Beta Love

Hello fellow, bloggers, writers and readers. I don’t know about you, but for me sharing work with friends and family is terrifying. It’s like standing in front of them naked while they sit and judge. (Well it’s not, but it makes you feel just as vulnerable).

av2UntitledAfter my initial beta reading from my best writing buddy, I re-edited my manuscript and doled it out to a wider selection of willing friends and relatives. I was really nervous at first, I was letting my guard down in a real way and then as time passed I stopped being nervous. I stopped being nervous because not a single bloody one of them had read it. Then it was to hell with nerves and on with “where are you?” “how are you doing?” … and other ways of getting their arses in gear.

When I finally started getting some feedback back in from them the nerves started up again. What if they didn’t like it? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think it’s about them? And worst of all, what if they don’t think I should be a writer? … The funny thing about those worries is that they related more to me as a person than they did my book. I’m proud of my book and if I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t have showed it to them to begin with.

I’ll start by saying they’ve given me some fair and useful criticism, tips that are hard to see yourself on your own project. But the overall response has been a big thumbs up. ‘Hilarious’, ‘fantastic’ and ‘I forgot you’d written it’.

The latter is my favourite comment. I think that’s the highest praise you can give an aspiring writer because if the people who know you best have forgotten it’s your voice and are just enjoying reading a story, surely that must bode well for your prospective audience. I hope so anyway.

I’m looking forward to re-editing my manuscript based on their notes and getting it out in the world. Beta reading is about more than reaffirming an author’s confidence. It’s feedback from your market and a chance to see an objective view of something you can only be subjective about. It’s been fab to experience such great beta love and I hope my book will be all the better for it.

Where are you at with your stories? Are you nervous about beta reading? Have you been a beta reader? Do you think beta love is useful?

I always love to hear from you!

71,000 words down … 71,000 words to do again

Hello! I’m Sophie, I’m 22, I lack physical co-ordination, any spatial awareness and my greatest achievement so far in life is that my embarrassing anecdote of accidentally wedging myself half-in/half-out of a revolving door made it into Miranda Hart’s companion book ‘No It’s Us Too’. Bookshelf

I can’t remember when I started writing or how many unfinished stories I’ve got stashed in odd draws and littering my computer files but now I have finally, finally, finished writing an entire book. Hoorah! …. Or not. Everywhere I look online I find articles like ‘How to be Published’, ‘You’ve Written Your Book, What Next?’, ‘What Professional Writer’s Really Earn’ and ‘Dos and Don’ts of Submissions’. These articles have managed to simultaneously confuse me and scare me witless, leaving a trail of dark doubts about entering into this publishing lottery.

And yet, no matter how small my chances seem (and the odds do look abysmal) this is all I want to do. As painfully cliche as it sounds I have so many stories to tell … but let’s start with the one first.

Have you noticed there’s a great gap in the market for university and graduate fiction? There’s teen fiction, young adult (often a euphemism for older teen) and then it goes straight to stories aimed at adults dealing with your 20s, 30s, children etc. The university market is huuuge and yet I haven’t ever seen a book that centres around this time in your life. (If you’ve heard of any please let me know, I’d love to read them).

So with inspiration in the form of my lovely and hilarious friends,  I’ve written about five graduates who have come to live back at home, are nostalgic for their uni days, have no idea what to do with their lives and feel as grown up as they did when they were 16. They’re pretty much like us … except these graduates have stolen a load of money to get them through.

I’m trying to tell a ridiculous story in an honest way, so although the greater aspects of the plot might seem unlikely (to say the least) the smaller everyday aspects are something that should strike a chord. I say ‘should’ because I’ve yet to test it out. (I’d like to thank my friends in advance for reading this and also thank them for the use of their lives and anecdotes for commercial purposes). Don’t worry guys, they may have your lives but none of the characters are based on any of you.

Deciding how much personal experience to use was tricky, on the one hand a biography of my life would be as exciting as the manual to a toaster and on the other hand, writing about what you know makes a story more substantial. Using personal experience was unavoidable but instead of documenting our lives I caricatured them, made them funnier and more exciting to create something new and fiction worthy. I mean there’s the odd part that’s stayed the same … some things are too good to make up.

Writing and getting to the end of the whole book has been really fulfilling and it’s given me a sense of catharsis that I hadn’t anticipated … but it has been a lot of work. I read once that writing isn’t supposed to be fun and that actually helped me go the distance, it’s taken a lot of hours and evenings and weekends to get this far and it’ll take even more to get it to a readable standard but it’s worth it. I’ve yet to read the whole thing myself, I knew if I started looking back I’d never get to the end, so now I have a rough outline I’m going to go back over and colour it in.

For the moment however I’m taking a nice week off so I can view my story with fresh perspective. I’m going to brave the bug infested garden and enjoy the rare glorious British weather with a good book that someone else has written.

(Friendly tip to all, don’t try to read LCD screens in sunlight your retinas will never feel the same again.)