Beta Readers

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beta readers

Yay, we found some beta readers and sent out semi-final drafts of Changers. And we’re still looking for more. Calling people beta readers, or beta testers – or beta anything – brings to mind a room full of people sitting around a huge table, all reading the book, taking notes, making red marks, and tapping on their tablets. Or a bunch of robots lined up in a row, all perched in front of computer screens with the words of the book scrolling upwards a la The Matrix.

There were a few instructions we gave to the readers. 1) We welcome feedback, and 2) It’s a Young Adult novel. We don’t want anyone to be shy about telling us what they think, or how the book makes them feel. We’re pretty sure we snagged most, if not all the typos. We’re looking for things like pacing, whether things make sense, timing and timeline issues, etc.

Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” We put a lot of effort into trying to know what we’re talking about. Facts are important, even in fiction – we didn’t want to distract the reader by playing loose with facts. For example, we have a scene where someone is going through a candidate diffusion. In this scene, the Changers wanted to erase the character’s short term memory, but they didn’t want to eliminate (kill) her. So they went through this process to erase her short term memory. To make it credible, we researched how that would be possible. One of our beta readers has both a bachelors degree and masters degree in nursing. If our research is wrong – if we used the wrong drugs, if our character didn’t act appropriately in the moment – hopefully our nurse beta reader will let us know.

We also don’t want beta readers from our immediate family, for obvious reasons. So far, we have six readers. They look like this:

  • A 17 year-old male high school student with a 4.5 GPA.
  • A 17 year-old female high school student who excels in sports.
  • A 21 year-old female college student majoring in medicine.
  • A 28 year-old married woman in the mortgage industry.
  • A 40 year-old married nurse with bachelors and masters degrees.
  • A 41 year-old male telecommunications engineer with a bachelors degree.

Yes, Changers is YA, but people of many ages still like YA novels. It’s all in the story. We’re still anticipating more readers – we need all the feedback we can get. We’ll post the comments and feedback when received. This is getting exciting!

More Than One Main Character

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random characters

Can your book have more than one main character? That’s one of many questions we asked ourselves when writing Changers.

A lot happens in Changers. The story is deep. But Changers is not a complicated story. The main player has to make a decision whether to kill the person she loves to save her own life. Nice premise. Scary dilemma. But in Changers, there are other players (teenagers) who have been damaged in one way or another by the shenanigans of the Changers. These other players are trying to find out what happened to their loved ones. Like, why are they disappearing? Why are they still missing? Are they dead?

The teens are frustrated with the adult authorities and their lack of progress in investigating the disappearances. The authorities aren’t coming up with any definitive answers. So the teens decide to start their own investigation. Why not? This being the case, the investigating teens had to have names, personalities and depth. This brought us to our question: Can our book have more than one main character? We decided yes.

As the story progresses, certain players grow and come to the forefront. They take lead roles in their amateur sleuthing. They team with other players, they argue, they fight – anything to find out what happened to their family and friends. Specific players become leaders, and thus, main characters. It’s a nice bonus to the reader that as the story progresses, the teens’ investigation crosses over into the lives of the main character, and vice versa.

So yes, your book can have more than one main character. Changers does. And we’re good with that.

Novel Writing Software

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UPDATE, 9/2/17: We switched to using Scrivener. It has many more options and is better suited to our writing style. That said, we take nothing away from the good review we posted about yWriter below.

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It was kind of a pain in the butt trying to write a book using Microsoft Word. It took about 20 minutes of writing to figure out that wasn’t the way to go. We figured there must be some book-writing software out there somewhere.

So yeah, we looked around on the internet – how else? There are a few to choose from that we’re pretty sure must be badass. We found some that cost money to buy. We even found some that make you pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to use. You can find them by surfing the web, or just do the usual google search. But this isn’t about reviewing, comparing or rating novel writing software. There are plenty of articles on the web that rate and rank that stuff. We’re just saying we found a book writing software program that we use and like.

yWriter5, by Spacejock (Simon Haynes) is cool. It’s what we use. One of the biggest benefits is it’s free to download and use. It gets updated regularly, so we know it’s not a piece of software someone wrote and abandoned.

The ‘pros’ include:

  • Awesome editing and structuring capabilities.
  • The ability to drag and drop scenes and chapters.
    • This helps when you’re putting your story in order.
  • Create as many chapters as you want.
    • Merge/combine chapters if you decide two chapters would be better as one.
  • Create scenes within the chapters.
    • This also includes the ability to merge/combine scenes.
  • Global search and replace.
    • This came in handy when we changed character names.
  • Daily word count.
    • You can even set daily goals for word count.
    • Word count reports.
    • Set up a work schedule.
    • Set goals for completion, outline, drafts and edits.
  • You can include images in your story/book.

yWriter5 allows you to export your project to html, RTF, text, LaTeX, ebook, Nanowrimo obfuscated text. You can also export chapters, scenes, characters, etc. There is so much more we could say about this software. But once you click on the link below, you’ll find out all you need to know.

The main ‘con’ we’ve found is the spellchecker isn’t really all that. It finds misspelled words, so it’s good for that. But if you click on your misspelled word to get the proper spelling, it opens your web browser to dictionary.com.

We like yWriter5 a lot – enough to have sent a donation (that makes our version ‘registered’). We also recommend it. If you’re looking for a novel-writing software program that’s easy to use, up to date and free, yWriter5 is the way to go.

Here’s the link –> yWriter5 by Spacejock

In case you’re wondering, this is not a ‘paid for’ review. None of our reviews or recommendations are.

 

 

Editing the Manuscript

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manuscript layout issues

The manuscript – printing, reading and editing some more.

Printing the manuscript was a task, to say the least. At almost 300 8 1/2 x 11 pages, not double-spaced, we had to stand by and wait for what seemed like eternity.

When it was finally done, I thought I was holding gold in my hands. I was so proud… until I started turning the pages. Turns out, the spacing doesn’t transfer from the writing program we’re using to Microsoft Word as flawlessly as we had hoped.

The deeper I go, the more errors I find. Not grammatical, but spacing, indenting, italics… the list goes on, and on, and on. And on.

So now, in addition to editing grammar and punctuation (Les edits nonsense bullshit words), I’ll be editing layout. We’re both confident a professional editing service is in our future.

 

 

Problem Words?

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Bad word

As, ly, ing, turned, glanced, muttered, suddenly, looked, then.

Bad, bad, BAD!

It’s amazing how many problem words can creep into a super-awesome story.

I asked, “Do you want to tighten things up?”

“Of course,” they say.

“Then stop resisting. Resistance is futile.” (Did I just say ‘then’?)

It all depends on how a word is used, and how often. You don’t have to swear off certain words – except words like ‘turd’. I don’t like ‘turd’. But make every word count. And don’t overuse any word. It gets boring and sometimes seems lazy.

We did a word count and I won this one. Tone down the “looked”s, the “glanced”s, the “then”s. And the “as”s! Holy cow, enough “AS”s already!

We’re getting there! Tighten, tighten, tighten! And then tighten some more.

 

 

Title for Book Three

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Rogues, by Les and Taylor Anderson

ROGUES


The title for our first book – Changers – was a natural. Here’s a little secret: it had, and still has in parts of our filing system, a working title of Levi’s Rain. I’ll probably tell more about that later, but for now it’s not important.

As Changers progressed, it became evident there are four main types of characters in the story:

  1. Changers
  2. Punks
  3. Rogues
  4. Regular People

So with Changers being the cause of all the problems, mystery, thrills and adventure in the story, Changers was a shoe-in for the title of the first book.

We chose PUNKS for the title of the second part of the story because the Punks are the driving force behind the effort to get to the bottom of the disappearances in town. Also, because Punks are pretty much fearless and don’t much care what people think. Plus, for the most part, our Punks are pretty badass.

Well, Rogues are Changers who said, “I’m tired of all the bullshit involved with being a Changer. I’m done.” So the Rogues split from the Changers and unite with the regular people and the Punks to go up against the powerful Changers organization.

The finale of the story involves Changers, Punks, Rogues and Regular People. For the title of the finale, we chose Rogues. The title, Regular People, just didn’t seem all that exciting.

Title for Book Two

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Punks - The Book

What’s in a name?

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what's in a name

Hmm…we decided some of our names aren’t all that cool. Or they have been overused somewhere else, or they’re too old-school-sounding, or they were popular someplace else that we didn’t realize until now. Or something.

We also wanted to be sure we’re using names you can relate to, and pronounce. Regular names are good, because the Changers series is about regular people in supernatural situations. One of the pet peeves in a book is when you come across a name that you’re not sure how to pronounce. Like Aoulange, or Saint Maureiliape. In The Hunger Games, it’s pretty obvious how to pronounce Katnis. But not so with a name like Hialgney. You get the point.

Names that are out:

  • Hickey – what the heck were we thinking?
  • Maggie – old, overused.
  • Martha – old lady.
  • Georgia – old school.
  • Heliotrope – we hadn’t used this, but just sayin’.
  • Dewey – Someone reminded us that David Arquette’s name in the Scream movies is Dewey.

 

Stacks of Notes

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notes to posts

“Write that down.”
“It sucks.”
“Write it down anyway. We might use it.”
“I had this really bizarre dream last night.”
“Did you write it down?”
“Of course. I didn’t want to suffer the wrath.”
“What, like I’m a slave driver?”
“Did you write down that dream you told us about last month?”
“I pieced it together.”
“They say you should write down your dreams as soon as you wake from them. Even if it’s the middle of the night.”
“Why? I remembered it.”
“Because it’s fresher in your mind. You’d be more likely to get all the details.”
“Well, I filled in with some stuff I made up. It was still good.”
“I was thinking about the book today. I was thinking instead of having that scene at the school, maybe we should make it at a player’s house.”
“Or with the punks.”
“Punks with a capital ‘P’.”
“Of course, that’s what I meant.”
“I’m thinking the school thing should be out anyway.”
“Maybe, but the players, at least most of them, are school age.”
“It could be summer vacation. It doesn’t have to be during school.”
“Sure. That would free them up to do more stuff. We wouldn’t have to keep saying, ‘…after school the next day…’ or wait till the weekend for something to happen, or for someone to do something.”
“Write that down.”
“I’m way ahead of you.”

Who said what? It doesn’t matter.

We had a stack of notes. The notes were an archive of blood, sweat and cheers. We wrote so much down on paper – sticky note paper, spiral-bound notebooks, printer paper, colored construction paper. We never used napkins, they rip too easily. We tapped so many notes into our phones, our tablets, our laptops. We installed and uninstalled so many different note-taking apps, we lost count.

There were no tears shed over this book. We laughed, talked, argued and got pissed at each other. In the end, we have been our own best cheerleaders.

Now, the notes become posts. An archive of the badass adventure we took together – writing a story. An awesome story. Writing a book. It’s an adventure we’re still on. We choose to remain adventurers. If this book never goes anywhere, never gets published, we will always say it was fun. It IS fun. We’re still on the train, and there’s no reason to jump off now.

Getting it All Online

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underground

Changers. The book.

We decided to go full force into our previous efforts to create an awesome story.

We’ve written so much that needs organizing. We’ve talked about this story till we’re some-color-other-than-blue (because blue’s so cliche) in the face.

So we have what we think is now a great story. If we didn’t think it was great we wouldn’t be telling it.

A while back, we decided to keep a journal of our progress. Although we’ve been doing that, now is the time to transfer all the time, energy and thoughts to this website/blog. We believe this will be something we look back on and say, “…oh yeah, remember when we wanted to do that?” Or “…uh-huh, that was a stupid idea…” Of course, the stupid ideas are all part of the process.

We hope you enjoy our experience as much as we do.