Tag Archive: storyline



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.


As you all know I’ve been working on my second and third novels for a while now.  Mostly the second one which has been taking longer than I had anticipated.  At first I wondered why this was so?  I was much more experienced since my first go-round with completing a book.  I’ve learned a lot of the pitfalls and mistakes that can be made by now.  So I should be able to crank this puppy out in no time right?  WRONG!

Now before I proceed, remember I’m only speaking for myself and what I’m experiencing in this process.  I’m still very much on the learning curve and I would love to hear some of your experiences down in the comments section below.  You may very well wind up giving insight to other issues I haven’t thought about yet, which could be very helpful.

Anyway, as I said before the process is taking longer than I’d hoped.  I originally figured I’d be laying down the plot for book four by now, while having book three 2/3’s of the way done.  So what’s been happening?  Why am I working so slowly?  I think it’s several things.

First, folks who’ve read “The Bridge” really loved it even with the imperfect editing job I’d done on my own since I couldn’t afford a professional editor.   Yet the readers were willing to overlook any issues on that front because they were swept up on the story.  Plus they fell in love with the characters and how they interacted (especially with Alex and Veronica).  So, there are high expectations for “The Ship”.  However, I’ve shifted the focus to the second lead couple Julie and Cassandra, and relegated Alex and Veronica to a few brief chapters in the new book.  But what happens to them is still connected to the new story and has major implications for book #3.

So with the shift in attention to Julie and Cassie I’m dealing with a whole new situation.  They have a much different relationship and chemistry.  Alex and Veronica already had long term relationship when we met them.  But Cassie and Julie are just beginning a romantic relationship.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with their story, Julie and Cassie are lesbians.  So right there the dynamics of their interactions are going to be a bit different, and not just because they are both women.  I’m approaching their situation like I would any two people who have just become a couple, but I’m also keeping in mind the added pressure and worries of being gay.  They know there will be those who disapprove of their being together, including some members of their own families.  And I’m trying to make their developing relationship both tender and realistic, rather than a male fantasy where they are just eager to jump into bed with each other.  I want to the audience to see them as real people, not just stereotypes or caricatures.

But I also have to keep the reader engaged by getting them to care about these two young ladies.  So I have to juggle events and scenes in such a way to keep the audience laughing, intrigued and rooting for them while slowly building threat of the approaching danger and mystery that Julie and Cassie are about to become enmeshed in.

Now another issue is the pacing of the story.  People loved how I did it in the first book.  It wasn’t too fast, nor too slow.  And I kept breaking off scenes in such a way as to make the reader eager to turn the page so they could start on the next chapter.   Not as easy as it sounds, at least for me.  But I believe I’m succeeding in keeping this up with the new book.

Another problem is too many details or unnecessary scenes.  This is something I encountered with the first book.  But in that case I didn’t realize how much of a problem it was until after I finished the first draft and then re-read everything.  This time I keep catching the problem as I’m still working on the first draft, which means I go back edit and rewrite as I’m going along.  Or, I’ll find a scene I wrote earlier works better in a section I’m currently working on, so I have to pull it out and move it.  Then I have to go back to where I had it and fix any issues the change made to that area.

Plus there are other issues as well, which I may cover in another entry.  But this gives you a good insight to what’s going on for me as the author.  Again I’d love to hear from some of you about what you’ve encountered with your writing.  I am using a ‘mental’ outline in my head.  I tried writing one out but kept changing it over and over as I went along that it looked more like a bad set of directions that could get the most experienced cartographer to throw up his/her hands in surrender.  Everyone has their own style.  Plus, my characters have a tendency to change the plan as I go along by coming up with alternative ideas that were better than the ones I’d had in mind.

So again I’m making progress, just a bit slower than I’d planned.  How is/was the writing process for you on your 2nd, 3rd or even 7th book?  I’m sure both me and the other readers would love to hear about it.  Please tell us about your experiences in the comments below.  Thanks to tuning in and I’m looking forward to hearing what you all have to say.  Take care and thanks for reading.


Okay, in my last entry I disclosed I was working on a vampire novel.  Now this is a genre that has been done and redone so many times it’s unbelievable.  And almost every time there are new twists and turns added to it that they barely seem to resemble the traditional vampires that Bela Legosi and Christopher Lee made legendary in Hollywood.  Today we have vampires that just totally ooze sex appeal, can sparkle in daylight instead of turning to dust, can have sex and produce offspring, are either monsters or saints, etc.  And they are still as popular as ever in spite of all the changes to the original legend.

Now I’m not just talking about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.  That was not the first vampire story.  There were many others. If you ever get the opportunity check out “The Penguin Book Of Vampire Stories” and you’ll see ones that predate Mr. Stoker’s work by quite a few years.  But in that collection you’ll also meet other kinds of vampires: snow vampires, ones who hide inside portratis, aliens on different planets, etc.  In this collection there are creatures of all sorts and shapes that are still called vampires.

This brings me to today’s subject.  How can you breathe new life into a genre that has been written about so many times over?  Well that’s up to the writer.  As in the case of Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyer and others, they tweek the original vampire concept to suit their story ideas.  Sometimes they provide and explanation about why their creations don’t adhere to all the old legends, sometimes not.

So, you may be thinking, “Okay Allan, how are you going to ‘tweek’ the vampire concept and make it fresh and different?  What changes are you going to make to the traditional weaknesses and rules?”

Here’s my answer.  All the traditional rules of garlic, being welcomed into a place, avoid sunlight, shape-shift, control minions, etc. will be in effect.  So where am I making the change?  Simple, my vampire is NOT undead.

At this point I’m sure a number of you are thinking if he’s not undead then he can’t be supernatural.  So how can all those limitations and vulnerabilities still apply to him?  That’s where the creative writing process comes in.  All of these things will be addressed in the story.  And it won’t just be about a biography about my vampire.  There will be dangers.  The internet allows people access to a lot of information.  And this story will be taking place in modern day.  So there will be suspicious townspeople, cops on the hunt, the threat of discovery, a ghost, and villains (human and otherwise) to be battled.

So there you have it.  A new take on a much used subject.  But instead of changing all the rules, I’m working with them and making new reasons for why they apply.  And in doing so, I’m hoping that a number of you are already really intrigued and are looking forward to checking the story out when it’s ready.  If this is the case, then I’ve succeeded in breathing new life and interest into a genre that has been worked and reworked many times over.  And it can be done with so many other genres such as fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, you name it.

So what genre or legendary creature/being have you thought about working on?  Is there one close to your heart that’s been done a lot already?  If so, how can you make it new and interesting?  Are there rules for how it behaves or can be dealt with and what are the explanations behind it?  Is there a new way to approach these things?  Give us a new spin on it that still makes sense and intrigues us.

I’d love to hear from you and so would other people who read this blog.  Leave comments below and tell us a little about what you are working on or have in mind.  Be careful not to give your whole idea away.  Just leave tantalizing hints that will get us revved up to check your work out as soon as it’s ready.

Until next time,  keep writing.

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