Friday, May 16, 2014

Beta readers are important.

As I finish up Faerylander, I asked my friend Paul Carrington, who was the only other person besides Linda to have read the previous version, for his thoughts.

He came into the store yesterday and talked to me about his impressions.

First of all, he really didn't have any trouble with the beginning half of the book it seemed -- which is where I was most concerned with it being clogged up or too slow to start.

He felt that the chapters in the last 40% of the book, just before the "action" chapters, didn't work.

As I've mentioned before, this has always been the problem spot for me, where I would lose faith in the story.  I think I've fixed that, by changing the motivations around.  Makes much more sense.

He also thought that the some of the scenes after the "action" chapters weren't necessary. The "running away" chapters as he put them.  I think I can fix that by cutting some of it.  Plus, at least a couple of the later chapters will no longer be necessary because of the new narrative.

I told him I wanted to get it down to around 100K words, so that the followup novels that are about 80K wouldn't look so weird, which Paul scoffed at.  "Lots of series has different sized books."

Probably a moot point, the book will be as big as it is.

In pursuant of that, I'm looking at any parts that are explicative, or asides.  It's hard to know sometimes if a scene is adding to characterization and/or atmosphere -- or isn't really necessary. A good rule of thumb might be that if the characterization and atmosphere aren't in the narrative itself, then adding it with extra isn't going to solve the problem.

But which are necessary and which aren't?

For instance, I told him I cut the bus scene with Parsons.

"Oh, no," Paul said.  "That was one of my favorite scenes -- that's where I really started to buy into the creature world you created."

So I'm putting it back in.

I'm still undecided about the Bestiary intro's to each chapter.  Some are very good and effective, but some are fill ins.  Paul thought they would work as a separate thing -- and I'd love to get sketches of each of the critters from some artist -- but I don't think that would happen unless the book is a huge success.   The entries explain a lot of material outside the narrative, which is helpful.  And really, the readers can pass over them if they want.  Just read the story.  I do that sometimes when I read a book with these types of things.

Anyway, it's really good to get outside opinions.  At this point, I'm not sure I completely trust my own judgement -- though I really have to trust my own judgement in the end.  But a little outside input doesn't hurt.

I'm really going to rely on my editor(s) this time, because it has become somewhat of a word-jumble for me.  I've been focusing on the "story" and trying to make the "writing" as good as I can, but I'm now at the stage where I can look at a paragraph and see five different ways to write it and not know which one is the best.  Argggh.

There is a "sense" of a book that I have -- the "feel" that it works or doesn't work -- and I think I'm almost there with Faerylander. 

My friend Dave Goodman has volunteered to read this version, and so has Paul again (a glutton for punishment).  I can't send it to my editor(s) for at least a month and a half because they are working on The Dead Spend No Gold right now.

So I'm going to finish this, give it to my Beta readers, and then come back to it in a month and finish up the version I send to the editors.

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