Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Revision Series - Part 2: Writing with Betas, which is like swimming with dolphins

Today is our second stop on the Revision Tour.**

Now armed with my plot grid and discussion questions, I went back to the beginning of my manuscript and started the actual writing part of rewriting.

There are two things that I found invaluable during this process. The first was Scrivener, a writing program for Mac that is so awesome it makes my teeth sweat. It's so awesome in fact, that it deserves a whole blog unto itself and I will endeavor to do that sometime in the near future.

The second was my beta readers.

As I wrote each chapter, I tried to police my own bad grammar and weak sentence structures. Of course, it's impossible to catch everything. So, I did the best I could and wrote all the new material I needed based on the holes I'd identified in the story during my first draft review. Some chapters came easier than others. There were times I wanted to throw my laptop across the room, and there were times I was filled with doubt about this new chronology.

Thank Heavens for my beta readers. I sent them each chapter as I finished, and in due time, they'd get back to me with notes. Each of them had something to offer, and I'd like to take some time to introduce them so you can get a good idea of what niche each of them filled.

One is J.A. Souders, who is a fabulous detail reader. She was the one who corrected all my weird punctuation, rearranged weak sentences and made encouraging comments in the margins. I can always count on her to take me to task on failure to show emotion and action. I got tons of notes like "What is she feeling here?" "I'd like to know what's going on." She's also got great eyes for finding those spots where characters start acting out of character. She was also open to going back-and-forth in e-mail until we ironed out any sticky issues. Sometimes I'd send her just a revised sentence or two to see if I'd clarified.

The other is Eleven-Eleven, who is like the Secret Squirrel of the writing world. She even has a wonderful blog that no one knows about. You should go there. But I digress. 11-11 is unbeatable for big picture stuff. She didn't give me a lot of in-line notes, unless something sucked so bad she couldn't contain herself. What she did give me was character analysis and accountability to the story arc. Her notes were more like, "Is she purposefully ignoring the 'burden' it might be to her own psyche?" and "Victim of circumstance is not nearly as interesting as boycotting men or throwing herself into the fray to no avail." We had endless chats through gmail, dissecting each scene and making sure those characters stayed true to what they wanted and needed. She talks about the story like it's really happening, which despite sounding insane is actually really helpful, and makes me feel less insane for feeling that way about it, too.

Suffice it to say that I could not have done it without their help, tireless attention to detail, and willingness to suspend disbelief with me for weeks on end. In case they haven't picked up on this by now: THANK YOU SO MUCH, JESSIE AND ELEVEN!!!

Now, tomorrow, I'll tell you all what I did with those copious notes.

Do you have any betareaders or critique partners you'd like to give a shout-out to?

- Liz

** This post is the third in a series about my process for revising a manuscript. Check here if you want to see the first (which was an overview), and here if you want to see the second (which was about reviewing the first draft)


MJ Heiser said...

There is NOTHING more valuable to a good writer than a good critic. Or, in this case, two.

I'm so happy for you I have to keep myself from peeing.

Kristan said...

Secret Squirrel, lol.

Another Scrivener lover, eh? I told my good writer friend Erin Danehy about it when she switched to Mac, but I'm afraid I myself could not get into it. It's just got too much going on for my tastes. I like the simplicity of Word (with all the toolbars and things turned off) -- so that it's essentially just me and a "blank page."

But I'm in the minority, from what I can tell. Everyone raves about Scrivener. Maybe someday I'll have to give it another try.

Liz Czukas said...

MJ - you're cracking me up. I'm the one who should be happy for you, lil' miss published writer!

Kristan - I'm sure I don't use Scrivener to its full potential, but I really like being able to jump from scene to scene without having to scroll through thousands of words. Plus, I like the way it compiles the manuscript at the end. Fixes all my wonky punctuation without my help!

Eleven Eleven said...

And you, my dear, are an absolute joy to work with. It's more rare than you think to find an author as responsive, respectful and grounded as you are.

Not to mention your story telling is highly addictive. I'd camp outside a Best Buy for days just for the honor of beta reading your work again. It's that much fun.

I like being compared to a crime-fighting animated rodent, especially one voiced by Mel Blanc. That's pretty cool.

Stephanie McGee said...

Just found your blog via Elizabeth Craig's tweet. Congrats on finding such great crit partners!

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