Saturday night and we’re doing the beta bop (well, and reviews)

Today in Minneapolis we had brilliant sun that cast icy-blue shadows on the snowy roofs, and that pale blue sky that tells you it’s colder than cold outside. So I hung out on my couch, chatted with folks on Twitter, and worked on my reviews and beta-reading.

First read-through: hang loose, let the story carry you, and think about its form.

  • Where does it flow? And how? What’s the rhythm? Highlight (mentally or visually) the parts that are pure story.
  • When do you forget that you’re reading? You fall into the story and it’s real. You’re rooting for the characters, waiting for the next thing to happen, tensing in dread of what’s casting a shadow beyond the corner. Watch for the traps laid — they’ll snap shut later, or not. A place to make notes in the form of questions: who’s this? what do I think is going on? Are we going to see this again later? Answer them as you go along (that’s what inserted comments are for.)
  • When do you remember again that it’s words on a page? Mark where that speed-bump jolts you back to awareness or throws you out of the story. Sometimes the sense of “too many words” really means those words are in the wrong place. When I’m in first draft, I heap up the exposition on the front end, mostly to reassure myself that I know where I am and what is happening.

On first-pass revision, I use a trick I watched my buddy Devin the Ruthless do: take out all the exposition, as if I were writing a screenplay; then insert the absolute minimum of information as late in the game as I can.


I’m also doing third and fourth pass reading for my Love in the Time of Starships review for Monday. I was hoping to get this out earlier, as it’s my first “new works” review, but clearly I am not built for the fast-paced world of deadline-driven reviewing. I like to read, reread, think it over.

And of course I have to make it difficult for myself (and hopefully interesting for the readers) by pairing works that are as different from each other as chance will manage.

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