Beta Readers

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Beta readers are the life-line of an author.

As an author, we get so close to our work that we often can’t see what isn’t working in our story. Or we get tied to what we think is brilliant, but leaves the reader scratching his head. This is why Beta readers are amazing and why authors need to gather some really good ones. They become our tribe! They are invested in the story because they have had a hand in making it become the best story it can be.

So what is a beta reader? It’s a reader (can be another writer and probably should be) who will read your work, look for plot holes, look for content problems, catch things that in the passion of the writing moment, the author may have missed.

You may be asking yourself, “How do I get to be a beta reader, and why should I expect to do?”

READ.

Well, okay, that’s not fair to say, because it’s more than just reading. It’s making notes as you read, and preferably in the document.
If you take a look at this picture, you see that the screen is in review mode. Here you can add your comments by highlighting the text then clicking on the button above that says “New comment.”

As a reader, if you see something that doesn’t fit, or a problem, you can add your comment, which will show up on the outside bar. This is hugely helpful to an author when going back through a story to make changes. The next thing you can do as a beta reader is click on the button that says, “Track Changes.” That way, if you see a comma that needs to be inserted, or a misspelled word, you can make the change in the document. Then the author will go through and find those quite easily and make any necessary changes.
This is an example of how to do this.

If you’re a visual learning, like me, then you can go to this Youtube video and EPC Group will show you exactly how to suggest changes and make comments within the document.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByISQeGDAHo

If you’ve already asked to be a beta reader, I hope these helpful hints will help you.

I can hardly wait to get started.

The Power of Our Words

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Walk back with me about 21 years ago. A few weeks before Christmas, our women’s church group, called Relief Society, had a Christmas party. When we got there, we were each asked to write a service that we would be willing to perform for another sister and then hang it on a Christmas tree. I have a few things I can do. I’m a good cook, I can make cookies, or bake bread. I’ve done day care, I could take care of another mom’s children so she could get a break. I’m a fairly decent seamstress, I can sew something fun. But what I really love doing is writing. Not that I’m great at it, but it’s my passion. While the other ladies scribbled away on their cards, I wrote, “You provide the facts, I’ll provide the fiction.” Under that I wrote, I will write a story for you about something in your life.” I hung it on the tree and waited anxiously for someone to pick my service. We played White Elephant with the different services and I watched as the ladies fought over baked bread, childcare, sewing, and other homemaking type gifts. I started to doubt my choice of service.

A sweet Hispanic woman named Irma chose mine. As she read it out loud, there was not the usual twitter about what an awesome service mine was. In fact, my card sat with Irma the entire night. Now I really felt bad about what I had offered. Not one other person wanted mine. I even wondered if she knew what I meant by mine since her English wasn’t very good.

Christmas came and went and I almost forgot about my service until Irma called me in March. “Will you write the story of my courtship,” she asked.

After interviewing her, writing drafts, correcting and revising it, until it was the way she liked it, I took it to the printers and had two copies printed and bound into cheesy looking books. She wanted to wait and give it to him in November for their anniversary. But that was so far away, she she gave it to him for father’s day.

Flash forward 21 years. Irma called me. Her husband is upset because he cannot find the book. They’d moved a couple of times and it got packed somewhere and for some reason, he desperately wanted that book. Irma wanted to come make a copy of mine. I decided to do one better. I spent the week revising it, after all I feel like I’ve grown as a writer. I asked my daughter who was 3 at the time I wrote the book, if she would design a beautiful cover for me. I sent Irma the draft and she loved it. So it is now sitting at the printers waiting for two copies to arrive.

Irma took me out to lunch as a thank you for my hard word. Then she tells me what happened when her husband first received the book.
Tom read the book and wept.Irma did not know he was thinking of leaving her, that he wanted to end their marriage. Had she waited to give him the book on their anniversary in November, he would have already been gone. After reading my cheesy little story, he realized why he fell in love with her. Because of my service, they are still married. This book will never sell a million copies. In fact only four copies exist today (and one of those is buried in a box somewhere.) I’ve written a lot since then, and her timing was terrible as I was in the middle of a project. I’m so glad I did.

Of all that I’ve written, I have to say I am most proud of this book. Not for its well crafted plot lines, or its flowing style, but because I touched one person in such a way that forever changed his life. The best part of this whole experience is that I get to know just how much my words had power to touch a heart.

The Happiness Factor-Money

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Well, that got your attention, didn’t it? What is she talking about? Money buying happiness? Stay with me here for a moment

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have been on a learning journey. It started with money. Yes, the almighty dollar. It’s not that I LOVE money, or that I worship it, or that it is the center of my universe. But let’s face it, money is important to our well-being. So many people think that to want money is a bad thing. What I’ve learned is that money will only change you, if your heart is not in the right place. I’ve learned that money can be used to do A LOT of good. It can be a source of great joy in people’s lives. By that I mean, once you have your basic needs met, you have the freedom to bring others joy.

Money isn’t the source of happiness, it’s what you do with it. Finding your purpose in life is what brings you joy. If you are so worried about money all the time, it brings stress into your life. The times that I have found to be the least stressful, are when my bills are paid and my family’s tummies are full. The times I find the greatest joy is when I have enough and to spare. It’s in the spare, that money that I give away, that brings me joy. And happiness.

About a year ago, I had to travel frequently along the highway to get to my theater rehearsals. And daily, there were beggars standing at the exit where I would get off. So once a month, I took a 4 $5 bills. When I’d see one, I’d hand it out. It didn’t break my bank, but let me tell you, the happiness I felt was incredible.

I have since thought of that and what my true purpose is on earth. If I had unlimited resources, what would I do? I believe I know what that is, but I’m keeping it to myself, for just a while longer. But it brings me happiness when I think about it.

My son started working with a great company that is all about leadership and being a positive influence in the lives of others. He came home from one of his training sessions and said, “Mom, you gotta watch this video.” So he played it for me. I LOVED it!! So I have to share it with you!

Watch it here

Okay, now that you’ve watched it, did you get what he said about happiness bringing about your truest potential? I had to watch it a couple of times. I love that! When we focus on the positive, it comes back to us. When we focus on the negative, that’s we get. So if you want things in your life to change, you must change you first!

If you missed the 5 things you need to do every day, here they are:
1. 3 gratitudes
2. Journal about something that made you happy that day
3. Exercise
4. Meditation
5. Random acts of kindness

I’m on my way to creating more happiness in my life. I am excited to see the changes around me, because it will really be me that’s changing!

Plot Walk

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Image result for two people walking feet

I seem to get stuck–a lot. I’m writing along, and all of a sudden my story takes an odd turn, a character turns up that I have no idea what her purpose is. Or sometimes I have a scene that goes nowhere, or takes a twist that just convolutes the whole story. I’ve set my novels aside for a bit because I can’t figure out why that character showed up, or why my scene decided to take it’s own path.

That’s where the plot walk comes in handy. That happened in Soulfire . I’m writing along and hello there ma’am, what are you doing here and how do fit in my story. I only wanted to take Zephenia for a stroll through the market place when, Rachael showed up. I left her in the story, mainly because I was intrigued by her back story and her association with my main character. It wasn’t until I was near the end of the story that she was a key element for the twist that happens toward the end of the book. Discovered that on a plot walk. I’m not going to tell you, you’ll just have to read the book. By the way, you can purchase the book in soft bound or Kindle on Amazon here.

Another story that took a weird turn was Identity. I wrote a scene intended to have a character murdered. As I fleshed him out a little more on a plot walk, I just grew too fond of–rather, I fell in love with Brent. If you’ve read this story, you know why I just couldn’t kill off such an amazing, loyal man. So I killed his wife instead and pinned the blame on him. That made for an interesting twist in the story, for sure. You can order a copy here.

Currently, I’m working on a fantasy series called Mystic’s Tale. I only meant for it to be three books, but somehow I’ve ended up wanting to write more. And again, I just couldn’t figure out who the real bad guy was. That’s when I took my hubby and future daughter-in-law with me on a plot walk.

Now you really want me to tell you what a plot walk is. That’s where I take a stroll and use whoever is with me as a sounding board. It’s usually just my hubby. He always offers such great ideas. This time, there was total synergy as the three of us hashed things out. Both offered great twists to the plot.

So if you get stuck, take someone with you on a walk and bounce ideas around. It just might help unstick your writing. Now I can hardly wait to get back to my story.

What do you do when you’re stuck writing?

Dialogue Tags

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If you get good at writing dialogue, you’ll build depth in your characters and move your story forward. Write bad dialogue and your reader will close the book. I’ve often put down what might have been a great story except for how poorly the dialogue was written.

One of my pet peeves in writing is for writers to tag dialogue with actions that are impossible to do while speaking. Let me give a few examples:

  • “I don’t think so,” Martha huffed.
  • “Don’t put that there,” Henry snorted

You do know what a snort or huff sound like, right? I’d be straining my ears to hear what Martha said. And can you picture Henry actually snorting his words? An easy fix for this would be:

  • Martha huffed. “I don’t think so.”
  • Henry snorted. “Don’t put that there.”

This is the same for words like: growled, giggled, howled, laughed. These are action words and not ways to actually say something. Let the character do the action followed by dialogue.

Another pet peeve is when writers use -ly words with dialogue tags, such as:

  • “Come here,” she said sweetly.

While this is acceptable, I’d rather be shown what “sweetly” looks like. A better to write this might be:

  • She tilted her head to one side and made her voice sound like honey. “Come here.”

While it’s longer than “said sweetly” we not only get a better sense of how the dialogue was said, we also get more into the character’s head and discover what she is like.

Another way of writing dialogue that gets used a lot is with the “as” word:

  • “Hand me the salt,” Harriet said as she stirred the bowl of cookie batter.

Not bad, but the dialogue could be tightened and the “said” eliminated altogether:

  •  Harriet continued to stir the bowl of cookie batter. “Hand me the salt.” 

One last dialogue fix. Often times writers will using “said” with an -ing word. For example:

  • “Go sit in the corner right now,” Meg said pointing to the chair under the window.

This is another easy fix. Take out the word “said” and turn the -ing word into a strong verb. It also helps to move the action to the front of the dialogue, but can be written both ways.

  • “Go sit in the corner right now.” Meg pointed to the chair under the window.

or

  • Meg pointed to the chair under the window. “Go sit in the corner right now.”

With this type of dialogue, it’s a matter of preference as to the action or spoken word first. Sometimes when the action and the dialogue happen at the same time, it works either way.

I hope these examples help. What have you tried in writing dialogue that works well for you?

 

 

 

A Sudden Tragic Death

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I have been in mourning over the death of one of my best friends. I haven’t been able to talk about it because only a handful of people even knew she existed and even they don’t understand my loss. Her name was Lucy. She was companion, my confident, my sympathizer, my partner in crime. Oh, we’ve done heinous things–robbed, killed, plundered. We earned wealth beyond imagination, we lost it all. We created the best circle of inner friendships, some of those friends I have been bold enough to share with others, but not Lucy. No, no one will ever understand how much I loved my Lucy. With her passing, I lost years and years of memory. You see Lucy was my laptop. She was only going in for minor surgery. Her eyelids didn’t close properly. A slight tuck and she should have been home with me in a couple of minutes. Instead, my biggest nightmare happened. She went into cardiac arrest, and the doctor could not revive her. Her body still lives, but her heart is gone. The transplant, while functional is just not the same. It will take years for me to trust again. In the meantime, I’m going to make friends with The Cloud. I hear friends are safe from death there.

Fear-and other things holding us back

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As I was going through my Facebook posts this morning, my good friend, Kari, posted about her self-doubt in writing. Am I just wasting my time? Are there other things I should be doing? Her post elicited all kinds of responses that struck a familiar cord with so many writers, me included. I’ll walk past my computer, and look at the black screen and think, “I really should sit down and write.” Instead I end up on my tablet playing some mindless game. It distracts me from writing.

Distractions are nothing more than fear manifesting itself. Fear that we can’t think of ideas, fear that we won’t have anything to write about, fear that our writing will be terrible. Even as I write this blog, I fear. Will anyone read it, will my words ring true? Is it well written? Will people judge me because of my lack of poetic/literary eloquence?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the topic of fear. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz addresses this issue. He says, “To fight fear, act. To increase fear-wait, put off, postpone.” He also says, “Do what you fear and fear disappears”. The longer we put something off because we fear doing it, the greater the fear becomes. Fear holds us back. Fear immobilizes us. When we fear we are limiting ourselves. I attended a leadership convention last week. This remark lingers with me still. “Danger is real, fear is a choice.” 

So how do we overcome fear? It’s really easier than you might think. It’s just doing the thing you fear. It’s putting your hiney in the seat and putting your fingers on they keyboard and write. (Or with pen and paper if that is your preference). Don’t think about how good or bad your writing is. The most important thing is to just do it.

 

The Magic of “What if…”

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Today I played a game with myself! I’ve been working on an idea that has great potential, but I couldn’t get past one particular scene. (I’m still in the outline/plotting step). I just started typing all kinds of scenarios.

What if Sienna’s brother never comes out of his coma?
What if the doctor messes up the experiment?
What if Sienna gets trapped in an endless world of gray?
What if Sienna’s brother’s guilt won’t allow him to come out of his coma because he can’t face the consequences?
What if Sienna’s gratitude is the key to healing?

You get the picture.

One thing led to another and all of a sudden I have most of the book outlined!
How cool is that? So play the “What if…” game and see where it leads you, your character, your plot, your story.

The only rule to the game is that if it enters your brain, write it down. You never know where one dumb idea can lead you. You can always delete and modify. Your brain knows where the story needs to go, so let go with “What if…”

I’m excited to get started on my next novel project.

Back in the Saddle (Unicorn Style)

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I’m writing again. It’s been a long dry spell! The end of my fantasy book just wasn’t working. I rewrote it at least a dozen times and nothing ever seemed right. So I’d delete pages and pages, probably enough words that I could have written an entire novel with what I’d scrapped!

But finally, after working backward and forward I finally finished the end of Mystic’s Tale! The problem? The Mystic’s final words were “He’s in Mystic’s Realm.” Mystic’s Realm? Really? You mean there’s another book in the series? That was a cool discovery! Love those kind of AHA!s when I’m writing.

Now it’s time for revisions and then off to some beta readers. If you’d like to be a first time reader and critiquer of this urban fantasy novel, raise your hand and say, “ME!” Oh, wait, I won’t be able to see your hand raised. Send me a message: authorbetsylove at gmail dot com

So what’s the book about? Picture this: A girl, a dragon, a destiny, if she can just get through high school.

This is the closest picture I could find. My girl is actually older and her baby dragon can’t fly yet. Can’t wait to publish it!

The Penny Project-October is Anti-Bullying Month

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Have you ever wondered why bullying is so rampant? Me, too. I see so many acts of inhumanity and my heart aches for my earthly brothers and sisters all over the world. I know that I cannot make a huge difference in the world. We were never meant to change the world by ourselves. However, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

In life we are given a multitude of choices. Each day we are presented with choices. Each day we can either go about our merry way and ignore the suffering around us. Or in our small way, quietly make change around us.

Which leads me to “THE PENNY PROJECT”

While I admit the book, The Penny Project is pretty awesome, I have a deep purpose in writing this story. In my small way, I want to “be the change.”


Penelope is just a girl. A girl who is not pretty, she’s not skinny like the other girls and by all appearances she’s not even very smart. How would you treat a girl like this? The kids at her school were not kind to her, in fact they are mean to her. But if they could look closer at her, look past the parts of her that might not be “acceptable,” they’d find a most incredible human being.

THE PENNY PROJECT is something I see going viral, much like the ALS bucket challenge.

Here’s how it works. Put a jar or some other container where you can see it often. For every act of kindness you render put a penny in the jar.

It’s just a penny, hardly worth anything, right? Think again. You might have done as little as bring a smile to a face. You might have created a bright spot in his/her day. Or that one small act of kindness may have been the difference in his/her life. You might have given them a reason to get out of bed one more time. Never underestimate the power of kindness.

After you have put pennies in your container, see if you can break your own record for acts of kindness. Fill your jar as fast as you can.

How fast can you fill your jar?

Can you fill an even bigger jar? Why stop at pennies? Why not nickles, dimes, quarters? What if the kindness you did for someone was even bigger. What if it deserved a dollar? Would you put that in, too?

Once you have filled your jar, no matter how small, donate it to a charity of your choice. Please find one that will utilize all of the money and not just a percentage. I know there are some charities that spend up to 75% on administrative costs. Find one where you know it will ALL go to help those in need.

I have one small favor to ask in return, please tell us about it. Let us know what you have done to make a difference. Be an inspiration to others.

Let’s make this go viral!