Through Stranger Eyes to the first beta readers

Through Stranger Eyes is now at the hands of the first betas. I’m really curious what mistakes each will find and how they’ll deal with the questionnaire I sent them. I’m 100% sure that some of the mistakes will be the same ones I spotted in other people’s work in the past. It’s amazing how hard it is to identify simple things in our own work, but once we get someone else’s work, boom! The mistake is there, glaring and annoying. I should clarify here, that when I say mistake, I mean anything that draws the reader away from being immersed in the story. There are no mistakes in creative work.

It’s always strange when others read someone else’s work. As long as the book stays with the writer, it’s protected. Not only that, but the writer is also protected. It’s almost like the two form a symbiotic bond. They’re both barricaded in a safe zone the other creates. The moment someone else reads the material, both writer and book are exposed and vulnerable. And if the writer isn’t used to receiving criticism… It’s our baby, our creation, our vision.

I don’t know how established writers feel about this, if they’re worried of the quality of their work, even with the team of professionals and fans behind them to pick up on continuity issues, spelling mistakes, plot holes etc. I imagine they feel the same. Perhaps their lack of confidence is short-lived, since they have an established reader base and a brand name to back them up. If I ever reach that point in my career, I’ll let you know.

Call for betas for a cyberpunk novel

I believe I have done all the edits I could think of on Through Stranger Eyes, my current WIP. It’s time for others to have a look at it and identify all the mistakes I have failed to spot. No doubt they’re plenty and will keep me busy for a while. But for me to improve the manuscript, I need you.

So, I’m asking for beta readers willing to take a plunge into my dark futuristic world, into the fears and hopes of Dr Rick Stensladnt (my main character). To try to figure out with him why his life took such a bad turn all of the sudden, who’s behind everything.

Through Stranger Eyes is a 132k word cyberpunk mystery/suspense about Dr Rick Stenslandt who, despite the fact he augments people with advanced cybernetic implants (as is the norm in his world), he refuses to have even the simplest implant in him. Though a purist at heart, he will have to stray from his convictions when an accident deprives him of his sight, and is forced to have an ocular implant. Things take a strange turn for him after the operation, as Rick begins remembering the deaths of influential people, whom he has never met before, deaths that have taken place years earlier. Driven to find out what is happening to him and why, he will risk losing everything that matter in his life; his social status, his sanity, his family, his life.

You may ask, what is Cyberpunk?

“Trying to define Cyberpunk is a difficult task. In short, however, Cyberpunk refers to both a culture and a genre.

Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that features advanced science and technology in an urban, dystopian future. On one side you have powerful mega-corporations and private security forces, and on the other you have the dark and gritty underworld of illegal trade, gangs, drugs, and vice. In between all of this is politics, corruption, and social upheaval.

High tech. Low life.” (Definition taken from https://www.neondystopia.com/what-is-cyberpunk/).

Though not a prerequisite, often noir style of narration is employed (again, not all the times). I have tried using this kind of narrative.

If this still doesn’t shine any light (understandable, since the world is gritty and dark), consider the film Blade Runner as the epitome of what a cyberpunk world might look like. That’s one side of the cyberpunk spectrum. The Matrix is also cyberpunk, though with a lot of other subgenres thrown in. If you haven’t watched either of these films, and you’re into anime, then Ghost in the Shell and Akira are the first ones that come to mind (if you know more, please let me know. I’m not into anime, but I really like cyberpunk). In terms of books, William Gibson’s, Neuromancer, and my favourite, Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels, particularly Altered Carbon. If that also doesn’t help, have a look at my pinterest board, designed specifically for this book.

So if any of you have read or watched any of the above and liked them, you’ll feel right at home (hopefully). If not, but you are willing to read an early work (or as early as any work can be after more than a year of editing and fine tuning), if you don’t mind answering long questionnaires about the book, if you are the kind of reader who understands that the only way to help a writer and his/her work is by being brutally honest and point out as many mistakes as you find (and the occasional praise for the things you liked), then please let me know. And if you’re concerned whether or not you’ll hand it back in time, I usually give two months minimum for the readers, because, well, life happens for all of us. After all, I’m not the speediest reader and I’m known to have taken a long time to return a manuscript (hi Yoann!). So, if you want to help, don’t worry about time. We can always extend the time frame.

A few people – people whose opinion I trust, and whose help I value – have already offered to help me. I’m eternally grateful to each and every one of them. Some aren’t writers, just readers. Others are writers (more skilful than I am) who write in different genres, yet their comments is almost always accurate. Some have a keen eye for details and are more editing-oriented, others see the whole picture and comment based on that. Whatever your skill level, whether you write or not, if you want to help me, please leave a comment or let me know in any other way (use email, twitter, facebook, pinterest etc). Those of you who have already agreed obviously don’t have to do it again, but if I’ve forgotten to contact you personally (I apologise, but lots of things are happening, some health-related issues with close family members), please message me and let me know of your availability.

Please be advised, that Through Stranger Eyes has some adult themes and imagery, as well as mild foul language (in other words, it conforms to most genre standards). Just a heads up 🙂

Thank you all very much!

Hello once again

I’m back. I hope you all had a wonderful summer, and that you recharged your inner batteries. I know I’m late on posting (it’s been two months since my last post) but a lot of things have happened since then and it was hard to keep up with everything.

One of them was my father’s accident. He slipped and broke his leg almost a month and a half ago, so I had to take over most of the things he was dealing with. That meant hardly any time left for me. Luckily, he narrowly escaped surgery to reset the bone, despite the fact that he completely disregarded his doctors’ orders (and still does). Thanks to his surprisingly speedy mending process, and taking into account his age, what appeared to be a long rehabilitation period (doctors initially estimated it would take him around three months before they removed the cast), will most probably barely exceed a two-month period, if his bone continues to mend as fast as it does.

So, the one month I was supposed to use to polish my novel went out the window. BUT!! I did manage to finish editing most of it. In fact, I’m working on a printed version of it, where I’ll do the last edits before I sent it to my beta readers. See the photo? That’s it!

The Darkening

I got to tell you, it felt good holding it in my hands like that. Funny, it’s not even the final version, but it sure is nice to see it and hold it, you know? It makes it more real, more tangible. That’s something the digital medium will never achieve. Not for me, at least. It’s a strange feeling of mixed awe, pride, and fear, probably because I know there’s only one more step before someone else gets to read it, with the explicit instruction to find and point out even the slightest mistake. It’s daunting, but exciting too, because after their input, I will have a better manuscript in my hands. Thanks to my beta readers, I will have the chance to improve my craft. I know for a fact there’s a lot of space for improvement.

Funny fact: I’ve been editing, revising, and rewriting it for the past nine months (I actually rewrote the book twice; once for a better Point of View, the other to improve the story). 2/3 down the road of editing it with my trusty red pen, and I realise there’s more red ink on the pages than black. Makes me wonder, what on earth have I been editing all this time?!

The art of writing, is editing

For the past few weeks I’ve been editing my novel and three short stories. Though in the past I’ve always edited my short stories, only now that the stakes are high enough do I see how important, I mean REALLY important, editing is. In my mind there’s no doubt about it: writing is all about editing.

My editing process is somewhat… strange. Perhaps it’s because English isn’t my native language. Perhaps it’s just because my first drafts are in worst shape than the ones the well-known writers produce (yeah, I know I shouldn’t compare myself with them, but I can’t help it. I want to be traditionally published and to make it happen, I feel I have to be better than them. This is what I meant earlier when I said “the stakes are high”).

The first thing I do, is to restructure each sentence and each paragraph. I’m never satisfied with the way I write my sentences, even after several edits (language barrier and related linguistic insecurities apply here).

Once that’s done, I activate my macros. Yes, I use macros for specific mistakes I know I make, and yes, they’re more than one. I have one for filter words (which somehow still seem to make their way to my drafts) and another one for useless words (like “very”, “that”, “just”, “even”, “There was”, “there was”, “there were”, “There were”, “actually”, “practically”, “literally”, “suddenly”, “really”, “again”, “Again”).

The third step deals with how I use the word “as” in a sentence. That’s a tricky one to deal with. I often use it in a sentence when I shouldn’t. The following example is from http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/04/re-write-wednesday-dont-tell-me-why.html (Bob ran for the cabin as the zombie swung at his head.) In this example the AS implies that both actions happen at the same time. The problem is that’s not the case. The second part of the sentence is the reason why the first part happens. The zombie attacks Bob and because of that, Bob runs away. Using AS here is wrong (though “wrong” sounds so strange when it comes to a creative art like writing, no?). Still, I not only overuse that word, I flood my MS with it. Hence, the need for yet another macro to evaluate each occurrence of that word.

The last editing step (for the first round of edits, mind you) is the worst of all; my incomplete macro for adverbs. I consider it an incomplete macro for two reasons: 1. some adverbs don’t have the -ly ending (https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/adverbs-manner.htm), 2. That last step should include adjectives as well, but given the nature of the words (they don’t have a special ending), I can’t include them in a macro. Which means I have to go over the entire passage and highlight every single word that’s an adjective. Why is that bad? I’m a perfectionist when it comes to doing something that I love. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Humans make mistakes! I often miss them because I either fail to identify them (oh, language barrier, if only you had a face I could punch…) or because my brain has turned into mush and I fail to notice them.

Once these steps are done, and I’m ok-ish with the results (I tried using the word “satisfied” instead of “ok-ish”, but alas I couldn’t! Not even for this post!), then I turn to beta readers and critiquers (if such a word as critiquers exists). And then a new round of editing starts, which includes the above but also their suggestions. Grand total of edits? As I mentioned in a previous post, between 9-12 up to this point.

What happens after that to my MS? Well, then and only then can I say it’s no longer in its first draft status.
Is it ready, you ask? A few weeks ago I would have said yes. But these past few weeks I’ve been reading Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (http://www.bookdepository.com/Self-Editing-for-Fiction-Writers-Second-Edition-Renni-Browne/9780060545697  or if you prefer Amazon,  http://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself/dp/0060545690/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421593167&sr=8-1&keywords=Self-Editing+For+Fiction+Writers

Now I cry every time I finish the steps I mentioned earlier, because I realise there’s SOOOO much more that I have missed.

I was about to send my cyberpunk short story out to a well-respected, VERY well-paying, professional magazine. Who was it that said that manuscripts are never perfect but simply abandoned, meaning the writer refuses to work on it any more and considers it ready for publication? Yeah, I’m not ready for that yet.

Back for another round of editing. Yay!

P.S. See how I knew I’d fail point #1 from this post? Will there ever be a time I won’t have to compare myself to those better than me?!

Inspirational prompt

I hope you liked last week’s inspirational post. As I was looking for another one to post today, I came across this one

When I saw it, something clicked in my head. After working a bit with the 7 point story system I ended up with two stories, one of which draws many elements from my country’s mythology. Turns out that system helps me a lot to get my head around the main points of a plot. I only took notes for that one but I completed the first draft of the second story and although at first I thought there was something missing, the more I tweaked, edited and revised the more I came to like it.  So, in a month’s time since I finished the first draft of The Darkening, I have managed to finish 3 (!) short stories.  Now I need to have it critiqued somewhere. If only I could find a critique partner…

I hope the image proves as much help for you as it did for me. Let me know if it sparkled something interesting.