Tag Archive: flow



This week I got 8 people lined up as “Beta-Readers” for my second novel “THE SHIP”.

For those not familiar with beta-readers, they are basically test readers for you book.  They will read the story and give you feedback on what they thought of it.  But what kind of feedback am I talking about?

Well this may vary from writer to writer.  For me I’m looking for the following feedback:

1-Did they like the story? (this is a given, I have to know whether or not the story is even working for my readers in the first place)

2-How was the pacing?  Did the story drag a lot, or was it too-fast paced and hard to keep up with?

3-Were the characters likable and did you come to care about them?  Did they intrigue you?  Did you want to see more of them in the future?  (I’m working on an ongoing series where I will rotate some of the cast from time to time)

4-Spelling errors?  (I’ve done my best but some things will still slip past me so a few more sets of eyes doesn’t hurt)

5-Grammatical issues?  (I’ve chosen my team from a variety of people including a few authors and grammar nazis who will be more than willing to point out areas of concern)

6-Did the story flow well?  Were there areas where there were contradictions in who was where during an action sequence?  Was there an idea that got confused and hard to follow?

7-FINALLY: What did they think of the piece overall?

This is a lot of questions I know, but this is the book’s testing ground.  One of your last chances to work out the bugs and iron out any problems before you unleash your work on the public.  And trust me, sometimes the public can be unforgiving and harsh.  Remember, most of them will be putting out money to buy your work, so make sure you strive to put out a really good product.  Your reputation is on the line whenever you put out a book.  Never slack off on quality or it’ll hurt the sales of your next book.

As I mentioned earlier in this entry, I’m doing a series.  So one of the things I made sure to do was get at least a couple of beta-readers who did NOT read the first book.  People are not always going to buy your books in order, so make sure you keep each story neat and self-contained that anyone can jump into whatever part of your series they happen to spot.  Give enough references to past events from earlier books so intrigue them enough to maybe want to check out the earlier books, but not detract from the one in their hands at that moment.

Beta-Readers can help your work tremendously.  And like editors, you don’t have to take EVERY suggestion they make to improve the book.  You want to keep faithful to your own vision, but weigh the pros and cons for each change.  Some may prove to be a master-stroke, while others may not.  After all beta-readers will not know your long-term vision for your book and have all the insights you do.  So be careful how you take their advice.

Finally, always be gracious even if they give advice you don’t agree with. Remember, they’re trying to help your book become something even better.

Until next time, take care and keep writing.


I’ve been on a roll recently with novel #2 “THE SHIP”.  I mean I got some serious wordage down, like over 10,000 words in a couple of days, which I thought was impressive.  But then it happened…  I hit a wall.  Not literally of course, just figuratively.  My story suddenly ground to a halt and I had no idea how to get out of the corner I’d put myself in.

Sometimes, writing can be like going through a maze.  You go straight, come to a junction turn right, go a ways, make a left, straight, another left, etc. and you really feel like you’re making progress.  In fact, you’ll be out of this thing in no time… then you come to a dead end and you have no idea what went wrong.  Sometimes, you can pull out a hammer and chisel, or a huge drill like Wile E Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons and make your own way out.

At first I pulled out the ACME Super-Atomic Laser Drill to get out of my current dilemma and get the story moving again.  Unfortunately this led to a new problem.   My efforts did not FLOW with the rest of the story.  In fact it felt forced and was throwing the book out of whack.  And it was going to be very obvious to the reader.

So, I chose another route.  I took a few steps back and retraced my path to see how I got into this mess in the first place.  I wound up losing a lot of the word count I had been so proud of, but it was necessary in order to find the problem.  It turned out I was adding in too many characters into the story.  I already had a fair number of people who were already more than adequate and able to fulfill the same function as these newcomers I’d created.  Now I had a choice to make.  Should I be using the new people just to give them a cameo and then have them disappear from this story, in order to use them in a bigger role in another book?  For this had been the plan.  The problem was where I was inserting them.  The timing was all wrong, I was putting them in a the wrong spot.  Furthermore, I had to ask myself, were they really needed at all?

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you may want a character(s) for a cameo in your current work because you plan to bring them back in another work where they will play a more major role.  But you have to place them just right, especially if their role is not critical to your current story.  This is what happened to me.  Where I was placing them in my story, would have logically necessitated their continuing appearance and involvement in the story.  It wouldn’t have made sense to just bring them on and then dump them afterwards, especially when they’re the parents of one of your two main characters.

So, I looked over the scene where I brought them in and asked myself, how can I simplify things?  Do I have characters available (including my current batch of supporting ones) who can fulfill the same function without causing a major disruption?  The answer was yes.  In fact, the ones I chose actually made the transition to the next scene much easier.  So that’s the route I chose.

Now, I know that in real life we meet a number of different people every day, who may or may not play a major part in our day.  But that’s different from a book.  In a book, your audience is already trying to keep track of a number of characters you’ve already created.  It’s not always a good idea to overload the reader and expect them to be able to juggle who’s who and where they came in.  So little cameos that serve no real purpose can be a problem.

However, if you’re laying down a hint of something major to come later in your current story or a future one,, that’s different.  But even then, the timing of the cameo must be just right to make that character’s cameo memorable.  Plus you may seriously want to give the reader a major hint there is more to this person and we we will be meeting them again one day.  I did this with one of my two villains in “THE SHIP”.  He showed up a couple of times in “THE BRIDGE”, and the way I did it left my readers fully aware that this was the start of a series and he’d be back.  I got a number of e-mails asking about him after people had read “THE BRIDGE”, which let me know I had done a good job.

So sometimes we need to keep things simple, not just for the readers but for ourselves as well.  Make your story enjoyable and easy to follow.  And if you are writing a series, it’s good to leave your readers with hints or mysteries that more is to come.  But don’t overwhelm them by leaving too many mysteries unanswered at once.  You may wind up confusing or disappointing your readers when you don’t follow up on the one they wanted you to explore.  It’s important to play fair, remember without loyal readers and fans, you may wind up without an audience.

So be careful about how you load up your story.  Keep it simple enough to follow, without losing the complexities and twists that keep your readers coming back for more.

Until next time, take car and keep writing.

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