My Grammar Police

Today is National Grammar Day! I don’t know if most authors are like me, but I’m much better at story than the grammar part of writing. I’m the “idea person.” With that limitation in mind, I reach out for assistance on this aspect of my work; the bigger the production, the more help involved. 

For blog articles, I’m simply writing in Grammarly’s free version. It’s straightforward and easy to use. It catches the more glaring mistakes, and I feel fine ignoring it sometimes when the suggestions are not fitting my flow. The web add-on also helps with grammar basics when writing my book’s first drafts. I do those chapter by chapter in AutoCrit, which provides some advice on pacing, overusing words, and other such, less-grammatical advice. 

Those are the basic tools. The real work comes from a couple of individuals at two specific stages of the book drafts. During the alpha review stage, my husband provides editing and feedback including catching glaring grammatical errors. Those pull him out of stories, so he finds more. While my other alphas help with story points and feedback, he helps provide a cleaner draft for my beta readers. A cleaner beta draft means the beta feedback is that much more valuable. 

The second person correcting any remaining grammar issues is my editor, Maxine Meyer. You will find her credited in my copyright as the editor, and she does an amazing job. I’m working on becoming more consistent with my tense usage, but that is the one she probably finds and fixes the most. I also have a love/hate relationship with commas. I love using them and hate their limited (appropriate) usage. 

Maxine cleans up the final manuscript before I submit for publication, and it is a crucial step in the process. Any and all remaining errors are mine alone, and she helps me get that as close to zero as possible for your reading pleasure. (Note: I only scribbled out the prices on the main pic as prices change over time and internet pics are forever!)

Hidden Promise

Hidden Promise is back in my hands with some beta reader feedback. I have a few minor adjustments to make, but I should have the manuscript in Maxine’s hands by mid-late April. This places me right in line for my release timetable of mid-June! I’ve gotten some great feedback from my beta readers, and my alpha readers have started on the series finale. I’m excited to share with you all how things are coming together in Hidden Promise and how it ends in Hidden Strength next year. 

As a reminder, Hidden Promise is only $3.99 until its release. The price will go up to $4.99 after go-live, so don’t forget to preorder!

Have a great weekend, and “Go Sounders!”

Hidden Promise Beta Update

I was in Portland for training this week and spent the evenings finishing my edits for Hidden Promise! I ended this draft at just over one hundred thousand words, and I think it will end up closer to ninety-five thousand after some final cuts depending on what my beta readers think. There are a couple of chapters I am already eyeing for cuts or merges, so I will likely have a scene or two to share if we hit another rating/review milestone. 

I will try to polish the roughest edges of Hidden Strength in February while my beta readers have the third book. If I push through the full manuscript, then I can send it to my alpha readers in March so they can get started. Some of my alphas take a little longer to read because they focus more on grammar. Even if I don’t polish the whole thing, they will probably get at least a handful of chapters to start on. 

With my new career direction, I expect time to be a constraint this year. As a result, I’m planning to put the release date for Hidden Strength another year out from Hidden Promise, meaning it will release by June 2024. If I finish early, I will release early; but I don’t want to over-promise and have to disappoint people, especially not with the finale!

After receiving my beta feedback, I will work on those final revisions and contact Jonathan for another beautiful cover. If you want to see it before I post it here or on social, then sign up for my newsletter. I am targeting the Hidden Promise cover reveal for the Q2 newsletter in April. The book then goes to my editor, and we are through to the finish line!

Where does the time go, my friends? Have a great weekend!

Alpha Readers – Requirements May Vary

Initial feedback from the beta reader experience has shown me that my expectations for alpha and beta readers are not entirely accurate. It also showed me that my research and the information out there on these two roles is not entirely consistent. Before I expand upon my own thoughts, focusing on alpha readers, information I researched came from these sources:

Catherine Milos’s summary is the closest to my own experience and expectations in the comparison between the two roles with this description (I encourage you to take a look at all the articles):

  • “Alpha Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript after an initial draft. The manuscript often has not been edited. It’s not uncommon for an Alpha to read before the author edits the first draft.
  • Beta Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript which has been edited and is shortly due for publication.”

Some of the articles call out that alpha readers look at your manuscript from the perspective of a writer, looking for plot holes and writing issues. While beta readers look at it from a reader perspective looking for what they like and do not like.

My Findings on Alpha Readers

My greatest area of confusion in my first run through this process is around editing. I plan to hire a copy editor for my book before publishing, so I was not as concerned with that aspect before requesting beta readers. I have someone I consider my alpha reader looking for plot holes and character development issues. Upon rewrite I do another review for editing purposes. Unfortunately, I have read my own work so many times that some grammar is just overlooked. This was more of a distraction for some of the beta readers than I initially anticipated.

I know copy editing is not my strength, so I need to adjust my process to compensate. This includes adjusting how I approach alpha and beta readers to better accommodate my style and skills. My sister is my first reader, and will continue to do so. While she will also be a beta reader, I call her my first reader as well because she takes a look at my rough draft. This is the draft where I jump from scene to scene and do not have the secondary characters as well developed as they need to be. The first read for me is: Does the story work? Which characters are standing out and which are bland? What are the big plot holes or world building aspects that are not making sense? These give me some broad brushes to fill in when I go for the initial rewrite to smooth out the rough edges in preparation for a true alpha read.

The second step for me is the alpha reader. First lesson: I need more than one. No matter how much feedback hurts, it is a growing kind of pain. Second lesson: I need alpha readers with complementary skills. I have enlisted my husband for this, as he and my sister have a good combination of skills between the two of them. She will be looking more at plot, characters, world, etc. He will focus on conflicting descriptions, grammar, and clarity. I will be looking for a third as well, and likely a critique partner, but alpha readers need to be people you trust. They read something rough, and you need people who can work with you to build something and not tear you down while doing it.

With this learning, I’m looking at another round of beta readers for this book after incorporating the fixes from my new alpha reader and the first round of beta readers. I appreciate the three of them working with me on this round. It was my first time submitting for a beta read, and they were willing to push through that. The feedback and advice from experienced beta readers has been much appreciated.

I will not go into the beta reader process too much here, as there is a lot of advice on beta readers already out there and easy to find on the beta process. To summarize my findings on getting to that stage: Know your own strengths and weaknesses and your writing process. Tailor your alpha readers to your process and to have complementary strengths with you and with each other. Finally, unless you know your beta readers well and they are not concerned with grammar, make sure your manuscript is clean of obvious errors before you move to the beta reader stage.

Still on track for publication this year!