Fail Deadly, the Next Step: ß

I am almost finished with Alpha, soon to need Beta. Which is to say, I am near the end of the rewrite of my third novel, Fail Deadly.

The first draft was the easy part … six months on a roller coaster ride, wind in the face, screaming along the tracks of the plot. Unalloyed joy. Then began the hard part: Rewrite. I am truly fortunate to be a member of three critique groups, so the chapters have gone before a jury of talented writers. Line by line, character by character, week by painstaking week, they have stayed with the story. They are, in the parlance of writerdom, the Alpha readers. I am almost through integrating many of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of suggestions.

The next step is the Beta. The Alphas can’t do it — they’re too familiar with the detail. I will need several people willing to read the manuscript all the way through, looking for character flaws, plot inconsistencies. Or perhaps most valuable to me (as well as most painful), saying, “I got bored at page X and couldn’t finish.”

If you, dear reader are interested in being a Beta, let me know through Contact page or straight to gotuit5243@gmail.com.  I’ll have the manuscript in Word and PDF files, e-books in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as a few paper copies.

Control Issues in Writing

Control issues.  We all have them. You know I have them from my last post about Amazon defacing my cover.  Most are minor, but big ones cause lost friendships, divorces, misery. Let’s not even talk about current politics.

Control issues invade writing as they do life. And like life’s smaller control issues, we often don’t recognize them.

A Fatal Score early reviewer sent me a note:  “On page one, you wrote of Joe Mayfield: ‘He set down his fork and tried for an offhand smile, which he knew came off closer to a rictus.’ You should lose ‘rictus’. Not enough people know it, and it’s too early in the story to send the reader to the dictionary. Maybe use ‘grimace’.”

But … I was going for rictus.  Knew exactly the expression I wanted. Wanted reader to see the stasis, the fixed nature of the attempted polite grin.  Grimace is too mobile.  I wanted rictus!  Besides, it’s my book!

The reviewer went on, “I think it’s because of its place on the first page. You want to get them pulled in and moving and not stop to try to figure out a word.”

Which led me to reflect on a great session on mystery writing by Steve Ulfelder at the Cape Cod Writers Conference five years ago.  It was at a point in my writing when much about technique was new, and Steve gave me an Aha! moment.  He was helping another writer work fix an excruciatingly detailed description. “At best, your writing tells the reader 60-70% of the story,” he said. “The reader’s life experience, perception, and belief fills in the rest.  In that sense, the reader is your partner. That partnership takes a story from OK to Must Read.”

Aha, indeed.

Next edition will use ‘grimace.’