A lot of my time recently has been eaten up with lending support to a new author. It’s been interesting to sit on the other side for a change, and work with her to polish her book up.
When she asked for beta readers, I volunteered, wanting to give constructive criticism and feedback. Her initial draft was good, but not great. The story had a lot of potential, but needed work. So, I did what I could to help and advise.
As a first time author, she’d fallen into a lot of the usual traps:
Telling more than showing
Dialogue that sounds painful when read out loud
Leaving too much unexplained (the author knows it, and forgets that the reader doesn’t)
Too much repetition
Rushing over, or dragging out the “wrong” bits
The inevitable spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
Nothing worse than a lot of other books I’ve read, and better than many that have been rushed into publication too early. I can’t stress how important it is to get that feedback, and listen to it.
I went through the book with a fine tooth-comb. Or, at least half of it. By the time I reached the half-way point, I realised that it was a perfect place to stop the story for a first book, and to split the story up a bit. She’d written several hundred pages worth, that needed polishing, editing, etc, and would be asking readers to invest a lot of money and time in a first-time author. Splitting it felt right (and it’s a great place to stop, and set up the second volume). Then there corrections, and comments. Lots of comments. For consistencies, clarifications, etc.
Writing and rewriting and rewriting again tends to give a different picture to the author as it does to the reader. As the author, you know all the blanks. You know the world you’re creating. You know everything. The reader doesn’t. So, that fresh perspective gave a lot of questions and queries, all of which were taken on board, and in the best possible way, led to some creative brainstorming leading to bigger world building. She’d already set a great world, with a solid story, but was able to develop that further.
Each draft was met with more (but less) of the same, until the final version was ready to go.
It’s available now, in fact.
A fantasy adventure, by Sian Montgomery: