|Home sick, so I finished Woven in one day|
The last half of 2014 had me to a lot of beta reading. A few were full length novels, some were novellas and short stories, and many times, I was asked to read a chapter or two. Woven, by David Powers King and Michael Jensen is easily the best ARC/beta work I read all last year.
Unfortunately, most of the pre-publication stuff I read had a lot of problems. Here are just a few things I've noticed with a lot of what I beta-read:
* 80% of prologues should just be labeled "Chapter One." I think so many writers have been abusing prologues lately, and it's an ugly trend. 50% of the time, a book doesn't even need a prologue. If you must have one, make sure to separate it from the rest of the book in some way. Maybe the action takes place WAY earlier. Or write it in a different POV, verb tense, etc.
* Speaking of POV (point of view), make sure you stay consistent. I see many writers using third person limited (intimate). Personally, that's my POV of choice for my own writing. If you use this POV, don't head pop! In other words, if we're experiencing the book through Character X, then we shouldn't be able to get intimate with the thoughts of Character Y. And it gets tricky getting a character to describe herself with 3rd limited, and I see writers suddenly pop into 3rd omniscient or 3rd objective to do so. Actually, a few writers I've read for have no idea what I'm talking about here. Um, that's a problem.
* Once again, nothing is wrong with the dialog tag said. It's invisible to the reader. They fly right over it and never give it a second thought. Obviously, you want to vary up your dialog tags and dialog beats. Just don't get fancy with tags. Make your actual dialog the star, and keep your dialog tags nothing more than stagehands. And if you don't know what a dialog tag or a dialog beat is, well...you REALLY should know.
* What's up with all of these dream sequences? When done right, they're fine. But we don't need pages and pages and pages of one. A dream scene pulls the reader away from your main action, and it's a drag. If you need to have a dream scene, keep it short and to the point. Movies love dream sequences, but they just don't work as well in books.
* Fight scenes. Oh man. It's so obvious many writers have never been in a real fight. I've done whole posts on this. Don't give us a blow-by-blow account of the action. It's not fun to read. It's indulgent.
* Speculative fiction needs some diversity. I beta read 13 pieces of work in the science fiction, fantasy, paranormal genres from October-December. Guess how many of these 13 works had a non-white main character...NONE. None. We need to do better.
* Finally, please stop abusing the comma. Whether you're putting in too many or not enough, it gets VERY hard to read. If you're joining two independent clauses with a conjunction in between you NEED a comma. If one of your clauses is dependent, don't put one in there. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, PLEASE...for the love of Thor....go seek some good grammar workbooks and learn. Your betas and editor will love you for it.
So yeah, these are just some things I'm noticing quite a bit with the stuff I'm reading for my fellow writers. I hope this quick list helps a few of you.
I'm super behind on visiting everyone's blogs. And it's going to get worse. I leave for Orlando next week. Unfortunately, it's not for vacation. Fortunately, it's pretty darn nice out there. I will do my best to catch up with everyone.