On da fence


Attribution: Michael Trolove, Wikimedia Commons

EFFIN’ ALBERT is being beta’d right now and I am in a quandary. Four wonderful writers have read it, in whole or part. Two finished it and offered comprehensive crits. One stopped at Chapter 23, suggesting I go back in, revise and resend. The fourth is now at Chapter 23 and we are at a kind of impasse. I offered an out. He wanted to keep going. I responded, he asked if I wanted him to stop.

I know the thing needs work. The beginning chapters are replete with back story which must be pared down. I have to rethink how to start the novel, how much to put in. I need to reconsider how I’ve characterized my protagonist and antagonist. I need to rethink chapter structure and length.

But thus far, for the most part, three of the four beta readers tell me they enjoy the story, they like the writing, they feel the tension. One says ALBERT is better than CHERRY. (!) One says, and I quote: Your use of language, your unbelievably stunning confidence in your reader—you don’t explain ANYTHING you don’t need to, you don’t describe anything you don’t need to. It’s really inspiring. You have a command of your craft that leaves me awestruck, really. . . For more than 2/3 of the manuscript, I would say don’t you dare change a thing! Nothing.

Another says,  First, let me restate, I love your writing.  It’s crisp, clean, voice is mesmerizing.  I also love this story.  I wanted to keep reading because I wanted to know more about Mikie and Albert and what was happening in their fucked up little lives.

Then there’s this: Look at your story how you would other people’s, trying to improve it, not justify what you have.

Absolutely. This person also writes:

While you do have conflict between characters and some hint of suspense here and there, most of your “setup” sections dull or diminish the suspension you were building, and sometimes it seems like you just forget what’s on the plate. A lot of the time you’re ending with a situation arising, or something sparking, then the next chapter doesn’t carry that over and does something else that forms into either the same or a different point. While this gets what you want to say out, it doesn’t pull me from chapter to chapter as effectively as starting with a problem and ending with a new one would.

Yes, yes but somehow, there is a disconnect and I don’t know how to fix that. I am explaining (poorly) and defending (often), neither of which I should be doing, both of which I swore I would not do. The purpose of sending my novel to betas is to get their thoughts about my book, get suggestions on how to make it better but right now, I don’t know how to reconcile the first with the second.

I’m perched precariously on the fence of indecision and self-doubt right now. I know this much: I don’t like the view.

14 thoughts on “On da fence

  1. Eek, that’s tough. Some of tte comments, though, are great!

    You know what advice you’re going to get: put the critiques, and Effin’ Albert, away somewhere. Let them stew and fight with each other somewhere else, in your subconscious, your bottom desk drawer, that kind of thing. Allow them to languish on your hard drive for a couple weeks, or a month, or whatever.

    Write something else. 😀


    • I can’t even think about writing something else right now, Jen. Yikes.

      Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m critiquing queries over at Absolute Write, throwing in my two cents hither and yon, writing whiny-ass blogs. . . 🙂 I really like your idea of letting those crits and ALBERT fight it out. Keep me out of it. If only I could stop thinking.

      Cut my head off, put it in a box and ship it to Timbuktu. Maybe then I’d be able to chill out for a while. Thank you, Jen. I shall try to heed your words of wisdom. Something I’m trying to do with this stupid, stupid. . .



      • Oh, I definitely hear you. There are times you’ll pry that Work in Progress from my cold dead fingers. Which means it isn’t ready to be read yet (for me, anyway). And when it is ready to be read…well, that’s like pulling teeth. I need to find “real” betas. It would be lovely to have a writing group in my area, but that hasn’t happened for me yet.


  2. I am very grateful for your support, Jen. Sometimes I’m so introspective, it’s kind of sickening. This blog ain’t helping. 🙂 I know exactly what you mean about your WIP. This writing stuff is so odd sometimes. Still trying to figure it out but I’m in it for the long haul. Can’t be any other way.


  3. The first thing that comes to mind as I read the beta comments is that you are dealing with two different people here with very different reading tastes. You are not going to be able to please them both so don’t try. What stood out was – ‘A lot of the time you’re ending with a situation arising, or something sparking, then the next chapter doesn’t carry that over and does something else that forms into either the same or a different point.’
    Kate Morton does this ALL THE TIME, ALL THE WAY THROUGH HER BOOKS. We never really figure out how every chapter or even every character ties together until very close to the end. Each chapter generates more questions without answers. Some readers enjoy this kind of tension and some readers get frustrated by it. Absolutely defend your work. You know what you’re trying to achieve. Obviously I haven’t read your book so I don’t know exactly what this beta was referring to but I just get a sense that your betas do not have similar reading preferences and you’re going to make yourself crazy trying to satisfy all of them. Do not doubt yourself. Determine, without input, what you were hoping to achieve with each chapter and how it is supposed to relate to the whole. And stick to it. Defend it. Good luck girl. You can do it.


    • Wow. Well, there you have it. linnea, I surely do thank you for writing to me and reminding me to be true to my story. You are not the first to say it. It’s good to hear, I don’t care how many times.

      When I wrote CHERRY, there was a point when I doubted the direction I’d taken my novel. I doubted my choices, especially my decision to include a difficult scene and aftermath. I posted a question relative to that scene on Absolute Write. The process wasn’t easy to navigate through but in the end I was satisfied that my decisions were sound. Not saying CHERRY didn’t undergo some significant changes, it did. And I have my betas and the critters from AW to thank for that.

      I have a feeling the same thing is happening here. You are correct, folks have different tastes and I can’t please everybody. During this phase of writing, I am fortunate enough to have folks who are offering me help and support, selflessly. I shall endeavor to be gracious to them, and true to my book.

      Thank you so much, linnea.



  4. I totally agree with the advice to just let it sit for a while. You need to allow your subconscious to come up with the solution, not the top part of your brain. Long walks can really help or doing something mechanical (knitting, cleaning). Or doing something that accesses a different brain mode like drawing. You’ll work it out.


  5. Drawing is a great idea, rhchatlien. I like to draw and with Halloween coming up, I got witches on da brain. 🙂 I shall let my little story simmer for a while. No fretting today.

    Thank you, rhchatlien.


  6. I think there’s a distinction between defending your work and being defensive. I agree, you should defend your work, because you have to believe in it, believe in Effin’ Albert. I also believe you should take that time to breathe and step away, to clarify your vision for yourself. ((((((hugs))))) It’s hard stuff, this writing, and editing, and beta-ing and being beta-ed.


    • Are we crazy, mrs fringe? Tortured souls? Heck no, that would be pretentious and you KNOW we ain’t that. 🙂

      Seriously now, I believe in my novel. I do. I just have to remember that. For now, I shall eat my pumpkin-buttered English muffin and think good thoughts, which include you, mrs fringe. xokk


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