Making it easy on Beta Readers

confused betareader

I’ve always understood ‘Beta Readers’ to be those long suffering friends and family of writers who are willing – after putting up with the author while they were writing the novel – to then read it, in its entirety, for internal consistency.  They’re not copy editors or grammar nazis scrutinizing for typos and errant semicolons. No, they’re weighing the substance of the story. Plot flow, character motivations and story logic. They might trip over the occasional repeated phrase, but did it work? Allowing for conventions of genre and personal taste, is this a story worth reading?

To that end, I was trying to come up with a one-page hand out to Betas. I want an easy code for them to mark if/when/why the spell was broken. Jot a number or letter in the margin near the offending passages and move on. Here’s where I’m at so far:

  1. So what? (or Do you care?) Are the characters engaging? Is the drama worthy of conflict? Did you stop caring?
  2. Oh Yeah? (or Is this credible?) Is the tech/magic/psi power ‘logical’ in the story world? Are the characters actions and words believable?
  3. Hunh? (or What the hell just happened?) I’m confused.. ‘Two pages ago we were traveling east and now the Sun is setting right in front of them.’ or ‘I thought she had a gun. Why isn’t she shooting at them?’ stuff like that.
  4. Can we go now? (or I just read a bunch of words and nothing happened) Sure there’s ambiance and milieu, but I define ‘fiction traction’ as ‘plot over word count’. No Value Change, no forward motion, and the prose gets boggy.

Add in a big red “R” for REDUNDANCY – ( “*Sheesh* You said his name 37 times in two pages.”) and a big red “C” for CLICHE – (‘She was as dead as a door nail’ Really?)

One of Neil Gaiman’s Rules for Writing is that when a reader says something doesn’t work, they’re almost always right but when they tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.  I think those 6 notations will let a writer – me, in this case – know where the story falters without putting too much of a burden on already gracious and patient people.

Any thoughts on this? Weigh in.

Have a good day.

 

 

The Stones Remember Release

The-Stones-RememberAnother ‘Near-Future’ short, The Stones Remember is about NATO units caught up in a massive Russian invasion of Poland and the Baltics. Exhausted, out-gunned, and out numbered, they find themselves at the site of an old battlefield and have to decide if some history is worth repeating.

Available in electronic format right now, it’s a quick, cheap read. (less than a cup of coffee lasts longer) Thanks much. I’m hammering away at two full-length novel projects but wanted to get this out in the meantime. Hope you enjoy it.

On the way

The-Stones-Remember

Another near-future military action short coming soon. Doing final proof-read now.

Have a good day.

New Short & Release Notes

HardKill-Book-Cover-FINAL  My new Mil SF short is now available at Amazon.

 

A word of explanation here. I cleaned this short story up and kicked it out the door while I wrestle over my next full-length project. Strictly speaking, Hard Kill is more ’15 minutes in the future’ than science fiction, but its definitely military action.

The story is born from three things: headlines, a trio of current history/political titles, and a gnawing unease. The headlines you know: Afghanistan, Iraq, drone strikes, Snowden, ISIS, Syria, etc. The books are Mark Mazzetti’s ‘The Way of the Knife’, David Rothkopf’s ‘National Insecurity’, and Jeremy Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’. Those books detail the increasingly murky government and military action over the past decade and a half in what has become known as the ‘Global War on Terror’. The unease is mine.

Now the question of the ends justifying the means is as old as it is constant and there isn’t one magic answer. I get that. My concern is in facing this present challenge, our government has consistently answered ‘Yes’ to the point they violate the very principles they seek to defend and preserve. However well-intentioned, it appears that fear, along with institutional myopia, are the underlying currents driving current policy and practice. Equally troubling to me are the sacrifices so many have made- and are still making – to enact these policies.

Now anyone with a sense of history would say ‘Thus has it always been’ which may be true, but is little consolation. I submit history would also show we are capable of learning, albeit slowly. By the grace of God, we are not obliged to repeat our mistakes.

No doubt we are in an ugly, tangled mess. I don’t have an answer – just a need to write about it, founded on the strange, lingering hope we can extricate ourselves.

That’s what Hard Kill is. I hope you take a moment to read it.

And if you’re one of the handful of gracious, patient souls who received an advance copy, would fire off a 4 or 5 sentence review at Amazon so the poor little thing doesn’t enter the world naked?

Thanks much. Have an excellent day.

 

 

 

An Invitation

door

Beginning in 2016, I would like to feature a monthly Guest Post here on HSSJ by different indie authors and articulate readers. Topic will be fiction and or writing-related, which is rather broad, but it will give some of the fine internet friends I have an opportunity to discuss their work, their process, their thoughts on the industry. I’ve made a initial list and will contact these folks soon, but if you’d like to participate, drop a comment here or on FB.

Thanks much.

Free Fiction: SOZO at Amazon

Sozo (Original Cover)My near-future short SOZO is free for Kindle and I-Pad beginning tomorrow through the Sept. 14. Use the buck you would have spent to get yourself a cup of coffee, then click through to Amazon to get your copy. It’s a quick read. Your coffee probably won’t even get cold.

It gives you a taste of my writing and it’s a small thanks to folks who read my work.

Have a great day.

Guest Post – Dave Alderman

Work emergencies hindered me from getting this up sooner. Apologies.

The Distractions of Christian Fiction

Some days it feels like this world is going to hell in a handbasket. I turn on the news or I fire up my Facebook feed and I marvel at all of the ridiculous issues people are making a stink about. Everyone seems to be offended about something or someone somewhere. We’ve entered an age of entitlement issues and quick tempers. Passion has become misdirected. Instead of fighting against human trafficking, government corruption, or an increasing number of homeless filling our streets, we’re advertising, sharing, and making a huge deal about Bruce Jenner’s decision to become a woman.

Really, people?

Why is it this generation seems to have an easier time shying away from the issues that matter and instead cloister around nonsensical topics that allow them to turn away from the blood and violence and sexual slavery and instead fight amongst non-believers of their cause on social platforms?

This is one reason I have a hard time engaging in conversations with people on Facebook or Twitter. I can’t find a lot of worthy topics to latch on to. My passion is better spent writing.

If you read through the Bible – yes, I mean both Old and New Testament – you’ll see that God constantly uses believers to enact change in the world. We are His instruments, tasked with bringing Christ and His message of salvation to a broken world. Instead, we’re detracted by engaging in issues that don’t really matter.

We’re distracted, which I’ve realized is the Enemy’s number one weapon against Christians. In any great war, if you’ve succeeded in distracting the enemy, then you can pretty much take complete advantage of your opposition and secure victory.

I think the same goes for Christian writers as well. Instead of engaging issues from a Christian worldview, we’ve written clean-cut alternatives to the secular content monopolizing bookstore shelves. We’ve become distracted by a misinterpretation of the ‘who’ Christian fiction is written for.

I see a ton of Christian novels (fiction, science fiction, fantasy) that only seem to exist to see how many times the word ‘Christ’, ‘redemption’, and ‘forgiveness’, can appear in a novel. These stories cater to Christians and in many ways ostracizes non-Christians to the point where nobody but Christians want to read Christian fiction. Many of these stories are not realistic, nor are the outcomes. Not always.

Christians are shying away from writing about the real-world to instead offer up a wholesome, purified, easy depiction of the Christian life.

Too bad the Christian life isn’t easy. It’s full of heartache, it’s full of sacrifice, and it’s full of pain. A lot of it. It’s the kind of life that Christ shines the best through because He is our Healer, our Deliverer, our Savior. People who are not in trouble do not need a savior, nor do they need a deliverer, nor do they need a healer.

This is why I write what I write. I write Christian fiction but with real-world content. Drug dealers, megalomaniacs, sorcery, betrayal, sacrifice and ruin fill the pages of my fiction. And in the midst of it is Christ, coming to save a broken individual, a broken world.

Official Banner

It’s not enough to just write about this type of fiction. I want to publish it. That’s why I’ve created The Crossover Alliance, an online publishing company interested in pushing edgy Christian speculative fiction out into the world. Stories that the real-world can relate to. Stories of heartache and sacrifice and pain. Stories of healing, deliverance and rescue.

I have an Indiegogo campaign running right now to help raise funds for the first year’s expenses. Please head to the link – http://www.igg.me/at/TCA – to meet the team, read about the mission, and pledge to snag awesome digital subscriptions to our first year’s catalog.

My goal isn’t to prove that there is no need at all for tame Christian fiction, but that there is a serious need for Christian fiction that strives to resonate more with Christians and non-Christians alike.

IMG_0101David N. Alderman is an indie author of two speculative fiction series—Black Earth and Expired Reality. You can find all of David’s work at http://www.davidnalderman.com. He is also the founder of The Crossover Alliance (http://www.thecrossoveralliance.com), a publishing company specializing in edgy Christian speculative fiction. He participates in National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org) each year. When he’s not writing or spending time with family, you can find David gaming on any number of different consoles.