Friday, March 25, 2016

Obsessions Lead to Unfinished Projects

I have been a bit obsessed with writing prompts. Probably because I'm planning to write a collection of short stories for a combined Camp NaNo/Blogging from A to Z project. I searched Pinterest and found a lot of really great prompts, but was thinking I would like to try my hand at creating them. Instead of just making a few I decided that it would be way more fun, and by fun I mean probably lots of unnecessary work that I enjoy anyway, to make a collection of writing prompt categories and then lots of loosely related prompts. of course I HAD to color code them for easy visual discernment. I would say everyone needs a hobby, but theoretically writing IS my hobby. Perhaps my actual hobby is procrastination and collecting unfinished projects. So onto sharing my newest project.

Prompt Type:

Situation Drop-in Prompt - Red
Still Need a Gimmick - Orange
Write a Story About - Yellow
Include These Things Challenge Prompt - Green
Dialog Prompt - Blue
Place Prompt - Indigo
Character Prompt - Violet

Today I have a yellow prompt just for Lake Writers. The photo is from Pixabay and I used Picmonkey to add a yellow overlay. I have always thought ideas would be yellow if you could see them. Probably related to the iconic incandescent light bulb coming on over your head having a yellow glow. This prompt came to be because I was discussing Baldar Blunts and SCA archery with a friend.

I am sure you noticed that poor orange has been left out and my neurotic friend Roy G. Biv won't just let me skip orange so I need your help. I must be honest and tell you all the reason there is no orange is because my brain just went on strike. Over at Ink Dipped Moon I'm running a contest to try and find an idea for the orange category and the prize is a $20 Amazon gift card. Go check out the rules, but hurry entry ends 11:45pm on March 31st. Be sure to check back on April 1st when voting begins and April 5th when the winner is announced. Good luck.

Do you ever use writing prompts to get started or break through writers block? Where do you find the best ones? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, March 18, 2016

All About Beta Readers

     A while ago I was privileged enough to have two writing friends send me their manuscripts to read. At the time I had no idea what a Beta Reader was or how I should proceed. Instead I got bogged down in line edits and I was afraid to tell them how I felt for fear of offending them. Sadly, I ended up not sending anything back to them and I felt horrible about it. I was a BAD Beta Reader. Don’t be like me! Here is what I have learned since then about the benefits of having a GOOD beta reader and how to be one. 

     First let's talk about the benefits. You’ve written your novel, gone through a few drafts, and you feel pretty comfortable with your manuscript. Now you may think that it’s time to ship it off to an editor. But sending it to a few Beta Readers first can be a better option. In contrast to an editor, a Beta Reader will give you more of the big picture. If you end up making lots of changes it would be better to make those changes before you send it off to an editor. It could save you the time and money of having it edited twice. A second, third, fourth opinion is always a good plan especially with something you've put so much work into. You want to make sure it's the best it can be before an agent/publisher sees it. This is even more true for those self-publishing. With an agent or publisher you will automatically be getting more opinions as it goes through the process of publication. With self-publishing you are the only judge of your manuscripts readiness...unless you utilize your Beta Readers. 

What a Beta Reader will tell you: 
-If there are inconsistencies in your timeline 
-If a character comes off differently than you intended 
-If something wasn’t explained enough 
-If something was overly explained
-If they connected (or didn’t) with the story on a personal level and how 
-If the use of third person works or if it might sound better in first person 
-If there are areas where the story lags 
-If you set up an expectation in the beginning that didn't deliver on 
-If your descriptions are evocative enough 
-If vital plot points are missing 
-If the research behind something is inaccurate 
-If they love it so much they want to tell all their friends 
...And much more 

What a Beta Reader will not tell you: 
-If you used too many commas 
-If you spelled something wrong 
-If you repeated words 
-If your paragraphs are too long 
-If your grammar is wrong/confusing 
...Basically, a Beta Reader is not a line editor. 

What makes a good Beta Reader: 
     A good Beta Reader will be in your audience of intended readers. If you’re writing YA, try to find teens and young women as these are the main readers of this genre. If you are writing a mystery find people who are mystery readers. It’s also good to have a reader outside of the intended audience to get an idea of whether your novel has a broader appeal. If you can find a Beta in the publishing field that would be extremely helpful as well.
     A good Beta Reader is also a fellow writer and cheerleader. Someone who you can exchange work with for honest feedback. Most importantly they are thorough and prompt with their feedback.  
     They may not your best friend, mom, dad, or spouse. Unless, of course, you have the kinds of friends/family who are going to be completely honest with you. Do not choose Beta Readers that will be afraid to tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Remember you need authentic feedback so that you can make your manuscript better. Pandering is not going to help you improve. However, a good Beta Reader knows that delivering criticism mixed with compliments is a more productive method of giving feedback. 

How to find a Beta Reader: 
     There are many ways to find Beta Readers. A mixture of these will help you find the right people. Remember not all of your Betas will work out. People have lives that sometimes interfere. Don't be surprised if you get back less manuscripts than you send out. That being said, here are some ideas for finding Beta Readers. 
     If you're part of a regular critique group or have a friend you exchange work with you can ask them to read your manuscript. This is a great option as you will already have a comfortable dialogue with this person. The one drawback may be that this person has already seen previous drafts. If they know what your manuscript used to be like, that might color their reaction to the updated version. You want fresh feedback.
     Try online writing communities like Wattpad, Scribophile, Worthy of Publishing and Figment. These are great places to post your work and get feedback from other writers as well as readers. An additional benefit on these sites it that your work is automatically protected. Sending your work out to strangers always has its risks. 
     Networking. This is a simplified answer, obviously, but networking is always a great place to meet other writers. Follow other writers on Twitter. Comment on their blog posts. Go to workshops. Meet other writers and exchange manuscripts and feedback. The benefit of networking is friendship and camaraderie. Don't connect with a writer just to get them to be your Beta Reader. You risk making them feel like you're using them. Make connections, feel it out. If it feels right, then ask. Be prepared to do the same for them in return.
     Friends of friends. Remember when I said not to let your BFF be your Beta? I stand by that, but your BFF's daughters friends uncle who reads a lot of middle grade fiction because he's a middle grade teacher might be interested in giving you feedback for an opportunity to read new work. Ask friends if they know anybody who reads your genre and might like to read your book and give you feedback. These people can be anywhere in the country or even the world. Think big! Also remember to ask your writer friends if they have any Beta Readers they use who might be looking for more. 
     Some people do charge a fee to be Beta Readers. If you find you've plumbed your resources and come up short you might want to give that a try. Or you might just prefer a professional so you know what you're getting. If you do a search for "Manuscript Critique" you will come up with lots of options. Like editors, these people are pros with websites that tell you what to expect from them and testimonials from other writers. 

How to deliver your manuscript:  
     You can give your Beta the entire manuscript physically or email it to them. You can also give it out to them a chapter or act at a time. In the case of websites like Wattpad they work best released in installments. Just make sure to put it out on specific days so people know when to expect it. It's a good idea to talk to your Betas about when you'd like to receive your manuscript back. Make sure to give them plenty of time to read and reflect. If you aren't sure about a new Beta Reader you can always send them one or two chapters and see what happens. If it works out, then send them the rest.  

What you get back: 
     In return you should expect at least a page but often several pages of feedback. If your Beta is a pro you'll likely get back something very organized whereas a friend of a friend might just come back with stream of consciousness impressions. Both can be equally helpful. You can even send the manuscript out with a list of questions. If you search "Beta Reader questions" you will find some great examples. 
    You might get back something you disagree with, or nothing at all. Don't pester your Betas, especially if they are helping you out of the kindness of their hearts. Give them space, maybe a friendly reminder or two. If you still aren't hearing from them and it's been quite a while you can ask for your manuscript back and let them know you've already moved on with your edits. Then never ask them to be a Beta Reader for you again. It might take a while to find the right people but you'll know when you have. Keep your readers to a minimum, perhaps 3-6, and if one drops out you can try a new one. You don't want to be too overwhelmed with feedback. More is not necessarily better in this case. 
     You will get conflicting or disagreeable feedback. It will be up to you to decide what to use and what to leave. Take note of any patterns. If multiple people tell you one of your characters is unlikable and they're supposed to be the main love interest, you might want to pay attention to that. 

Taking the next step with your manuscript, releasing your baby into the world (at least a few people in it) is going to be scary, but also incredibly rewarding. You'll end up with revisions to do but you will also know that your manuscript is being honed, polished and prepped for publication. Walking up to that threshold will be one of the best feelings in the world.

Katerina Dennison lives in Mount Dora, FL with her three annoyingly adorable cats, and husband. She is currently finishing the first novel in a seven book paranormal YA series Moose Cove Coven, which will be posted on Wattpad in May 2016. When she's not writing fiction she's blogging or instagraming about her favorite things; Disney, cats, veganism, photography, writing, nail polish and tarot. You can find her blogs on WordPress.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Flowers are blooming and writers are plotting

Spring is in the air! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, writers are plotting… Yes, plotting is a year-round activity for us but most especially right now! There are two fantastic writing challenges open for sign-up and both run from April 1st thru 30th.

Camp NaNoWriMo
Camp NaNo is a light version of the November NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month) The chief difference between the two, besides a different month, is the ability to choose your word count goal.

You can set your goal for a minimum of 10,000 words on up to multiple hundreds of words. You also have the option of joining a Cabin. The cabin consists of fellow writers based on the criteria you choose in cabin preferences. Maybe a like genre, age, word count or choose random. It’s a great way to meet new wordsmiths and encourage each other on through the month like we do in our regional forums.

There is another option, you may choose to host a private cabin and invite all your friends doing camp to join it. Lake Writers has a private cabin so we can all push each other to that finish line.
Camp usually doesn’t have regional write-ins and such like the hard core November session but many do participate in some way so be sure to check your regional forums or local writer’s group to find out.

Lake Writers uses our regular meetings on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of April as our write-in nights for Camp. This year we have a bonus, Astor County Library, in Astor, Florida will be sponsoring Tuesday night write-ins.

So get on over to and sign-up for this writing adventure. Plus you won’t have to worry about mosquitos or poison ivy at this camp.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge
If you are a blogger this one is right up your alley! Starting April 1st bloggers will create a post that on the A to Z calendar but it’s okay to post on them if you like)
begins with the letter A. The following day’s post begins with B and so on through the alphabet. (Sundays aren’t counted

You can write something random every day or choose a theme. For example, each day is a post about a mythical creature, writing tips, themed flash fiction, historical facts, types of something, places that begin with that letter, and so many more.

There are literally over a thousand bloggers who sign-up for this challenge. Which makes it even more awesome, especially if you have a young blog or a blog that needs a bit of growth.  Participants are not only encouraged but it’s required that you visit at least a few of your fellows on the list. Which leads to activity boost on your blog. Not only will you get more comments and views, you’ll gain followers and find other fantastic blogs to follow too. It brings our blogging community closer together and is also pretty damn fun to participate in.

Visit their website for more information and to sign-up Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Both of these April challenges are free to join and participate in. There are no “prizes”, but you get some cool badges to sport on your site and social media. Not to mention bragging rights!
So take the challenge and sign-up for one… or both like me! J April is going to be one wordtastic month!

Do you live in or near Lake County Florida? Join our writing group on FB and meet up with us! For more info just click on the Lake Writers tab at the top of this blog!