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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Alpha and Beta Readers

Step 1 - Find an avid reader!

So, now you have a first draft – what to do with it? The best advice is NOT to rush out and give it someone to read. Not someone you care about anyway. There is some great advice here at Taven Moore - the blog of Tami and Steven Moore . I found it very helpful. I know that there are those that say that the Alpha Reader is the author and that anyone else who reads the manuscript is a beta reader, but I agree with Tami, that there is a place for two distinct types of readers. This is how I personally define the two.

Alpha Readers

There are two stages to alpha readers.

Stage 1 alpha readers look at the shape of the story, its pace and tension. They gauge their empathy with the characters and their motivation. They judge the believability and integrity of the plot, and whether they care what happens next. They notice whether characters grow in response to the story, or whether they are simply inconsistent, and identify the strength of the characters voices.


Stage 1 alpha readers do NOT:
  • Care about grammar or spelling or even typos
  • Worry about the passive voice or use of adverbs
  • Wonder if there was a better way of saying something

Why? Because there’s a fair chance that what they are reading will end up being rewritten anyway, so who cares whether it is grammatically sound?

Stage 2 alpha readers do the hard slog of proof reading, kicking grammar butts, and toning up the flabby prose. The story is a great looker, but it needs to get fit.

Beta Readers

Readers are alpha until the manuscript is well-paced, has light and shade, tension carefully interwoven with light relief. A manuscript where characters have depth and tell their own stories with strong voices, where they grow and develop and discover something about themselves and where the protagonist draws empathy as the antagonist repels it. Unless the story demands a different loyalty that is. There should be a clear story arc, about which the sub-plots weave and dance, where characters act rationally according to their history and nature, except for the insane ones, of course.  

Only then is the manuscript turned over to the beta readers. They will instinctively do the same as the alpha readers, but because of all the hard work that has gone before, they are less likely to be distracted by problems with the big picture. Beta readers make a little mark in the margin when something snags their attention away from the story and onto the words, but they do not stop to wonder what was wrong. Beta readers follow the Neil Gaiman principle – if a reader says that something is wrong, they are almost certainly right. If they say what will put it right, they are almost certainly wrong. Beta readers should not be proof reading – they are far too valuable for that.

At the end of the process, the story should be silk smooth, the words flowing seamlessly from page to consciousness. Except of course that neither we nor our beloved alpha and beta readers are infallible, and that is why a professional editor is essential. That passage which was so good before, suddenly sparkles. The story sheds dead wood that had previously seemed essential, and yet is all the stronger for it. All this is to make the story the best that we can make it. It’s up to us to find the best story in the first place.

I hope to be looking for alpha readers towards the end of January. I will no doubt post about it again then, but do wave if you think you might be interested!

Monday, 2 December 2013

End of Movember

(or Back to Normality)

For those of you who don't know Movember is about raising funds for research into men's health issues, principally Prostate and Testicular Cancer. (The goals of Movember in their own words) The objective is to grow a moustache during the month of November. Yes, it's that hard. (if a little gender exclusive!)

So here it is after 30 days of hard graft ... and blessed relief 5 minutes later!

So that's it. Shaving is so worth it!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

So, I've written a NOVEL

During November 2012 and November 2013 (combined) I have written 100,000 words, completing the first draft of an epic fantasy novel. As a first draft it is the skeleton, the underlying shape of the story. Now comes the hard graft of adding ligaments and sinews to hold it together, muscles to give it strength and flesh to make it attractive. (That is adding character depth, sub-plots, and world building environment enhancement!)

I will probably now take two weeks off writing, to take care of the squillion things that I have steadfastly neglected over the last 30 days of totally focused writing. (Every spare moment has been given over to the writing effort). Then I shall use my Christmas break to kick start the whole editing process. The aim is to have a second draft (one which at least reads coherently) by the middle of January 2014.

I would really like to get back to blogging regularly. I miss reading the great articles that my blogging friends write. I miss taking part in the blogfest writing competitions. I miss playing the meme games. I miss writing poetry. I stopped blogging because I needed to write. When I have my second draft I will be able to blog!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Social Muddler

Apparently building a writers platform is crucial these days, and the social media in their many guises are the key. For me it started with this blog, in which I happily immersed myself. I really enjoyed visiting other blogs, interacting with loads of really interesting people, writing pieces for weekly memes and blogfests. Then I realised that I was so busy building a platform that I wasn't doing any serious writing. So I began to write short stories, microfiction and poetry. But all that blogging took its toll on my time and I had to step away from it.

So I opened a twitter account @dominicdemattos ( Something I could do in very little (140 character) bursts. So I discovered there are loads of really interesting people in the twitterverse and links to some great blog posts, which, oh dear, takes me back to the blogosphere!

Now I have opened an author's facebook account ( and if you haven't received a friend invite it's only because I haven't found you yet! (Please do send me a friend invite). It took me a long while to work out why some people had a "like" button on their facebook and others didn't. I discovered pages, so I made an author's page ( Now I can't decide whether I should keep up my timeline or my page. One has friends and the other has likes. 

So this is a call to all you who use facebook, and who visit other authors. How do you / would you handle the timeline versus page issue? Do you keep both going or concentrate on just one? How do you make facebook work for you?


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Winner 2012

So this is the (main) reason why I have been missing for the whole of November at least! For anyone who does not know, winning NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) means writing 50,000 words in one month. This is equivalent to a book of about 150 pages. Having achieved this, I am about halfway through my story (for the first book in the series that is!) My goal is to complete a further 50,000 words by the end of the first week in January and to complete my first edit by Easter. My first novel will then be ready for Beta reading, with a view to querying the manuscript in the Autumn. I hope you will all hold me to this plan of action!

 After struggling with an e-mail provider that seems intent on doing everything they can to get rid of me, I have finally decided to let them have their way. I am abandoning my old Supanet e-mail address and am now running with a parallel gmail address. I have suffered ignored e-mails, twice being put onto monthly charges for a service I do not receive, and to cap it all a draconian restriction on inbox capacity, 1000 times less than gmail allow. It's a shame when I have been with them for 12 years.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Work is good, right?

How embarrassing! No sooner do I leap back onto the blogging stage than I am swept away by a white water torrent of deadlines which inundate my evenings and weekends. Not that I am complaining ... well, actually I suppose I am ... not that I should be complaining; this flood will, ironically, keep the company on a sure footing for the rest of the year. We are looking to recruit two new members of staff with more to follow next year. I haven't looked up the word recession recently, but I think it means a state of mind where you fool yourself into believing your future is no longer in your own hands. The real lesson of the last 12 months for me is that we can take back our future and beat the recession if we decide to.

Foto curtzy of teh interwebs

So, what's new? I am getting a rather different birthday present next week. Free loft and cavity wall insulation. I know - lucky old me! This has meant that over the last three weeks we have had to empty the loft. Bear in mind that we have been accumulating loftware for 25 years, moving such cherished items as broken printers and other people's unwanted books from loft to loft. So time to tackle the dross and make a mega donation to charity shops and the local tip. Of course what was left had to go somewhere, so that meant clearing out and sorting the garage. Amazingly it all fitted in the garage except for the bikes, which had to go in the shed. So ... you guessed it ... that meant clearing out and sorting the shed. And the green house. And, for some inexplicable reason, the cupboard under the stairs. I think Sarah was just in sorting mode. So will we go back to hoarding in the loft? No comment!

It's worse than it looks - that wood is well above head height!

Anyone else out there struggling to balance demands, or do you still find time to do the things you really want to do? Is anyone else an inveterate hoarder (and can therefore feel my pain!)?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Too long gone!

When I decided to step back from my blogging to concentrate on writing, I little thought that my day job would take over and consume my time in the way that it has. I am pleased to say that the efforts have borne fruit and my company is recovering from the recession very well, despite the fact that according to the doom-sayers the recession in the construction industry shows no sign of abating. My only regret is that my writing has been the 'collateral damage'.

I have missed blogging, my friends that I made here, and visiting so many wonderful writers out there. I have missed learning so much from the wisdom of those who are travelling the path ahead of me, and I have missed the memes and blogfests too!

Winners Medal So I have come back, and although I cannot be here every day, I am determined to blog once every week as an absolute minimum. Surely I can find something worthwhile to say in a week?!

This week I would like to share with you a flash fiction competition I stumbled across, with a prize of $250 and this rather snazzy winner's medal.

The site is Lascaux Flash

Competition Inspiration The idea is to write 250 words (not including the title) inspired by this intriguing picture. The picture, it should be noted, is for inspiration only and the competition is not judged on its interpretation.

The competition is hosted by the Lascaux Review - an excellent on-line magazine, which is well worth a visit .

As they say themselves: "Please spread the word. About the contest as well as the Review. We're new, but we're here to stay."