The Evolution of a Story

FOAT's first-round edits and rewrites have been completed, and the revised ms is back with the editor at Carina. My OCD internal editor would have been more than happy to continue altering and mutilating until the end of time, but I'm learning to rein it in and draw the line.

So then, back to the second drafting of Black. I'm still not entirely pleased with it, have hit that stage of flailing book!hate where I feel the urge to drag-and-drop the entire file into the trash and be done with it. Four years of muse effort reduced to recycled electrons?

In lieu of that, and despite the fact that the climactic scene remained only half resolved, I sent the ms off to a rather benevolent beta. There are times when, especially with heavy rewrites, you get so close to the story that all you see is wood bark and the forest itself ceases to exist entirely. Need stronger plot thread, need greater tension between the characters, need to resolve blatant character flaw so narrator doesn't seem "too stupid to live".
...What was the story, again? What was the point?
This is where that whole Outlining Of The Story really would have come in handy. Sadly, when a story grows organically from a 5k short into a 100k novel, all on its own, that step gets...skipped? Bypassed? You get to the end, and sit there thinking, "what am I missing? I know I've overlooked something, but hell if I know what it was."

For me, at least, this is where a good beta comes in. I don't need inline edits. I don't need help polishing the prose. I prefer a beta who reads the story in its entirety, and then sits down with me and says, "my god there is a huge sinkhole here, how did you miss it."

Easy. I was too busy staring at the constellations?

There is an inherent value in a reader who is capable of simply reading and seeing the larger pattern of plot and character without distraction. One who can take in the story in its entirety and step back to assess it as a whole. Black is at the point where it needs that, now. This particular beta, quite ironically, doesn't perceive herself to be one.

I have evidence enough for myself, though, that she's great at it. She read the draft of FOAT at my request, and offered a few comments that we discussed at some length. Minor quibbles about consistency of character, and the smoothness with which the issues resolve themselves. Not surprisingly, the comments she made were identical to a couple of points the current editor requested be addressed in the first-round edits.

Personally, I think this beta doubts herself simply because she isn't a "professional author" or "experienced editor". That isn't what a beta needs to be, frankly. At least, not for me. Does it help? Sure, if you have concerns about grammatical execution, or technical style, or some other writing tool you've employed with questionable results.

If not, those assets, in some regard, simply get in the way. A good beta, then, simply need be an eager and aware reader. The kind that gobbles up books, knows what they like, and why they like it, and can communicate that clearly without acronyms and squeeing. These types are generally genre-specific. I could offer my trunked fantasy novel to this beta, and the odds are very high she would be bored to tears with it. :)

So I'm taking a small respite from the editing while the beta reads. A few days to catch my breath, to relax and unwind and do nothing more than yoga in the mornings (and slog away at the Horrid Day Job).

And a coffee-mug toast to EveryBeta. You provide a wonderful service, offering perspective and clarity to writers when they lose it. Never mind that you get to read the juicy bits before anyone else...
I guess for some that's payment enough, but I offer my undying gratitude as well.


  1. We need to get your blog a like button, for when I don't know how to leave a comment. Just sayin'


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