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how to write a book

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So, You Want to Write a Book Part II: Beta Readers

Congratulations! You did it! You finished what you think is the first official copy of your new novel! Your first draft is complete, you went back a second time and probably destroyed it and turned it into a second or maybe even third draft and you think it’s sounding pretty good. What do you do now? Good question! Part II of my series is all about the answer.

So, You Want to Write a Book – Part II

Call for Beta Readers

First and foremost, let’s address what a beta reader is. A beta reader is the first official group of readers for your novel. They are book lovers, maybe even writers themselves, but they don’t have to be. They can be family, friends, co-workers or teachers. The only two things your beta readers need to be are: passionate about books and 100% honest.

Beta readers will critique your story as a whole. They are going to dig into the plot, the flow, the character development and the story line. They will be your best assets. The one thing I will stress as mentioned above is that when choosing your beta readers, make sure they are not afraid to give their unbiased opinion. The more honest your beta readers are the better your novel will become.

It is through them that you will find out if you need to develop your characters more. You will understand if anything in your story needs to be elaborated on or removed completely. The best way I found to gain this feedback is to create a list of questions and send it to them with the manuscript (Find an example of mine here). They will read the list and have the questions in the back of their mind while they are reading.

How to Find Beta Readers

Your list of questions are created and it’s time to gather your group. My recommendation is to set up a Google Form submission and post a call in your blog and on your socials. Write a quick blurb summing up what your story is about so those interested can participate.

Keep your beta group small. I usually choose a maximum of 10 in a first come, first serve order. Any more than that and you’ll be overwhelmed.

Once you have your tribe selected, email them over your manuscript and list of questions. Give them a deadline. Two weeks should be plenty, but 3 weeks tops (unless it’s a massive 700 page novel).

Beta Reader Feedback

Once all of the feedback is received, look for consistencies in each person’s notes. You do not have to take everyone’s advice or input or take out everything they say, but if you see the same comments more than once, go back and take a look. Stand back from the author chair for a moment and sit in the reader’s while you mull everything over. It will help you better understand where they’re coming from and see if from the right prospective.

Then, guess what time it is? Yup, it’s editing time! Time to go through again and make any changes to your story you feel are necessary based on your beta group feedback.

In case you were wondering, this is only the beginning because next week we are going to dive even more into the editing piece. Part III is so eloquently titled finding the right editor. I’ll be talking about what to look for in your editor. What to make sure they do right off the bat and what types of edits I recommend. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on this important topic!

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So, You Want to Write a Book Part I: The First Draft

I am so excited to introduce my “So, You Want to Write a Book” 5 part blog series! I get messages all the time from people who have a goal of writing a book and don’t know where to start. Truthfully, I didn’t either and I sometimes feel as if I’m still learning! Though there are so many pieces to writing a book and different ways of doing things, I am going to be sharing 5 important steps and how they worked for me. Be sure to subscribe now so you can receive each part of the series in your inbox every Monday morning. Let’s get started!

So, You Want to Write a Book: Part I

Decide what you want to write about

The very first piece to the book writing puzzle is simple –figure out what you want to write about. Narrow down your choices by asking yourself a few of these questions.

1. What type of book do I want to write? i.e. fiction, non-fiction, full length novel, novella, poetry etc.

2. What am I passionate about? Romance, history, science fiction, vampires, real life lessons, celebrity gossip, mystery

3. Who am I trying to reach? Adults, teens, children

4. What do I want to say?

5. What message am I trying to get across?

6. What do I want people to get out of the story?

Once you’ve answered a few of your own questions and narrowed it down, the next step is easy!

Start Writing

Now, here is something that will absolutely vary with each author and that is the structure in which you will write. Some authors outline their novel from beginning to end. Others write as they go. I classify myself as other. I have never written an outline for any of my 4 novels. Once I figure out what I want to write about, I focus on the climax. What is the big WOW moment in my novel? Where does the story all come to a boiling point? That’s always the part I write first and then I build everything around it.

Starting from the beginning, I build up to the climax, but sometimes while I’m writing, a scene or quote for later on in my story pops up and I go with it. It doesn’t matter that it may be long after the scene I’m currently writing, I write it anyway. I can always go back and close the gaps, but that idea may be long gone if I wait until I get to that point in the story.

This brings me to my next piece of advice…

Don’t go back and edit

You will have plenty of time for that, trust me. You will be editing so much it will feel like your eyes are falling out. No matter how much you want to go back and change something, DON’T DO IT! Keep writing. Keep the story going. The first draft isn’t meant to be fabulous, it’s just meant to be finished.

Your story is going to change with each draft. If I were to hand you the first draft of Tear Stained Beaches, you would be astonished at how completely different it is from the final product. To be honest, it kind of sucked. It was boring and unemotional. The words didn’t portray the emotions I was trying to get out, but that first draft was the foundation in which I built on. Don’t destroy your foundation, have patience, what you create upon that foundation will be magical.

Enjoy the journey

Sometimes when I reread my novels, I cry. So many hours will go into this novel you plan to write. The emotions you will experience as you type are ones a select few will experience in life. Your soul bleeds into every single word. Your eyes will hurt, your heart will break and you will drive yourself crazy wondering if it’s enough, but let me tell you something, when you hold that very first printed copy in your hands, it will all be worth it. Enjoy the entire journey from start to finish, because it is that journey that makes you a writer!

Subscribe to my blog today so you don’t miss out on Part II: Finding the Right Beta Readers! What are Beta Readers? Why do we need them and how do we find them? I’ll be answering it all!