I went back -- several times -- and got it down to 140,000. Pro editors knocked another 5,000 off and that's where it ended up -- but that was still 400 pages in 6x9 paperback.

Besides, editors charge by the word. I know everybody loves e-books these days, but if you want to go for paper (which I do all the time) printers also charge by the page. Save yourself some money and do some serious pruning yourself before it gets that far.


message 35: by Brian (new)

Brian Anderson Of course, if you intend on submitting it to agents, a proof reader might do.
I don't send my traditional work through an editor. They do it for me. I get it as polished as I can, then send it in.
With indie, on the other hand, you cannot skip the process and expect good results. You are the publisher. Self-publishing is a business. With any business, investment is required.


message 36: by Noor (new)

Noor Al-Shanti | 52 comments I'd rather read one long, but complete book than a "series" made up of parts of one story that were just chopped up to conform to some word count limit.


message 37: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 946 comments How is the beta search going, by the way?


message 38: by Sara (new)

Sara Allyn @Trike - lol My bad!

Ok, I'll try to add something that hasn't been said already. With respect to word count, I would suggest going through the entire work and removing every word you don't absolutely need. Also remove whole paragraphs and scenes that don't either move the plot along or reveal something important about one of the characters.

I know it hurts, but it is a worthwhile exercise for sure. (IMO)


message 39: by Tomas (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments Thanks for all the advice. I was surprised to see that someone returned to this thread after four months and had to look over it to remember what it was about. I'll try to react to your newest messages one by one.
General: I plan to go the self-publishing route. I find it more appealing even if it demands more from me. I know it'll take much more time.
Length: It keeps dropping slowly with edits, the current draft is down to 210k (top was 245k in the second draft, previous was at some 233k). It's supposed to end up as a trilogy somewhere in 550-650k total based on the guess I can now make with #2 in the first draft and #3 half-way through the first draft, counting with cuts. I know some might consider it long but I believe it's better than making artificial cuts to turn it into 6 books of half the length.

Brian wrote: "Explain in detail what you are looking for. Is it a general view? A detailed opinion? Are there specific things you want to know?
I couldn't help but notice you didn't mention an editor or proof reader. Before you release it, you really need to run it through an editing and proof reading process."

At this point, I'm mostly interested in checking for consistency and plot holes so I could fix the most obvious problems. I think that those are something that needs to be done first.

Sara wrote: "Also remove whole paragraphs and scenes that don't either move the plot along or reveal something important about one of the characters."
I had a look at several scenes in the last two drafts. Cut many, reworked the early part (took a chapter and half out and reworked another two and a half), rewrote several more passages. It's definitely something I am giving more attention now.
Sara wrote: "I know it hurts, but it is a worthwhile exercise for sure.
In several parts, it did not hurt that much - especially if I was already leaning to removing/editing that specific part. What I found harder was to scour the whole story for the mentions of event that got the axe and make sure they are removed to a single one. Even with the search function, it took some serious effort. I am still finding parts that will need to go through edits due to changes made elsewhere in the story.

M.L. wrote: "How is the beta search going, by the way?"
I found one person in the Support for Indie Authors group who was interested in the premise of my story (I was trying to put together an early blurb and asking for feedback so I can learn how to do that) and is having an early look on it. Meanwhile, I realized the need for some other edits so I will probably not start a real beta phase until the end of the year.
---
Anyway, thank you all for your help and support. It's very welcome.


message 40: by Tomas (last edited Oct 25, 2018 08:34AM) (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 444 comments Sara wrote: "I highly recommend you try www.critters.org. It's an online critiquing forum for new (or even seasoned) writers."
Opened the page, first news: due to GDPR, no longer accepting EU members.
Seems like that's a no-go then.
----
I went into another in-depth self-editing pass (still in progress, I estimate a week or two to finish). Word count is continuously dropping towards 200k (I started at 245k and pretty much wrote 260k+ when I account for new passages replacing some removals).
Current editing includes (but is not limited to):
-adverb purge
-pruning dialogue tags where they are not necessary
-sentence structure (often, they are too complicated and even repeating something in a short span)
-removing several smaller scenes with little/no purpose
-clumsy writing in parts that avoided significant edits since the beginning (often knocks out a paragraph or two per page)

My current plan is to finish this larger review, the read through it again and decide if it'll need more work or if I'll start looking for story-based feedback (flow, plot holes, etc.). Grammar/editing is being worked on but, as said, might be wasted if I end up rewriting something completely - so I'd put that on hold, for now.
---
Again, thank you all for the comments.


message 41: by Joon (new)

Joon (everythingbeeps) | 512 comments I could never be a writer, I love my adverbs too much.


message 42: by Trike (new)

Trike Joon wrote: "I could never be a writer, I love my adverbs too much."

This next song goes out to Joon, so she can swing and swoon: https://youtu.be/dDwXHTcodNg


message 43: by Norton (new)

Norton Beckerman. (nortsb) | 93 comments My grandfather was a storyteller. My father was a storyteller. They made them up as they went along and we loved listening to them. Usually the story would be told over a 3-4 day period and we were always anxious to get to the next day to hear what happened. That's what writing fiction is all about; storytelling. That has to come first. Writing the story you're telling is a learned skill that takes time, effort and, if possible, a support group that will critique your writing, make suggestions, provide thought. That's what I had, and I'm forever grateful.


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