Tag Archives: beta reading

Baby Steps Today

If anyone is wondering where I've been, I've had company this weekend. My parents wanted to see the puppies while they are still puppies. It's kind of hard to argue with that. I love puppies myself. We spent most of our time visiting, and went for a nice dinner last night. My oldest son and his entire family decided to join us, my daughter, and her pseudo-boyfriend, so we had a big group. It's nice when we can all get together. It's kind of strange when you start hearing the term Great Grandma, or Great Grandpa.

Today, I dragged my generators to the garage door and started them up. I aimed the exhaust out into the driveway. My intention was to run them out of gas, but they're still going about six hours later. I put them away two years ago and haven't run them since. Old gas is the enemy of engines, and I expected more problems. We are taking the camper out next weekend, and this time we'll need the generators.

I swept out the garage, and intend to finish if the little buggers ever run out of fuel. Right now my dust pile is next to them, waiting for them to finish. Garage is looking pretty good though.

While waiting, I took my turn at puppy patrol. They're both pretty good, but Nyx sometimes doesn't remember to go to the door for a potty break. So far, so good today.

I also worked through my critiques. We met Tuesday, and I stashed them until my parents went home. Yak Guy is still a hit with the group. I need to figure out how to get all the non-fun parts finished.

I tried to talk my wife into stealing away this afternoon to see Pirates, but she wouldn't have it. I feel like I accomplished some reasonable things today.

Tomorrow is my flex day, so there is a small chance to work on the beta reads I received for The Enhanced League. It all depends on luck, but maybe I can move that project closer to completion.

What did you guys do this weekend? Hope you had a good one.

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Ready for the work week

My last day at the office was Wednesday. I have to go back tomorrow. Admittedly, I took this time off to pay my debt as an author. This might come as a surprise to many of you readers, but it will make sense to the authors out there. I'll try to give the rest of you a glimpse into the secret club today.

I need proofreaders, critique groups, beta readers, blog hosts, and reviews to make my books a success. There isn't a kind of shop where you can go get all of that. Being self published is often a matter of supporting your hobby without going too far into the hole. The big dream is to turn a profit someday.

The truth is you can pay for many of those services, but it gets kind of expensive after a while. This is why we all tend to help each other. At a bare minimum, we are a fresh set of eyes who can spot the difference between hear and here in a manuscript. It's hard to spot these kind of things in your own work. There are also times when we know exactly what we're describing, but readers aren't getting that vision. Different eyes will raise a red flag at these points.

I take advantage of this kind of help, so it's important to provide it in turn. We don't typically share project for project. It's more like a pool of authors who will do what they can – when they can. I rarely get the same people from project to project, but in the long run – they are the same group.

Most of my time off was spent paying my authorly debts. The rest was spent on other duties, just like at the workplace. I'm proud to say I finished my last authorly project at about 1:30 today. Then I hauled off all the fruit tree branches, and declared myself done.

I feel a bit like that guy at the top of the post, but I also feel pretty darned good about it. I got to read some awesome stories, some for a review, some as a beta reader.

The good news is that my metaphorical office is clear. On my next day off I can return to my own novel. I'm kind of excited about it to tell you the truth.

I'll spend the rest of the evening catching up with most of the blogs I neglected to read. After that, it's off to bed early enough to go to my workplace all fresh and ready for work.

One of these days I'll have to take some time off for the sake of time off. It could happen, someday.

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A small chores update

Honestly, I'm starting to wear out on chores. I've been away from the paycheck job since Wednesday at quitting time, and don't have to go back until Tuesday. During that time, I've hit the chore list hard.

I'm not embarrassed to say I didn't get as much accomplished today. I managed to get my critique work done for our meeting on Thursday night. I put it in my truck, because that's my insurance policy against forgetting it when I need it.

What I didn't post about was pruning fruit trees. The sap is up now, so I stopped at about 2/3 to 3/4 of what I want to remove. After the trees adjust, I can trim the rest. They're all in a big pile in the back yard, and my son and I are hauling them to the dump tomorrow. Part of the peach tree must weigh 400 pounds, so I'm glad to have an extra back involved. This stuff takes time too, but it didn't do much to advance my author agenda.

Today, I worked on my beta reading project. I'm about 2/3 of the way finished now. If everything works out well, I may finish and deliver my notes tomorrow. (Maybe)

I also assembled and scheduled Thursday's Lisa Burton Radio. I have two other interviews out there in cyberspace, but it's Sunday night and the first guy finished became the first guy scheduled.

Honestly, I could have hit it hard and finished everything else, but I'm wearing a bit thin. I caught up with recordings of S.H.I.E.L.D., and don't regret it a bit. ABC scheduled this beyond reality for a working man, so I have to record the episodes and watch them later.

My other son and I also stayed up late every night playing Diablo III, and we had a great time. I think my wife is wearing out on us, but she's the one who surprised me with an X-Box. (So there.)

My so called vacation was a lot of work, mixed in with a bit of fun. We even worked two date nights into the mix. The good news is my path is cleared, or will be very soon, and my next day off may let me work on my novel.

Hope all of you had a Happy Easter.

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Ah, Spring…

Ah Spring, the grass is green and we've even cut it once. The birds are singing, my fruit trees are all in bloom with honeybees visiting the blossoms. And the, what the f—?

Must be Idaho. Nice time to burn some vacation leave and enjoy Spring.

Seriously, I took some time off to work on projects. I've been fairly productive so far. I finished reading a book and posted a review. I worked on three different shticks for Lisa Burton Radio and sent all those out. I even managed to start my beta reading project. I seriously believe that if you want the benefit of beta readers, you have to provide the benefit of beta reading to others.

I'm feeling pretty comfortable with my reading at this point, but I also promised another friend an ARC read. I don't have to return to work until Tuesday, so I could get more done than I originally hoped.

Between these projects, I pecked away at my own post for the Rave Reviews Book Club party, and managed to get it scheduled too. I also got my next Story Empire post scheduled. That should buy me a bit of time.

If I get back to my own writing, The Yak Guy Project will be front and center. I want to finish that manuscript so I can park it for a few weeks. During that time, I can do my edits of The Enhanced League. Doubt the raven is waiting to tear my soul apart over that book, and he's been patient this time.

Enhanced League has a cover, and I'm waiting to finish the promotional art so I can take it on tour. That's at least a month down the road, but I'm planning ahead. I need to get it to beta readers before I can tour it around. Beta readers need time to deliver their mark-ups, and you can't rush this part.

After all that, I'll think about a cover for Yak Guy and start the process all over again.

I've been adding the occasional note to my storyboards for two novellas and my next novel. These are mostly organized chaos right now. Plenty of time to polish them up after my books are published.

I may just turn a corner and blog ahead this weekend. I'd like to have a couple of things ready for Chris Graham, I can hold them in case I get one of the books published. When the time gets closer, I can either say something about the new book, or send one of the prewritten pieces. I also have several new ideas for Story Empire that I may rough out.

Tonight, I'm kind of pooped out. If I do anything else, I'll go back to beta reading. That's highest in priority right now.

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Feeling pretty good about today

This will be another one of my rambling productivity posts. I'll try to ask a question or two to get the comments going. Today was only a flex day, but I feel like I had enough productivity to call it a weekend.

I started out by clearing a couple of tasks before bed last night. I also unwrapped a tea pellet to try it after it aired out for a bit. The tea today was awesome, and I skipped coffee entirely. The fishy taste is completely gone.

My main goal was to work on a beta reading project, and I moved that ahead substantially. If you've never done it, it's different than pleasure reading. I'm expected to deliver some comments and suggestions at the end. Because my memory goes everywhere, I started a document right away. I chose to do a chapter by chapter breakdown. This requires a certain amount of going back and forth. Great progress, fun story.

I took a few social media breaks, as one does. After I felt like I accomplished something, I returned to my outline.

I'm pretty excited about this story. I'm forcing myself not to start writing until I finish a couple of things up. The outline is finished enough to start writing now. I went ahead and added some photographs and reminders to the cork board, but it's ready.

I'll start the other one, and keep working on one for a novel as winter winds down. Which brings me to another point. These two stories are intended to be novella length. I've never really dabbled at that length before.

Some of my short stories may have drifted into novella territory, but realistically, they are short stories. Word counts for the various lengths are all over the place, so I made up my own based upon research, averaging, and what feels appropriate. I have novellas down as being 30,000 to 50,000 words.

So why would I want to create such a monstrosity? Sales dropped off after I stopped my autumn promotions. This is fairly predictable: no promo = no sales. The only things that seem to sell right now are the Experimental Notebooks. There could be all kinds of reasons for this, so let's explore a few.

It's possible that 99¢ books are more attractive to readers. Everyone I've talked to says price doesn't matter if they want to read the book, but my 99¢ books are the ones moving. It's also possible that short fiction is appealing. I love the stuff, because I can read one as I find time. I can make a storybook last for months without losing the plot, because the stories end after a few thousand words. In total honesty, it could also be author friends who want to test drive my writing. It happens, so I'll acknowledge it.

Speaking of the Experimental Notebooks, the first one has been parked at 19 reviews for weeks now. That's such an ugly number. Would anyone like to post a review for the first Experimental Notebook and make it look all pretty? It has a Lisa Burton story.

Novellas would combine some of my theories. They are shorter, and can be finished faster. (Reading and writing, now that I think about it.) They can also be 99¢ books. There is a possibility they could be attractive. That's why I'm planning this all out. Let's face it, self publishing gave short stories a new life, why not novellas? What do you guys think?

If it all works out, I'll go back and forth between two novellas for my summer writing projects. In a perfect world, my novel outline would be ready to start in the fall of 2017.

I'm pretty happy today. It wasn't a bunch of things, but it was bigger progress on a couple of things.

This weekend will be dedicated to The Yak Guy and The Enhanced League, but my slate is fairly clean. We're also taking the grandkids to see Sue the T-Rex at the Discovery Center. (Don't kid yourselves, I want to see it too.) Beyond writing, meaning when my brain says stop, I'll get back to my beta reading.

So how about it? What do you think about novellas? Have you ever been a beta reader? Have you seen Sue the T-Rex? Do you use a storyboard for outlining, or shun outlining all together?

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Working a different direction

I took an actual vacation day today. I've done this for writing purposes before, but not this time. This time, I wanted to fulfil some reading commitments. I've been reading one book for far to long, and wanted to finish. I also promised a friend a beta read by March. I always try to meet my deadlines, and needed to clear my slate so I could start on the new book.

I got that much done today. I have a clear deck now, but did not start the new reading. I also have 2.5 Lisa Burton Radio spots to get started on, and will probably address those tomorrow. This is the life of a modern day author.

I also worked on some blog art for my next Story Empire post. With the new group members, I'm not up again until late February, but it's still something I needed to accomplish. My Apple Pencil needed charging, so I goofed on social media while I waited.

I need to think up something for my February banner, but nothing is clicking there. I have time, and something will probably come to me. February is just a boring month. Maybe I'll make something that has nothing to do with February.

Writing takes a back seat, but reading is good exercise for a writer. In that spirit, it wasn't unproductive at all. Promotion must be done, and I'm tricking myself into thinking the radio spots are branding for me, even though the posts are about the guest authors.

I'll probably pick up my critiques and work on those to fill in the corners. Maybe I'll change my pinned tweet again. It's been a couple weeks since I changed it, and it's time.

Tonight we're going for pizza and beer. A guy can only do so much of this stuff in one stretch. Maybe the elixir of creativity will give me an idea for my next banner art.

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2017 Business Plan

I intended to wait a day or two to write this, but I have time right now and decided not to wait. I'll probably get lost in a sea of New Years Resolutions, and the word count may scare some readers away, but here goes.

Being a writer involves many skills, and I want to improve all of them. I've written before how there is no magic bullet that will put one of us over the top. It takes work, and improvement, on all fronts to get there. Identifiable places to work on are:

  • Concept
  • Craft
  • Promotion

There are several sub-bullets like inspiration, social media, and research, but you get the point.

Concept

I think I'm pretty good with inspiration, and Lorelei the Muse takes pretty good care of me in this department. I use my push feeds to keep my imagination well lubricated, and film also helps a bit. Now, with the new X-Box, maybe this new media will play a role too. I'm not going to dwell too hard on this part of being an author. Maybe not everyone is like this, but to me ideas are easy to come by.

Craft

Personal challenges have served me well over the years. It makes me work to accomplish new things, but I may have slacked off in the outlining phase in 2016. I need to make sure my preferred three act structure has all the required beats and not trust to faith that something will come to me after I start. This can be a full outline, or even bookend outlines, but I need to tighten this process up.

Craft can apply to promotion too, and I can't decide whether to discuss it here, or under the next heading. I've learned over time to write tighter on the blog. I started out with 2000 word posts, and today many posts are 400 words. This is a double edged sword, because I tend to work through a novel with the same brevity these days. The answer is to have more situations to create a novel. The risk is too many situations that don't drive the plot or character arc. At least I'm aware of this.

I currently have two different craft books on my Kindle app, and I need to get on with reading them. One has been there for nearly a year. Which brings me to reading in general. Reading is important to both craft and concept, and I need to do more of it.

Promotion

Writing is something I do for fun, but seeking commercial success is part of my personal challenge. I believe it pushes me to improve my skills by putting my work out for scrutiny. A trunk full of stories doesn't provide much feed back. Because of this, promotion is a necessary evil.

2016 marked a big improvement in this area for me. Some things didn't pay off, others were mediocre, and some were rousing successes. This is a good place to keep what works, and either improve or discard that which doesn't.

Social media requires work, there's no other way to put it. This blog remains the main focus for me, and it makes sense, since I can write longer pieces than say Twitter allows. My views are up considerably, in fact it's 50% more than last year.

Other forms of social media work, and I've moved books because of Twitter. I'll keep honing my skills in this arena. Facebook quickly became a distraction for me, but it has some benefits. I find many photos and pieces of art to inspire me. I'm a very visual person, and a piece of art can inspire a whole story, and has. It's a great source of ideas for Lisa Burton too.

I need to find a way to make Facebook produce a few sales too. I'm kind of at a loss here, but I pushed a few posts and it drove people to me to a small degree.

I've considered additional forms of social media, but I have to consider available time too. Google Plus has some appeal, but the best reports are from Google themselves. Authors just aren't out there singing its praises. I'm open for comments in this arena. A friend mentioned one called Triber at one time too, but I haven't done a lick of research.

Being a visual person, I'm surprised I haven't looked into Pinterest or some of the other forms. I'm afraid I'd just waste more time surfing through science fiction art or other things. If some of you know how to expand an author's footprint here, I'm open to suggestions. This includes Instagram and other formats too.

Lisa Burton as my spokesmodel works well for me. Her show promoting characters from other books is popular enough to keep going. I may not be able to post one every week, but that's more dependent upon other authors than me. I guess what I'm saying is not meeting a goal doesn't always equal failure. This is a good spot and I'm keeping it. They will post on Thursdays, and I hope to get enough volunteers to keep it fairly regular.

I have a folder full of images to help Lisa with my own book promotions, and I'll be talking to Sean Harrington soon about them. Her blog images need to keep updated too, and I commissioned an interesting piece over the weekend with ideas to use it over at Story Empire. Her sign shaker image was really useful, in that I can write whatever I want on her sign. This lets me use it as many times as I like.

Lisa has drifted across several decades with her style, and I may let her explore the 60s, 70s, and 80s this year too. I even have one cool image of a Gibson Girl from the late 1800s – early 1900s I may base something on.

It looks like I've dedicated a lot of space to promotion when compared to the others. That ought to tell me something right there.

***

So what are my 2017 plans? I have two books I want to put out this year, The Yak Guy Project, and The Enhanced League. I have three ideas for shorter stories, and they may reach novella length. If they don't, I'm sure there will be another Experimental Notebook. I'd like to release a 99¢ novella, but I'm not making it a goal. The stories will tell me what to do after I write them.

There is the possibility of an invitation to another anthology, and maybe one of those will fit the bill. I have to write them before I do anything else.

As far as the writing goes, I want to outline my science fiction novel, tentatively called Grinders. I'd like to actually start writing it, but there is going to be some promo after the two projects above, and I need to allow time for that. I can fill in the gaps with micro-fiction and short stories… and reading.

I need to read more of the things I actually want to read. I enjoyed all the beta projects, and believe I helped those authors to some degree. ARC reading is fun too, but I need to read more of the things I choose. This may require me to say “No” on occasion to a request. I have a hard time with that, but may have to accept it. This doesn't quite read the way I want it to. I enjoyed all the books I read. For my own advancement, I need to read more hard core science fiction, paranormal, and fantasy books. In many cases this means traditional publishing.

Fun has to enter into the mix too. There really isn't any other reason to do all this, because the money doesn't justify it. I enjoy Lisa Burton Radio, and it helps me expand my footprint. I'm going to need places to promote my wares, and maybe someone will be there for me if I help them promote. Lisa Burton Radio is staying.

I also signed up to host tours again for the Rave Reviews Book Club. This helps those authors, and it brings me traffic. There really isn't a down side to this, so it's pretty obvious. I'm still open to hosting my friends too.

In the pure enjoyment category is Macabre Macaroni and The Idea Mill. I'm keeping them simply because it makes me happy. I get some fun conversations going with both of them, and even a bit of feedback.

Story Empire has a ton of potential, and working with others teaches me new things. I hope we can step things up over there and expand it into a valuable resource for our contributors. We have tentative plans to discuss that sometime this month.

I'm debating submitting The Yak Guy Project to a small press publisher. I'm on the fence about this, but it's in my mind. If there is any extra money, I would like to try an audio book too. I already have suitable titles, and maybe it would help me reach a new audience. This isn't someplace to dive blindly in, and research is required.

In the miracle department, I'd like to have one more really good idea. Lorelei isn't the Muse of self promotion, and I'm afraid I'm on my own here. Lisa Burton Radio is good, her spokesmodel work is good, maybe there is something else nobody thought of that will come to me. This usually requires a peaceful camping trip somewhere that allows my mind to rest.

A lot of words with less hard-core goals this year. I tend to set deadlines and bust my ass to meet them, but 2017 isn't the year for that. It's more about keeping what works, and making small improvements and tweaks.

Let me know if you have anything more to offer. I'd like to hear about other forms of social media. I hope all your business plans work out in 2017.

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