Getting closer… (On Beta feedback and next steps)

So, Beta feedback is slowly trickling in.  Three people other than me have actually read my novel and made it to the end – yippee!

At this point there are some things I know I need to change:

– Two character names.  One is too similar to another in the book (and a current politician).  One makes you think Maid Marion every time you read it.  (Not intentional, so that’s gotta go.)

– I have to change the name of the local drug.  None of my Betas mentioned it, but it’s used as a fairly common term in a certain cultural subset.  (Yeah, I know that made no sense.  Suffice it to say, it needs to change…)

– I may need to change the name of a god.  (Turns out it’s a real god.  I’ve known that since I chose it.)

For these first three, it’s interesting to me, because that character’s name is Marion and the god’s name is what it is.  But, for the sake of telling the story, they have to change.  I think back to school and how many Kim’s or Mike’s I knew, but if I were writing a story based on my childhood, there’d only be one of each.  It’s just hard to think of another name for them when I’m so sure that the name I’ve chosen is the right one for them.  Ah well.  Needs must and all.

– I also need to eliminate the use of dialect from the first chapter.  I have one character who uses it and he’s dead by the end of the chapter, so it just detracts from the story getting off and running.

– I may need to tweak when that first chapter starts, too.  I’m kind of anti action-packed hook.  So, I set the beginning of the story right after one climactic moment and a few days before the next.  But I’m reconsidering that.

– I need to tweak the end scenes a bit.  None of my Betas have pointed it out yet, but there’s one sequence of events that isn’t quite logical that I need to edit.

– I need to go through and correct my stupid little missed words here or there.  About ten total, so not too bad.

– And then I need to look at the commas and sentence edits from two of my Betas and see if I agree with them.

This is where it gets a bit interesting.  I have to listen to what my Betas say, because they have an outside perspective on it.  But I also have to stay true to my vision for the book.

As an example – early on, one of my characters kills someone.  And it’s not blatantly obvious that he’s done so.  It’s just what he does, so he doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  Before we get to the point where it becomes obvious that he’s responsible, one of my Betas was recommending edits that would have him thinking about how upset he was that he couldn’t save this person and what a tragic loss of life it was.

Well, obviously I can’t take those edits.

Another example is that one of my characters uses a phrase, similar to “God bless” or something like that.  And one of my Betas edited it out.  Again, can’t take that even if the edit is grammatically correct.  It removes part of that character’s voice.

It’s a fine line to walk – you have to be confident enough in what you’re trying to achieve to know when to refuse a suggested edit, but also humble enough about what you’ve done so far to be open to suggestions.

Not easy.

Good news is I am going to my first writing convention/workshop this weekend.  So, just in time to figure out how to fix my issues.  (I hope…)  One of them is that I’m writing in deep third person POV and I’m struggling with how to put character descriptions for each POV at the beginning.

I managed it for one of the characters, but not the other two.  And it isn’t good to have a reader find out that a character has a certain eye color on page 165.  As we’ve all been told, having a character look in the mirror is out.  And having someone make an “As You Know Bob” comment is out.  I’m not sure I’m a fan of starting with omni and then zeroing in.  So…

I do have a few ideas about how to fix it, but I’m going to wait until after the conference to try them out.

The crazy thing is, I don’t care too much about what people think most of my characters look like.  My mode of description can be best be described as, “They were in a place that was really mountainous and pretty.  Now, let’s get to what actually happens.  Oh, and it smelled fresh and clean.  Now…”  (Maybe not quite that bad, but close.)

But, if I am going to describe the characters at all at some point, I need to do it at the start. So…lots of fun ahead.

And there are still big picture issues I need to resolve.  Like, in a society that doesn’t believe in a god, would anyone say “damn” or make a wish?  Or, do I think in my world that the word “glacial” would exist?  And how should I capitalize my “religious text” when it’s referenced as a book versus as a set of sayings?  (Stuff my Betas really don’t care about.)

It’s funny.  For the Betas who gave me line edits, I can tell when they were absorbed in the story, because the number of edits drop substantially.  On the first few pages I have three or four edits a page (commas mostly) and then nothing for five or six pages.  So I actually have to be extra careful in reviewing those non-marked-up pages.

Such fun…

Hoping to be ready to query by end of the month, though.  Whoohoo!  Exciting.  (Until the rejections start rolling in (or more likely, the lack of responses)…but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.  One step at a time.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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