Dead Weight Completion And Beta’s

On August 3rd, three days after I’d hoped to have it done, I wrote “The End” on Dead Weight.

Breaking the deadline by three days isn’t so terrible, so I’m counting this as a win-win all around. The book will need at least two more rounds of revision, but I won’t be touching it for the rest of the year.

Normally at this point, I would track down my wonderful Beta Readers and beg them for their time to read and give feedback on the draft. Some of them require a pint of blood for this transaction, but I’m happy to pay the price if it means I’ll get solid critiques to work with.

However, this year I’ve been studying my craft a bit more and I’ve come to the conclusion that I send the drafts out too soon.

This would be the difference between the Alpha Reader and the Beta Reader. I do have one Alpha Reader who gets my work almost as soon as it’s done. He gets me excited for my work even when I’m frustrated and can’t figure out what’s broken in the manuscript, which is invaluable for a writer.

If you’re a writer and you don’t have an Alpha Reader who happily (or sometimes just politely) listens to your ideas, and then constantly asks if you’ve written that day, I encourage you to find one.

A Beta Reader, on the other hand, is supposed to see a more completed draft. They aren’t — or shouldn’t be — hunting for any huge problems in the plot structure. They look for the motivations of the characters, and the places where the description gets so scrambled they can’t quite picture what’s going on.

Some people can give a second draft to their Beta’s, but I have learned that I cannot.

Why?

Well, because with certain novels my second draft has a completely new ending to it.

Okay, so many of my novels end up that way. I get to the last five chapters of the book and then I have to step back. I go work on something else for a while.

And by “a while” I mean a couple of months.

Then, when I’ve been separated from the novel for long enough, I can sit down and do a “revision” of everything already written. This helps me see the promises and sub plots and themes that may have worked themselves into the manuscript so that I can create a more satisfying ending.

But that ending is still a first draft ending.

So … My wonderful Beta Readers, who I love so much, and who – hopefully – understand this plight, will not be receiving a request for feedback until after the next revision.

Which won’t be happening until January.

The Working Blurb

I think I’ve read so many books on how to write books that it’s actually a little sad now. On the one hand, I’ve picked up some invaluable advice from people far more experienced than me, and on the other hand …

I think I could have stopped at the 7th book. Most of them tell you the same things but in different ways.

Things like …

“Choose a designating writing time and make it a habit.” (I do try to do this. 6-7:30AM is my time now, but schedules change so it’s likely to go back to 8-10:30PM again soon.)

“Read. Read. Read some more.” (Psh! You can’t stop me from reading.)

“Outline.” And  … “Don’t Outline.” And … “Do whatever, just get words on the page.” (That last one is my motto.)

Or … and I actually have done this  …

“Take your favorite novel by your favorite author (not you) and hand-write the first three chapters.”

Actually, I think they said to go ahead and hand-write the whole book, but I never went past the first three chapters. The point of the exercise was to pay attention to style and voice and, as crazy as it sounds, it actually works.

But among my favorite tools when first starting a new project is writing the “working blurb.” It’s also been called the “nugget” for those familiar with the lingo. Normally it’s only 50-100 words but I let it push out to 150 sometimes.

Basically, this “working blurb” goes in place of my title page during the first draft. I have copies of it on 3×5 cards in my wallet and attached to the notebook where all the hand-written material is. It is what keeps me excited about the novel and helps remind me what I’m hoping to accomplish.

And in the spirit of the new project I’m going to share it today. To all fellow authors out there who may not have attempted writing a “nugget” or a “working blurb” before, I highly suggest you try it. It’s just 100-150 words that make you want to write the book.

Dead Weight – Working Blurb

Reeling after their narrow escape from Europa the crew of the hauler class ship Zephyr seek refuge in Sect Space, as far removed from the Consulate as they can get. With their covers blown and their former Captain comatose, Jorry and Seach find themselves answering a call for help from an old friend. The call takes them to Saturn, deep inside Consulate space, and to make matters worse, Jorry is still haunted by the man she killed on Europa. 

As Jorry slowly loses her mind, Seach must find a way to keep them all out of Consulate hands. When the ship is damaged, they are forced to dock with an abandoned station hidden in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. But they aren’t the only one’s wandering the corridors of this dead station and whatever is lurking there isn’t pleased by their trespass.