Uh-Oh, It’s Another Rant on How NOT to Write Female Characters!

Oh, yeah, I’m going there…again. And this is nearly kismet-level timing with Marquessa over at The Next Chapter who just published a writing challenge post about Pet Peeves. Check it out, and all of her other posts, too!

While her article covers three pet peeves, I’m only ranting about one of my biggest because you see, I’m really–I mean really–trying to read this book right now and the deeper I get into it, the less and less I like the Female MC. I’m not going to name the book or author here – and I don’t want this taken as a bad review, I’m only going to be focusing on using the Female Protagonist as an example for identical or similar issues I’ve seen in countless books for the same reasons.

I’ll note that it is written in the 1st Person POV. It’s very rare that I run across this problem with 3rd Person POV. I think it’s more commonly a character development issue that arises when trying to write from the inside of a character’s head. Especially, if the personality traits either weren’t fully fleshed out by the writer ahead of time or they’re just too unfamiliar with those traits to successfully narrate through them.

But I can’t help noticing that when a Female Protagonist written in the 1st Person goes into defensive mode, she automatically drops like 10 degrees in maturity level and never regains it.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s definitely a skill, and one that I do not possess. If I wrote in 1st Person, all of my characters would sound exactly the same.

Typically, I know within the first 2-3 pages if I like or dislike a protagonist no matter the POV it’s written in. However, 1st person can be a little sneakier. They can lure you in, get you hooked on the story, then start seriously disappointing you. And that’s exactly what’s happened in this case.

The story hooked me from the start with a powerful opening, the storyline has continued to intrigue me, and all of the other characters are engaging and well-written. And through the first few chapters I was totally on the Female MC’s sidelines with my pom-poms. So, what happened?

She met the Male MC. Suddenly, my confident, independent, mid-20’s, entrepreneurial heroine with a shadowed history and razor sharp instincts had reverted to a naïve, prideful, and often flaky 12-year-old, who doesn’t have an instinct to save her life and trusts everyone who smiles at her.

Uh…WTF? A minute ago she was a badass and now I want unfriend her on Facebook.

Not only that, but a 20-anything-year-old in a present-day story setting has never been alive before the invention of cellphones and all of the modern technology that we are keenly aware of thanks to TV, pop culture, media, and our own love for it – yet she questions how the Male MC could possibly know that she’s not where she’s supposed to be? It’s called GPS Tracking, you [insert bad name here] – it’s on EVERY PHONE. And worse – yep, it gets worse – he told her beforehand. I’m not kidding. He straight up told her that all of her devices are being monitored.

Did she think he was talking about someone else monitoring them? How would he know that if he wasn’t also monitoring them? Yet she’s so confused about how he could possibly know–and this is a prime example of the things that can go wrong that we’re not always aware of because we (as the writer) have all of the information that the readers don’t. In the next chapter, I learned that the Male MC has a hacker monitoring the ATC (Air Traffic Control) and that specific flight. So, the writer was trying to allude to this much grander, more elaborate way in which the Female MC’s every move is being tracked, but without readers having that piece of information combined with their common knowledge of GPS Tracking, this “allusion” has only succeeded in making the Female MC look dumb.

As the stakes are raised and more incidents are stacked in the mounting pile of CONCRETE EVIDENCE labeled “All the ways these bad guys have tried to kidnap or kill you” – the more the Female MC argues with the Male MC about how HE’S being paranoid and that “so-and-so” can’t possibly be a threat (“so-and-so” being someone she’s known less than 48 hours). And she repeatedly asks why she can’t just go back to her old life and alias (a name she already KNOWS the enemy has) in her previous town? (Where her apartment complex was just burned down and 2 of her 3 neighbors were killed and some mysterious guy claiming to be from her insurance company is asking the owner how to reach her even though all insurance companies have their client’s contact information already)….

Okay, I need a breather {Deep breath} – You probably do, too, so I’m going to end the main rant here and move on. Thanks for letting me vent, lol!

How Does This Happen?


Simple: With good intentions.

I’d really like to highlight this problem in a way that all of you aspiring and published writers might find useful, rather than just as constructive criticism. To me, this rampant issue with female characters is a genuine concern because it robs the readers of really great stories, which in turn robs the writers of all their hard work.

Every time I see this sudden invasion of the body-snatchers change happen with a Female Protagonist, it’s because the writer is trying (and failing) to make her appear “strong” and not easily “cowed” by an overbearing/Alpha/dominant man.

And that’s evidenced by everything I mentioned above PLUS the fact that all of her moments of defiance are immediately emphasized by her thoughts of how she’s “not going to back down,” and the next time the Male MC’s POV happens, he will also think about how those ‘stubborn’ ‘fiery’ qualities are so attractive and that her strength turns him on.

For 1) you shouldn’t need these little infomercial blasts to try and “sell” the image you’re aiming to convey of your characters, they should be nailing that image in the readers’ minds through their actions, inner monologue, and dialogue. But these little ‘supporting’ clusters all shouting the same message are painfully obvious, rather than happening within the organic flow of the story.

For 2) she’s not “strong,” if she’s a danger to herself and others. Her stubborn inability to face the truth of the situation has already resulted in 3 innocent deaths and 176 plane passengers nearly dying in an emergency crash landing, where many sustained injuries that required hospitalization. That’s not being a strong woman, and men who find that kind of toxic pride attractive – well, they deserve each other.

Unfortunately, this Female MC is so determined to keep her rose-colored glasses on that every time she thinks about a past incident that correlates with everything she’s recently learned, she brushes it off as impossibly connected to her current situation of danger. I would expect that with the first memory, and maybe even the second, but when you’ve got a distinct pattern of break-ins and signs of stalking that span a full decade and your Female lead is still dismissing it as nothing; there’s something seriously wrong.

And that is not foreshadowing, by the way. If you want your readers to have information without it yet being revealed to or pieced together by your protagonist, then do a scene in the Villain’s POV. Otherwise, the whole dismissal bit as a way to relay info to the readers just makes your character look stupid.

Your women DO NOT have to resort to immature, naïve, and self-destructive, stubborn behavior that may or may not put others in harms way just to “stand up” to a domineering Male MC.

Believe it or not, your strong, independent, mature, female leads can endure the overwhelming conflict between her physical attraction, her instinctual warnings, and her common sense, without losing brain cells in the process. She can still be smart, keep the man at arm’s length while she’s connecting dots and maintain enough of her wits not to constantly put herself in jeopardy just to prove how “independent” she is.

Because, let me tell you, all she’s actually proving is that she’d get herself killed within 5 minutes without the man’s help. What kind of message is that sending to your readers? Why is she suddenly so incapable of surviving without a man when she’s already made it 26 years without him?

Wouldn’t it be better to show them as equally matched forces who eventually have to stop clashing and work together to solve the problem, rather than immediately reducing your strong, female lead into the “damsel in distress” slot and calling it a day? And I’m all for the damsel trope when it’s due to outside forces beyond their control – not caused by their own denial –repeatedly.

Remember: You can build tension and conflict without compromising the core integrity of your characters’ personalities.

And that goes for all genders and all romantic coupling scenarios. A character is a character; they all follow the same rules and guidelines when it comes to fleshing them out.

Okay, everyone I’m ending here. I could pick things apart even further, but I would honestly rather have you takeaway the parts that resonate, help, or make a positive impact in your writing journey than continue sharing my frustration over a book I’m CHOOSING to read (I take full responsibility).

In short, please pay close attention to those negative personality disintegrations that can occur when your female protagonist is suddenly introduced to new upheavals, or that one person that triggers all of their defenses and hormones simultaneously. Yes, they’re going to make mistakes, that makes them real, but they have to learn from them. Characters should be growing with the story; maturing, resolving their inner-demons, not backsliding so fast it makes Benjamin Button’s head spin!

❤ Is it just me or does it feel like a Monday? I’m getting a definite Monday vibe here.

Dear Emoticon Gods,

Please create an emoji that specifically flips off Mondays.

Thank you.

My Preciousss

How big is it? Will it ever see the light of day? Do you feel worthy enough to be its creator? How long are you going to hoard it all to yourself in the dank caverns of your ‘unfinished’ works like Gollum and his precious ring?

Writers, I’m talking about that ONE story that’s been festering in your head for decades. Maybe it was your first, or your twentieth, but it’s the one that you feel the most attached to and most protective of. The one that you’re beyond certain would be an international best seller if only someone like J.K. Rowling penned it, instead. And so you sit on it, leave it on the back burner while teeter-tottering whether or not you’ll ever actually put all of the effort into seeing it published.

Maybe, it’s the one you regret never finishing but have come to the conclusion that you just don’t have it in you anymore to do so. Maybe, you’ve taken the advice that not all books should be published to heart, despite having the inability to trash it. Oh, it’s still there. Every freaking scrap of paper you ever wrote notes about it on, every document related to it taking up space on your hard drive. You’ve moved it a dozen times already, both in boxes and digitally from computer to computer…yeah, I know you have. The entire evolution of that story can be traced all the way back to the beginning, it would just take days to piece all of the notebooks/pages/documents/napkins together to prove it.

How many times do you go back and read it? How many drafts have you created trying to revise it, using all of the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over your writing career to turn it into the masterpiece you’ve always envisioned?

Why are you still unhappy with it?

I’ll tell you. Because it’s your precious, your baby, the one you have dedicated so many hours, emotions, ideas, brilliant moments of creation to, and the one that you held to such high standards, they’ve become unreachable now–and I know this because mine started at age 17 with a simple idea.

That “idea” has since grown into a Tolkienesque catastrophe of details, lands, languages, characters, back stories, side stories – I actually have one completed novel and another that is about 85% completed and they’re not even the beginning – they’re about times, events, and characters that happen hundreds of years AFTER the beginning and the worst part – they’re both over 100,000 words in length! I have an actual filing cabinet filled with handwritten segments, notes, glossaries, character lists, you name it – multiple files saved in Dropbox and if I were to quit my job today and dedicate all of my time to only writing these books, they would still take me years to finish – and then I can’t even promise I’d be happy enough with them to hit publish.

Because, it’s that one story I’ve never felt worthy enough to write. That I imagine Peter Jackson would turn into a blockbuster in a heartbeat, if only I wasn’t the author. And I honestly can’t say why, just that it’s my one…my first, and definitely my most ambitious story of all time. I’m not 100% sure that it will never see the light of day, though. There’s no finality, only wishy-washiness over it, so for now – just putting it out there that if you have your own preciousss – you’re not alone, Gollumses.

Hopefully, I’m not alone, either LOL – so how ’bout it? Ready to dig up the old works and dust them off, give them a new polish or read over? Are you really so sure that you don’t have a hidden gem lurking in all those files just waiting for you to remember it’s there?

❤ Food for thought, writers! Enjoy your Hump Day! 😉

#WeeklyWritables ♥ I’ve Got Your Frightening Right Here

weeklywritables

I could give you any number of excuses on why I failed to write a creative post for my own writing challenge today, but the truth is: I was doing something frightening, rather than writing about it.

I have made my very first video tutorial!

Not without a lot of trial and error, or first finding the right “Free” screen recording software! Ugh, I had to have downloaded and sampled, then uninstalled 4 or 5 different programs before finally finding one decent enough to use. Okay, so it was more frustrating creating the video, but the frightening part will come with launching it on my blog tomorrow to see how it’s received!    **UPDATE: My greatest apologies, everyone, I have hit some technical issues with both YouTube and WordPress, so will NOT be able to launch my video tutorial as planned – HOWEVER – I am working on figuring out how I can launch it soon and will let you know! SORRY!!!**

Lookit, I don’t care if you’re just starting out or have a ton of experience, it’s always scary doing something new.

It often boils down to what exactly you’re trying to achieve and if the final outcome will be worth the frustration and anxiety. In this case, I say yes, it is! Because I wrote the post…and it was super, super long and full of screenshots and probably a lot more confusing than I wanted it to be. Mostly, refer to the super, super long part.

With a video tutorial, I’m able to show everyone how to do things step by step without any confusion in under 20 minutes and there’s that lovely pause feature so writers can follow right along with the video if they want.

Definitely, a lot clearer and concise than screenshots with a lot of verbiage. Still frightening to put it out there, put a little more of myself out there than I ever have before – but not too much. Baby steps…we introverts only take baby steps.

 

 

#SongLyricSunday ♫ “Without Me” – Halsey

SongLyricSunday

Our hostess, Helen over at This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time is still recovering – and I hope it’s going well for her. Jim at A Unique Title For Me is back as the guest host for #SLS. I haven’t had the chance to say it yet, so I’ll say it now: “Thanks, Jim, for keeping our beloved music challenge going strong!”

It’s been over a month since I was able to participate, with so many things happening personally, professionally and with my writing, I had to make some adjustments to my time management for awhile – but I sincerely plan on getting back into the normal swing of things again. *fingers crossed* – Oh, and Happy Belated New Year, everyone! LOL (I know, I’m a nerd)

This week’s theme is: Laugh/Laughter/Laughing

What a great, positive theme to pick – and then I go and ruin it by choosing one of the least happiest songs with the word laugh in the lyrics. Oops. Okay, not really. The thing is, I saw Halsey perform this song on The Voice and fell in love with it instantly. I’m admittedly late to new music and very rarely find new artists I love before they make it big (Ellie Goulding & Anne-Marie being my two biggest exceptions so far). I never listen to the radio, because I hate commercials with a passion and I also don’t want to hear what the DJ’s have to say #sorrynotsorry. Just play music. You wanna chat? That’s what Talk Radio’s for, go there.

Halsey is rather new to me, even though I’m now aware she’s been around for quite awhile. She has a unique voice, I’m already a fan of most of her work and happy to share this one today. Lyrics in the video, enjoy!

Songwriters: Amy R. Allen / Ashley Frangipane / Delacey Amaradio / Justin Timberlake / Louis Bell / Scott Spencer Storch / Timothy Z. Mosley</
Without Me lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

I do not own any rights to this song, video or lyrics. All rights remain with the artists and their respective agents. No copyright infringement intended.

#TacoTuesday

tacoshells

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with food – sorry foodies!

Welcome to a new kind of blog hop, engineered by moi for anyone who wants to join in. This is for fun, creativity, mostly cuz-we-can and designed to work for both readers and writers!

Objective: Every Tuesday I will introduce a new ‘ingredient’ until we have the biggest and best tacos in town. The only things you need are your own WIPs, published works &/or favorite books you’ve read. Answer as a writer, a reader or both, it’s completely up to you. There are no rules against using a different manuscript for each week’s writer answer, but please make sure to tag them with the story’s title so your followers know which books to look out for!

Here we go…

Writers Menu

Taco Shell/Wrap: Share a moment when a supporting character played a part in keeping your protagonist held together, even if it’s in memory.

“The problem is the whole in so deep already, though,” Reyna admitted, once she’d caught her breath. “I mean, he’s everywhere! He even knows my boss, for crying aloud. There’s no place in my life where he’s not already involved.”

Serena paused and softened, giving her a sympathetic look. “You mean like me and Maddy?” she pointed out. “Do you think it was any easier for us? You’re my best friend and his sister. We all grew up together, our parents used to barbecue together. We went to the same schools, the same family outings. Even if we went out separately, the other turned up there or was friends with those who were there. Do you know how long it took for me to get up the nerve just to admit to myself how I felt about him?”

Reyna opened her mouth, then closed it. She’d never thought of it that way before, but Serena was absolutely right. Madison had already been such a huge part of every part of Serena’s life, just like Corbyn was turning out to be in Reyna’s.

“The hardest part was getting past the fear that I would lose everything I loved, everything I’d known, if we didn’t work out. You, your parents,” Serena continued. “At the very least, that nothing would ever be the same again.”

“How did you do it?” Reyna asked quietly, desperate for any kind of wisdom her friend could bestow.

“I just did,” Serena shrugged. “I knew that if I didn’t try, if I didn’t give him or myself that chance, I would regret it for the rest of my life…”

~ Hearthstone Alpha (The Úlfrinn series, #1)

Readers Menu

Taco Shell/Wrap: Which book have you read with a memorable supporting character, and why did you like them?

itbiotc-front-coverMargo from In The Best Interest of The Child, by Felicia Denise. I loved every moment she was on the page, because her character came across with such a genuinely supportive personality. Even though Olivia hadn’t let her in all the way with her traumatic past, Margo was still there for her, without hesitation or judgment. She brought laughter, a shoulder to cry on, advice and even a good ‘shove’ in the right direction whenever Olivia needed it. I really hope we get to see more of her in the second book. (hint-hint!) 😉

This probably goes without saying…but

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!

 

If you do participate, please remember to leave a ping-back in the comments below, so I can read your post. Happy Tuesday Muses!

You Name It!

Your Next Bad A__ CharacterCharacter names are the topic of today’s post, for both readers and writers, so jump right in! The other day, I was given the option to check out yet another free book and being the cover whore that I am, I couldn’t pass it up. I skipped the blurb and went right for the “Look Inside” feature. I made it through a good portion of the beginning, before I was even given the young woman’s name.

It was my mom’s name. 😐

Not a popular girl’s name in this day and age, especially for an 18 year old – but there it was. Glaring at me. I instantly started picturing my mom in what I knew to be an Erotic Romance novel and hit the back-button so fast my mouse filed an L&I claim.

As a Reader

I understand that this awkward situation depends largely on your genre of choice. I read a variety, but mostly Erotic Romance. So, there are definite names that will immediately turn me off to a book. Main Characters who have the same name as:

  • Any of my parents (I have 4)
  • My Kids
  • One of my ex’s that I cannot stand
  • A real life arch-nemesis – though I love it when they’re the antagonist!
  • And, depending on the circumstances, my nieces and nephews

That’s a lot of names when you think about it. Which, is why I usually feel fortunate and grateful that writers can be so creative with names!

Both of my kids have uncommon names. It’s very rare that I pick up a book and see my oldest son’s name. I have never seen my youngest son’s name used… as a first name… so it doesn’t have the same ‘scarred for life’ affect.

The rest of my family all have more common names. In the case of one niece and nephew, though, their names are sooooooooooo ridiculously common, that I know a dozen other people by their names and for some reason that makes it a non-issue. It’s like I have mental blockers for them, rather than the names, themselves. (Yeah, I’m a little weird).

More often than not, it’s that one ex-boyfriend situation that I run up against. I can’t even stomach seeing his name in print, let alone spend 1 to 300 pages reading it over and over again, picturing him in my mind, instead of the character I’m supposed to be seeing. A hero with his name is the last guy I’d ever root for, no matter what amazing qualities he supposedly has.

Just. Ain’t. Happening.

I’m probably missing out on some really great stories, but it’s not worth the nausea. Am I alone in this? Are you able to overlook these situations?

As a Writer

When I started writing in my teen years, I used names I wished I had, or that I could see myself naming my kids one day. Now that I have kids, I know better – especially with the kind of books I read and write! o_O

Typically, there are 3 different ways my characters can get their names:

1) It just comes to me and it fits. It might even come to me before the actual plot.

2) I get an idea for a story, and as I sketch that out a little more the character names start coming to me, usually as I imagine them be spoken aloud in dialogue. Actually, some of my ideas begin as dialogue, but that’s a whole other post!

3) The character is from another country and I research names until I find a combination that I like or feels the most fitting. I also do this with foreign sub-characters. Sometimes, it’s just their surname, because their first name has already made itself known.

With my Dark Day Isle series, Tessa’s first name came to me easily, then I had to wait for her last name, but I had to research to find Felix’s whole name.

The name Felix, itself, has been around long enough to have a very wide reach. However, in these modern times, it’s more commonly found in and around the kingdom of Luxembourg. My character happens to hail from Metz, which is nearby and politically linked to Luxembourg. I was excited when I came across the name during my research, and knew I’d found the perfect fit. Yes, I love Felix the Cat, too – stop aging us, gaw! 😀

While there’s no rule against using any name you want, it can be really useful to run a deeper search into a country’s various regions, for they each have their own unique traditional and modern list of names. Just searching for “French boy names” never would’ve given me Felix as an option. It only takes a few extra minutes of research, if you’re looking for something more authentic.

Of course, I’ve had characters whose names came to me first and only afterward revealed that they were of a certain heritage. For example: The main male character in my upcoming novel, Hearthstone Alpha (June 1st!) is Corbyn Bruschard. I didn’t choose his name – he did. I think I gave him a duck face, but he was 100% set on it and since he’s presumably ‘the boss’, I was in no position to argue. [insert exaggerated eye roll here].

Bruschard doesn’t even exist in Google’s world. At least not that I have found. Corbyn and his, ahem–pack–of guys, are Scandinavian, so I apologize profusely if Corbyn Bruschard is like the exact opposite of anything viking – you can take it up with the boss. Personally, I’d just let it go… I’ve met his cranky side. 🐺

Readers: Have you ever found yourself unable to read a book–no matter how enticing the blurb–simply because of one of the character’s names?

Writers: How do you come up with your character names? Is it different for each book? Do you have names before anything else, or do you have to flesh your characters out a bit first before their names come to you?

Whaddaya Mean I’m Not Superwoman?

one-does-not-simply-have-free-time.jpg

It’s painful to admit that I think I’ve reached the end of my multitasking capabilities. Everyone’s lives are busy and we all juggle overflowing plates–but to those who can be mom/dad, work full time, keep house, be rushed through back-to-back edits while battling a nasty head cold bent on destroying our planet and still find time to tweet every five minutes, I bow before you, and in the wise words of Wayne & Garth declare:

50291443.jpg

The good news is that I am recovering from the head cold at long last and hopefully will be getting back into my blogging routine, at least. I have a lot to catch up on, so bear with me…

Here’s to a better week for all!

 

The Other Side of The Coin

003-stephen-king-quote.png

We all started as readers, didn’t we? Long ago, back when books could only be purchased in print and the idea of corresponding with our favorite authors was a pipe dream that earned us generic letters written by fan club volunteers–yet, we cherished them anyway.

All the late night hours, oversleeping for school the next morning, because we just couldn’t put that book down. We didn’t know how much money the author made, what they preferred for breakfast or the name of their beloved pet, until someone was lucky enough to get an interview with them. Authors were as distant as the stars and we worshiped them for their creative brilliance. We were awed and spellbound by the masterpieces they were able to create with words. We would wait months, years for their next novel, because that was normal.

Now, we’re the authors and we’ve come into this fast-paced, on-demand, high-tech industry with the same hopes and aspirations as the writers who came before us. We have the advantage of a self-publishing market and being able to personally connect with our readers through various social media platforms.

What’s a fan club? (I think she meant Street Team) Oooh, gotcha.

We aren’t distant or mysterious. Our readers not only know what we prefer for breakfast, they get before, during, and after photos on Instagram.

The disadvantage, is that the reader mentality has adapted to these modern times. Instant gratification has become the new norm and they’re no longer willing to wait months or years for your next novel to come out.

Are you?

Now that you’re on the other side of the coin, has it changed the kind of reader you are? Do you find yourself more sympathetic to the time and cost, or is there a switch in your brain between writer and reader?

a-ha-ha-wr-be-a-writer-funny1

You know exactly what goes into each and every one of your books. The writing, the beta readers, re-writes, blurbs, covers, the editing, promoting and tours. No matter how small your budget, you publish at a loss, unless you’re skilled enough to do 100% of everything by yourself.

Do you wince at paying $2.99 for an eBook? Oh, I don’t know about that, I think I’ll wait for it to go on sale. You know that cover alone cost at least $45 if it was pre-made or author made (royalty free stock photos can cost that much for the right size). Upwards to $499 if it was custom ordered by a top professional.

“Yeah, but $2.99 is half the cost of my favorite espresso or 2 cheeseburgers off the dollar menu at McDonalds and I already know I like those, no risk of being disappointed.”

Instant gratification is worth the cost, but a new author we’re not sure we’ll like…um…maybe not so much.

Plus, there’s no resale value on an eBook, but you can always sell a paperback used on Amazon, at the flea market, yard sale, or trade it for credit at the paperback exchange – yes, they still have those.

And this isn’t a dis on technology, our spending habits or the new times. The world changes and we adapt. We have a lot of things to be grateful for as authors, that our predecessors only dreamed about – I’m just curious if becoming a writer has changed the way you behave as a reader? Are your reactions more lenient when you find a typo in someone’s book or harsher? Do you find yourself reading as a writer; critiquing plot, flow and character development as you go – or can you still fall into these things from a reader’s perspective alone?

Do you find yourself reading more or less? Do you have writer envy? Do you find yourself discouraged more often than not by other authors’ successes?bestwriter

Want a free book?

Uh…..

Bet you never thought you’d pass up on a free book, huh? These days, there are so many free book promotions that a good 50% never get opened in emails; click-delete, delete, delete, because we already have 1,000 free novels bogging down our Kindles from the last 25 promotions and we’re not even sure we’ll ever read them…like ever. 90% of them sounded good at the time, but they’re not even on our TBR list. They’re just sitting there, collecting cyber dust.

Do me a favor and look at the bookcases in your house, you know those beloved shelves you treat like a shrine, and tell me – is there a single book on them you haven’t already read at least once?

Does that make you feel guilty? Do you wonder if your own novel is sitting on someone’s Kindle, where it will go unread…possibly forever? Ever fear that karma’s gonna bite you in the ass if you don’t go above and beyond to support as many fellow authors as possible, even at the sacrifice of your own precious writing time?

Is your mind filled with:

“Read? Who has time to read?! I’m not writing fast enough, my readers are going to leave me for all those other authors, because they’re publishing books once a month, attending signings, giving out SWAG (where do you even buy that?) and still find time to post a new Tweet every five minutes!” (?)

Or do you actually take the time to stop and think:

“Oh my God, I did it. I’m a published author, and there are people out there, right now, reading my book and I don’t care that they downloaded it for free and may never review it or buy the next one – they’re reading something I wrote – That’s all I ever wanted. I never thought this day would come!” (?)

Curious minds want to know…

quote-great-writers-are-indecent-people-they-live-unfairly-saving-the-best-part-for-paper-charles-bukowski-37-21-32.jpg

Save

Dear Indie ♥ Weekly Resource Post

IndependentHappy Independence Day to all of my fellow Americans! The perfect day to get back on track with my Indie posts. 🙂 The last you heard from me, I talked about the importance of Beta Readers and all of the steps that will help you during your Post-Rough Draft, Pre-Publication process. I’m going to pick right up where I left off and move into possibly the most difficult step you’ll ever face in your journey: Dealing with constructive criticism.

First, it’s important to understand what a Beta Reader is, what they do and what you’re essentially asking them to do when you request their help. The easiest comparison is:

You’re the CEO of your own company (Author Name) looking to market a new product (Your Book) and Beta Readers are your test subjects. They’re trying your book out for size and filling out a customer survey (Beta Read Questionnaire) at the end.

Beta Readers are usually experienced and know what to look for, what critiques will help polish your book. Some are more thorough than others, but they’re looking at some or all of these points: Character development, sentence structure, plot holes, flow, grammar, punctuation, style and overall enjoyment. They can be a lot like editors, only from a readership point of view.

Now, that you’ve gotten the results back, your first reactions and questions may be along the lines of:

  • What? They didn’t like it? But how can anyone think poorly about the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into this precious new creation? Easy. They didn’t put any blood, sweat and tears into it. They are not emotionally invested in the story, the characters or even the success of the finished, published product. Therefore, their opinions and suggestions are unbiased, clear-headed and unfettered. As much as you might loathe or even downright despite them, this collection of outside feedback is crucial to your book’s success.
  • But, I chose to publish independently so that I could write what I want – or – because none of the publishers or literary agents were interested, despite the fact that I know it’s good! – Yes, but now you have the opportunity to make it even better. To polish your story to the point where it’s no longer good, but phenomenal! [insert flashing text and raining glitter here].
  • All of my friends and family love my book just the way it is! – No, they’re either afraid of hurting your feelings or they really do love it, because they don’t know any better. By that, I mean, they’re not familiar with your specific genre, or they aren’t aware of those critical points I listed above (character development, etc.) and therefore have no way of critiquing those things for you.

The important question you should be asking yourself is this: Wouldn’t you rather know these opinions now, rather than in bad reviews after it’s already published?

I completely understand your desire to hold fast and try to protect your hard work. We inherently possess a knee-jerk reaction that sends us right into defensive mode whenever our work is criticized. It’s natural, and it’s okay to feel (not to act on). However, I also know from experience that it’s counterproductive to stay in that mode for too long.

So, how can you get past it and turn all of the criticism into something useful? By remembering that you’re a CEO of a company looking to market a new product. It’s as easy, and as difficult as that. Allow yourself to have your initial, natural reactions – but then step back from the personal, emotional hold of it and put it into a business perspective.

The worst possible feedback you can ever get is “OMG, I loved it!” and nothing else – In no way does that help you. It’s flattering, yes, and we all love to hear that kind of praise, but that sentence alone is not going to help you sell any books. Besides, that’s more of a Review than a Beta Read (we’ll cover Reviews later on).

The best feedback will be a combination of positive and negative points. Most (not all) beta readers like to highlight the things they loved about your book, just as much as it’s their job to point out all of the things that didn’t work well for them. It should be a balance, but you have to keep in mind that beta reading is time consuming, so there may be those who only give you back the critiques without any praise – that doesn’t mean they didn’t like anything, though.

By turning the negative feedback into the positive tools they really are, it will help soften the blow, but I won’t promise it will be easy. Remember that each opinion and suggestion are the necessary bolts and screws that are going to make your book stronger for the marketplace. The fruits and veggies your story is going to need in order to flourish. Call it tough love, if you will, but when you trick your mind into a more positive, constructive and essentially productive perspective regarding your beta reads, you’ll be able move past it faster and get onto the next step you need to take.

Okay, so what step is that? Hopefully, you’ve already shopped around and decided on a professional editor, but if you haven’t, now would be the time. Most editors are willing to do a sample edit for you, so that you can see how thorough they are. They’re usually able to give you a time frame of how long it will take them to get the first pass back to you, as well. Choose the best editor for your needs and send your MS off to them.

Congratulations! You’re now halfway through your self-publishing journey! Take a moment to celebrate and pat yourself on the back for such a job well done! Especially, for managing to get through your first collection of criticism – it never completely goes away, but it might get easier for you over time.

Next week, I’m going to cover some optional pre-marketing steps you can take while you’re waiting for your edits to come back that might save wear in tear in your floors from pacing! 🙂

Weekly Accomplishment: I’m happy to announce that this week, I’ve finished the 3rd Chapter for Scavenger, book 2 of the Dark Day Isle series and have moved into the 4th. Hint: When Master Felix orders extra pineapple, things are bound to get a little… messy. 😉 What are you drooling… er…cheering over this week? Please share with us in the comments below!