Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beta readers

This week I heard from my mentor--since he doesn't think of himself as a mentor, I think I should now call him my Beta reader. I was never sure about that term but I see it all over the writing lists, so I looked it up: a reader who readers with a "critical eye" with the aim of improving a work for a general audience. Well, my Beta reader, Fred, had several suggestions which kind of all boiled down to I have too many balls in the air in the current work in progress and should eliminate some. I know he's right about at least one plot thread and will eliminate it. Another one I must review. One I'm pretty sure I want to keep, and another solution he suggested I've already solved in a different way--though when I told him, Fred seemed to think that was a good idea. But the one I really should write out will wipe out everything I did yesterday morning, so it kind of set me back on my heels. I'm once again moving ahead  at a good clip, accumulating words toward that goal of a 70,000-word manuscript, so I was dismayed at the thought of writing out a good chunk of it. I tell myself, or try to, that it's quality not quantity that matters. The truth is my March 15 deadline is for a finished manuscript and this is a first draft, so if I stop moving ahead in word count and go back to rewrite and reconsider, it becomes part of the revision process which I will now do sooner rather than later.
But at the same time I found a promotional contest for a new culinary novel--well, really it's sort of a non-culinary mystery because the protagonist is a food critic who knows zilch about cooking or food. There are several steps to this contest: post on Twitter, post on Facebook, buy a copy and submit proof, and finally, write a review. The prize, though, is worth all those steps--fancy digital cooking equipment. So what the heck--I temporarily abandoned my own novel to read Liz Lipperman's Liver Let Die and I'm having fun with it. And I tell myself thoughts about my own novel are simmering on the back burner of my brain. I truly do believe that theory.
Tonight was memoir class, and we had a stimulating evening of some profoundly honest and moving pieces and then one hilarious one plus some really interesting discussions about why you write memoir--one class member says she writes with such honesty she can't share it with anyone outside the class. A new member who says she doesn't know what she wants to write doesn't want to do memoir because parts of her childhood were difficult, she's dealt with them, and doesn't want to relive them. So there was a chorus of suggestions of what she can write about. Another member advocated that everyone has a story to tell and those stories must be captured and preserved. Each person has to decide how to approach memoir, but it sure was an interesting discussion.
Enough complex thinking--I have to get back to reading that mystery.

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