Breakfast Beta Readers

beta readersWriters NEED beta readers! It’s near impossible for most of us to determine if our work in progress is horrid or brilliant—or somewhere in between. That’s why it’s soooo sweet when we find effective beta readers.

Beta readers come in all shapes and sizes—kind of like breakfast cereals—each have their own style and unique charm!

Luck Charms’ Leprechaun: You deem this person your “lucky” beta reader. Not only are you lucky they agreed to beta read for you, their comments and suggestions are always sugar sweet. Using their analytic spade, they spoon through through your creamy plot  to make suggestions that are magically delicious.

Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger: This beta reader thinks everything you wrote is  “Gr-r-reat!” Which is great for your ego but maybe not so great for your manuscript. Although this beta readers can be a bit flaky at times—promising to finish reading by next week only to extend it until who-knows-when—they are often your most loyal and enthusiastic cheerleaders.

Rice Krispies’ Snap, Crackle, & Pop: Whether this refers to your beta reading team or a single beta reader with multiple talents, they excel at multiple levels. They find typos and awkward syntax in a snap!  Poor characterization or a plot flaws pop out at them! Although their stellar and knowledgeable literary/editing skills cause them ( and rightly so) to act a bit puffed up, they crackle with glee over a great story!

Fruit Loops’ Toucan: They follow their nose—it always knows—the flavor of a fruitful manuscript. These beta readers sniff out plot, characterization, setting, and theme from far away—perhaps the first chapter. And because they have a nose for the art of fiction they provide genre-specific comments.

Cap’n Crunch’s Cap’n Crunch: This beta reader looks at everything through their telescope and gladly rescues writers from soggy manuscripts by suggesting more crunch to their writing. Although they might not be a real captain of writing their comments are delivered in a Sea of Milky approval.

Yet, as you know, not all beta readers are sweet, so I’ll save a spoof on harmful beta readers for another post.

Related posts: Rock Your Writing; Readin’ & Writin’

Collateral Damage

collateral damageOne of the many perils of writing is dealing with the fallout from months of obsessive…um…enthusiastic writing, rewriting, and tweaking. There’s lots of fabulous information about what writers should do, yet not too much about what we don’t!

Here’s a What-Doesn’t-Get-Done list. Does it look like yours?

  • Any project at all—be it as easy as sewing on a button to shopping for more bookshelves.
  • Clean the fridge… or any time-consuming cleaning and organizing task!
  • Hang with friends. (True friends already know you’re a bit obsessive…um enthusiastic, that, and they really want to read your next book! )
  • Organize/file bills and receipts ( Thank goodness for auto pay.)
  • Shop for shoes. ( Comfort can’t be assessed on a website. )
  • Bake…except if it’s one of my children’s birthdays and they asked for a cake.
  • Cook any meal requiring more than an hour of prep and cook time—if there’s food in the house hubby should consider himself lucky.
  • Regular work outs decrease as the light-at-the-end-of-the-WIP-tunnel increases—   my fingers, however, are in excellent shape!
  • Impromptu visits to fun places. ( Usually a daughter drags me by the hair to the beach. “An afternoon away from the keyboard won’t hurt mom, I promise.”)
  • Stare lovingly into hubby’s eyes—oh, wait I don’t do that, and anyway it would probably mess up his golf stroke.
  • Teach the pooch new tricks. She’ll have to be content with mooching treats with the old ones.
  • Attempt any website overhaul—I’ve been itching to update my layout for months.

So what does one do in that brief bit of time between old project and new project? All of the above of course! And they will all be done with gleeful-happy-exuberant joy because, by golly, another novel is complete.

Maybe one day I’ll learn to manage my time better…nah…where’s the fun in that??

Related links: Rock Your Writing; Readin’ & Writin’

NFL Draft for Novels

NFL character draftsDo you choose characters like an NFL draft? Let’s break it down!

1st Round Draft Picks: These are the BIG stars. In the football world, they have talent and that ‘it’ factor to get the team to the promised land (Super Bowl). The 1st round picks in your novel are the protagonist and antagonist. You—as coach—must hone their natural talent and skill to get the most out of them—full character development  achieved through countless hours spent with dialog, action, and description. Readers expect great—or horrible—things from them! A 1st round draft pick who doesn’t deliver sends your team—your project—into the dumpster.

2nd Round: These are very good players who will—or should—complement the star players. These characters also complement your main characters by acting as a foil ( a character who highlights or contrasts the main character’s qualities. An example is Mercutio to Romeo ), and/or acting as the trusted confidant, and/or involved in a subplot. These characters are not usually as fleshed out as the stars but  readers feel they ‘know’ them just the same.

3rd-5th Round: These are supporting players building the team. They may not be the stars or 2nd picks but they are an integral part of making a team championship caliber. These characters can make or break your story by being ineffective, unbelievable, or cliche. A strong cast of characters—no matter how much ‘play’ time they get makes a stronger story.

6-7th Round: These players have potential and may even make the team but they are long shots. Sometimes these characters blossom while writing the story, even if it’s a bit part in your plot but chances are you didn’t even give them a name.

Mister Irrelevant: Celebrated one moment, gone the next! The last pick of the draft. These characters are expendable, a quick DELETE scene/paragraph and the writer forgets about them. They don’t usually make your story’s final cuts.

Undrafted Free Agents: These players need to try-out on a team, and although they rarely make the cut they may have latent talent. Likewise, these characters may be hidden gems or have potential for your next project. Don’t discount them.

Now that you’ve assembled your cast of excellent characters on Team Novel you’ve got a shot at the big time—finding an agent or scoring a publishing contract!!

Go, team, go!!

Related links: Readin’ &Writing’; Rock Your Writing


The Artistic Writer

One picture says a 1000 words. A luxury writers do not have. However writers have been known to get an idea to two from gazing at works of art. So in a silly effort to merge the two here are eleven famous paintings that describe the writing life.

First day last day



writing a query

writers conf


First drafts be like

rewriting a sentence.


slaying adverbs

Wrestling with 3rd draft



author platform

agent rejections

 On a more serious note, I flip though my art books or browse the web for:
  • a character’s facial features
  • a character’s body type
  • body postures, especially as it conveys mood
  • clothing styles, patterns, fabrics, especially historical garments
  • food from a particular historical period
  • architecture, houses, and furnishings from a particular historical period
  • historical detail or information ( if painting is accurate or painted in the same century)
  • colors that evoke a particular mood
  • landscape and the colors used to evoke mood

Related links: Rock your Writing; Readin’ & Writin’

The Real Comma Rules

Comma rulesGrammarians have been known to do battle over the vagaries of comma placement. Syntax skirmishes, semi-colon controversy, and other punctuation persnicketiness can get downright nasty! Good thing this post is about other kinds of commas!

Writing, rewriting, editing, and creating all require comma skills.

1. First and foremost, writers must learn how to accommadate their physical needs. Be it a room with a view, a quiet nook, a desk, favorite coffee shop, or a designated chair, writing is best accomplished with a routine.

2. Often you must act like a commando when it comes to revising and editing. Blast all typos, vague language, and trite sayings.

3. Learn to summon your inner commadian during trying times. Hissy fits, meltdowns, and tantrums don’t solve problems. Finding the funny doesn’t either—but at least you can write a humorous blog about it!

4. Avoid a commakazi approach when pitching, querying, responding to an agent rejection, or replying to a troller. Thoughtful, professional, polite discourse and emails are a must. As for trollers, non-engagement is the only  way to go.

5. Take time to engage in some commaraderie with folks on twitter and Facebook. Don’t neglect your friends either. Meet them for coffee and dinner…and try not to talk about your latest writing project.

6. Keep your dream to be comma millionaire novelist.playwright/screenwriter/poet/blogger to yourself.

7. Creating believable characters require the writer to be a commaeleon, portraying their emotions, intelligence, fears, joys, and ambitions with effective dialog and action.

8. Find someone to commaiserate with. We all need a venting buddy. Just make certain to end the bitchfest with uplifting thoughts for the future. If your ‘someone’ tells you to quit or give up find another.

9. Indulge in the art of comma sutra. Discover fresh ways to tell the story, find pleasure in finding the perfect word, and seek enjoyment in crafting the nuanced phrase.

10. Remember that the best word wizards practice  alcommay. Transmuting strings of  words into a riveting story demands patience and practice.

Now these are comma rules I think we can all agree on!

FYI: For a thorough look at actual comma rules, go to OWL at Purdue.

Related links: Rock Your Writing, Readin’ & Writin’