Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So . . . You Wrote a Book . . .

That's awesome! A lot of people dream about doing something like that, and so few actually do it. It wasn't easy, was it? You busted your hump to get the phrasing and word flow just right, you started at the beginning, put the middle in the middle, and ended it with your big bang.
For those of you reading this who want to write a book, but don't know where to start, try this: Start at the beginning, put the middle in the middle, and end it with your big bang. I know that sounds simplistic, but you have to start somewhere. Get the story down, whatever it takes. Either way, get started, get it written, get it set.
Now the work starts, and here's the hard part. You need to make your story the best it can be. But it's your baby. You get so attached to it, pouring out all your blood, sweat and tears into this work, you can't stand the thought of hacking and changing it. It's exactly what you want it to be. Or is it? I know you want to keep it under wraps until the big reveal, where everyone gazes in awe at your masterwork and wonders how they could ever have lived without it. Okay, I'm exaggerating just a little. But at any rate, writing is not like sculpture. You don't get far without critique partners and beta readers.
Think of your work as a new design of car. Beta readers are test drivers. They just read and give you their overall opinion of the work as a whole. You'll need three or four beta readers to go over it and read it just as they would a book from the library or store. You need people who you can trust to be brutally honest. That's the first hard part. When they say, "It's okay," then it’s not good enough. You want your beta readers to say, "I couldn't put it down! Was this really you?" That's where your critique partners come in.
Critique partners are like a team of mechanical engineers who take the engine out, go over the brake system, and crash test the design. They go over your grammar, syntax, prose, characters, plot, and story. They offer opinions of the mechanics of the story, and offer suggestions on how it can be better. You can collect your own circle of "critters" from your own town, or, like so many do nowadays, use the internet. There's a fistful of good critique sites out there. Critiquecircle.com is just one example. Memberships are usually free for the basic stuff, and you have the opportunity to critique other writers' work also. I have several teen critique partners for my work, and I listen to them all.
Another tool I recommend highly is The Turkey City Lexicon. It's a free download, and widely available. Read it, love it, live it. It was compiled by professional writers as a standard to set against your work.
The feedback you get is not always going to be positive. But you need to understand that you are too close to your work to have an objective opinion. Your critters and betas are there to give you that outside view. If they can see your world, then any reader can see your world. You're going to have to develop a thick skin. There's no way around it.
Even if you're only writing as a hobby, you're missing out if you are keeping your light hidden under a basket and not letting others enjoy your work. If you write, it's because there's a story inside you that won't let you go until it comes out and finds its way onto paper. Let that light shine on others, and it will do your heart good. Betas and critters help you get the story into a final form, whether or not you decide to go for publication.

Post by Cyrus Keith, Author of The NADIA Project available April 1, 2011 at MuseItUpPublishing.com. Read more about Cyrus on the Author page.

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