Thursday, April 7, 2011

It Takes a Villiage

There’s a saying that I’m sure everyone’s heard and which I’ve always believed to be true…”It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, after this week I think I can say “it takes a village to write a book.”

Let me regress a bit—I’ve been working on two book proposals. One is for a new “Shirley Damsgaard” paranormal series and the other is a new “Jess McConkey” stand alone. My agent wanted three chapters and a synopsis for each of the ideas. I completed them and then requested my critique group which includes Tammy Siler Jones, whom I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and Debi Murray, a terrific friend and reader par excellence, to be beta readers. Here are some of the things they found:

1.I love the word “crossed” and will use it repeatedly to describe someone walking across the room.

2.I like to put my adverbs too far away from my verbs.

3.“Screamed” is much more descriptive than “began to scream.”

4.Tough men don’t say “sorry” or call their aunts “darling.” (They were right, but in defense of the “darling”, a young Cary Grant was flipping through my head as I pictured the character! *g*)

5.I like to leave words out—such as “of”, “to,” “and”, etc.

6.I can’t use a comma correctly to save my life. I put them in where they don’t belong and leave them out where they do.

7.Why was the character walking down the street in the first scene and imagining that someone was following her? It made no sense.

8.Don’t use semi colons if it can be avoided.

9.Breaking up the run on sentences with periods makes the tension higher.

And this one is my favorite and here’s how I originally wrote it:

10.“Dressed in Capri’s and wearing a single strand of pearls, she managed to look cool and unflustered in spite of the heat.” To which Tammy wrote in the margin along with a smiley face—“For godsakes, put a shirt on the woman!” Yes, I had her standing there wearing pants and pearls, but nothing else! So yeah—I guess she would be feeling cool since I had her naked from the waist up! Unflustered? Not so much probably! (Btw—she’s now wearing a coral top along with the pearls and Capri’s.)

How did I not catch this “stuff” myself? I can’t speak for other writers, but in my case, especially when it comes to leaving things out, I know what I meant. I don’t stop and think that someone who isn’t privy to where the story’s headed, or doesn’t know the details concerning each character, might not come away with the impression I had intended. And also, because I know what I meant, when I’m reading it back to myself, my brain comprehends those intentions, not necessarily what’s actually written on the page. It literally skips over the missing bits and pieces.

Because of these ladies and the time they spent going over the early chapters of these two books, my chapters read smoother and flow better, the characters are more well-rounded, and the plot makes more sense.

So here’s to my beta readers—thanks for being part of my village!!!!

That’s it for this week—have a good one!

Best,
Shirley

6 comments:

Sharon S. said...

LOL, I am a beta for two authors and I love it. It is fun to see the process from the inside. You are not the only author that likes to drop the little words (and, in, on). One of my authors kept talking about the brightness of a new moon and had an affinity for the word "lush".

Can't wait to hear about the new Damsgaard series! I am a paranormal addict.

Angie Fox said...

Too funny. I think it's very telling if she is shirtless and wearing pearls. ;)

Seriously, though, I think what happens is that you get so caught up in where the story is going that details can slip. That's what happens to me, at least. I'm thinking about the big picture and can let the easy things slip.

Yet another reason why I love my beta readers!

Shirley Damsgaard said...

Yeah, but Angie, the woman is a middle-age mother, not a stripper!! *g*

And Sharon, it's great to know that I'm not the only author who gets "stuck" on words!!! "Lush"? Hmm, that's a good word and I don't think I've used that one too much. I wonder... 9)

Casey said...

Excellent post, Shirley. It's always interesting to see how another author's process works. Ah, yes...that little editor that's supposed to be inside our brains often takes a day off. Why don't we get to do that?

Tammy Jones said...

lol You're welcome!

Now put a shirt on if you're gonna leave the house. ;)

Stephanie Rowe said...

Hmm... methinks I need a beta reader...