Beta Readers are Invaluable!

It’s hard for friends and family to remain objective.  And, for me, when they say they “I loved it!”–I still doubt they’re telling me their true feelings. It’s a crazy cycle of hope and disbelief… and I ask them a thousand times: “Really? You really liked it?” 

So, what’s a writer to do? Lucky for me, I found an independent consulting firm that specializes in all types of services for a writer. 

Quiethouse editing provides more than editing services; they offer access to a bank of Beta readers. For a small fee, a writer can hire several readers to assess their manuscript. They’ll place detailed notes on your draft and complete a comprehensive questionnaire.

I received three great reviews! However, one of the readers didn’t like my story at all!  

Strangely enough, I might have learned more from the reader that didn’t like my novel than from the other two that loved my book. Either way, all of their thoughtful reports allowed me to address areas in my story I might change. 

I know it can be scary to allow someone to read your novel. I chewed my nails off to the quick the first time, but it’s worth it! 

If you are serious about being a good writer, you must let others read your works.

There are other ways to acquire Beta readers; you can join writing groups and forums. Whichever method you choose, today’s the day! Find one and let them read!

The Spirit of Writing

While writing my novel, there were times it seemed more like taking dictation. I could barely keep up with all the information my characters wanted or needed to share. Plot twists and background ideas popped in my head at the strangest of times and places, too. 

It reminded me of a young child tugging on their mom’s blouse, vying for attention:

“Don’t forget! I didn’t want Trammel to see the android assembly line,” Helena said.

“Remember the blood stains on my dad’s backpack,” Chase said.

“Be sure to mention my metal vest, again,” Trammel said.

I won’t forget, I’ll remember. I reassured myself.

Individuals, who choose not to write, might consider me crazy…and perhaps I am to a degree. Notice I said, “choose not to write”, that is because I feel we all have a story to tell. I think everyone should write a little everyday of anything that comes to mind. Either add an entry to a journal or indulge in fantasy.

For me, fictional writing is a form of “playing pretend”… allowing myself to explore different worlds or address those feeling within, that I would never act upon in real life.

I encourage you to begin your journey, if you haven’t already. Start writing anywhere you can. 

I wrote my first draft of, Trammel ─ The Code of Humanity, on my smart phone. I keyed away, while waiting in line at the supermarket or sitting with sick relatives, or during commercial breaks while watching my Dallas Cowboys play. 

If you are waiting for the perfect time or setting, you will never begin…there isn’t such a place. Distractions are around us, even in our writing havens. 

So, let your characters speak to you while engaged in your everyday tasks. Text or email yourself ideas. Also, there are many apps for smartphones to help you write a book. Find one you like and take that first step. Get in the spirit of writing today! Put the voices in your head to good use!

Writing through the Pain

These past four weeks of my life have been brutal. Not only did I lose a wonderful mother-in-law, Mona Spencer Biskamp, but unexpectedly my sister-in-law  died of cardiac arrest. Both these women will continue to be an inspiration to my life’s story and have influenced my writing.

Mona was a successful real estate mogul who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. She called me a genius without rolling her eyes or sighing ; she meant it. I adored and admired her; she helped me gain self-confidence to fight the good fight and to abandon my fears of failing. Failing is not the worst thing one can do, but giving up is.

Our beautiful Leslie dedicated her time to help any living creature in need. She volunteered to save exotic animals at In-Sync Exotics and worked for the Heard Wildlife Museum. It’s uncertain whether her death was linked to her condition: Leslie had developed a rare lung disease while caring for her exotic birds (hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or bird fancier’s lung). Although her cardiac arrest may have be tied to this condition, I feel others should be made aware of the risks  and protect themselves and their children while cleaning the cages of their feathered pets.

Leslie was stunningly beautiful inside and out, and she lived life large. She could wow at a black-tie gala or roll up her sleeves and nurse a wounded mountain lion back to health . She was an inspiration to all who knew her. I attended her memorial recently and did my best to honor her with a short speech I wrote. I swallowed the words, cried, and  spoke with a shaky voice, but all the while, a beautiful white egret soared in the blue sky by our overlook. It was a reminder that Leslie’s love of people and animals meant more than anything I might say. When her service neared its end, I stood in front of the window and stared at the soaring birds and the trees swaying in the breeze. I closed my eyes and thanked Leslie and Mona for all they taught me. Life may be painful, but it is well worth the risks.

Leslie encouraged me to write, just as she had inspired me by her approach to life: Give without expecting anything in return. Leslie and my brother-in-law Brett Biskamp raised two incredible children. Connor is studying to be a doctor, and Madeline has dedicated her life to assisting individuals with eating disorders. Like their parents, they are working to make others’ lives better.

Losing these two incredible woman in such a short time is taking a hard toll on me. I realize that, at some point, I must return to my world of denial because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to function at all.  I think we all must do this to survive, for if we truly knew how fragile life is, we would probably stop typing and crawl under our desks to wait for the blast of bright light.