Tag Archives: Proofreading

The Importance of Beta Readers – Book 3

Hey everyone!

NaNoWriMo 2019 was an absolute success, and with almost a week to spare, I finished the third novel of the Sword of Dragons series!

Finishing was a massive rush of satisfaction and relief – I’ve stalled on book 3 almost as much as I stalled on book 1 back in the day, mostly due to life events.  NaNoWriMo came at the perfect time, and I was able to buckle down and power through the second half of the novel.

Additionally, I’ve gone through an immediate first edit!  However, this served more than just a single read-through for prose or grammar or anything like that – I changed course in several ways on this book since I first started writing it, and that meant I had to go back and retroactively correct incontinuities in the first half.

This time, however, now that the second draft is complete, I’m doing something I’ve never done before – allowing beta readers to read it before the third draft.

Why Early Beta Readers are Important

To be honest, I should have allowed people to read books 1 and 2, and The Orc War Campaigns, long before I did.  Especially Burning Skies, however, because it was only after it was published that I received a valuable piece of feedback about the ending.

If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to have read the 1st edition of Burning Skies (the old cover can be seen on the right,) you may remember the final battle against Nuuldan ending with Cardin basically watching someone else defeat the villain.  In many respects, it was a Deus Ex Machina conclusion.

So for the 2nd edition, I made Cardin more directly responsible for overcoming the villain, without sacrificing the inclusion of those who came to help him (I’m trying not to spoil the book too much, in case you came to my blog having never read my books :) )

If I had given this book over to beta readers earlier and asked for plot and character feedback, someone might have caught that plot point and the 1st edition might never have had that blemish.

This is why I encourage any and all writers to allow at least one person to beta read very early.  Either after a first or second draft.  In that case, I would recommend asking them not to focus as much on grammar and sentence structure (you can fix that in your next draft and ask an editor to focus on that, or at least subsequent beta readers, if you’re like me and can’t afford to hire an editor.)

Which brings me to another point…

Writers and Egos

One thing I had to learn very early on as a writer, and sometimes is a lesson I have to be re-taught – if you have an ego about your writing, it’s going to get bruised or even shattered at some point.  This could be in a writer’s critique group, or it could be reviews of your published works.

But in my opinion, it is vital to drop any ego when it comes to beta reading and early feedback.  You may think you’ve come up with the absolute best story, or the greatest characters, or the most engaging plot, but it is entirely possible that a beta reader will come back and say, “Um, this didn’t work.  I think you need to find a way to fix the plot.”  Or “This character is exceedingly boring.”

In fact, I received that last bit of feedback from an agent for another book series I’ve been working on in the background, and while at first I felt a little ego bruising, I realized she was right.  I’ve started working on fixing that while I let Sword of Dragons book 3 simmer for a while and wait for beta reader feedback :)

If, after setting aside your ego, you feel like the beta reader may still be incorrect, get a second and third opinion.  If everyone you let beta read agrees that something doesn’t work, do your best to fix it.  Ask them why they think something doesn’t work, and if you’re stuck on how to make it better, ask them their opinions.

Ultimately, however, this is your story to tell.  The final decision will always be yours, and the advice I’m giving today is with the assumption that your goal is to write something that a lot of people will want to read.  If your goal is instead to just write your story your way and you’re not as concerned about how well your book sells, that is perfectly legitimate.

If there is one universal advice about writing, it’s that we should all do it for the reasons we want to, not for the reasons others tell us we should be doing it.

Thanks for reading, everyone!  Happy holidays!

-Jon Wasik

So It Begins – Return of the Author!

Hi everyone!

I’m back!  …….I know, I know, it’s been a long time.  I’m so sorry!  I don’t usually like making excuses, but I feel like I owe at least a quick explanation.

It boils down to life being busy and the need to work on writing, or more to the point, proofreading and editing.  I know that writing a blog doesn’t take a long, long time out of each week, but given how little time I’ve had to work on anything writing related, those extra minutes or couple of hours have been precious.

Rise of the Forgotten

But it was well worth it.  Because three novels will be available very soon!  I’ve finished all proofreading and editing on all three novels, gotten two proof copies (and found changes needed on the covers,)  and now ordered what I hope will be the final proof copies of all three novels!

What that means is cover reveals may finally be coming!  Hopefully as soon as next weekend!!!!

Having said all of that, I wanted to get back a little bit to this blog’s roots and talk about some of what I’ve learned these past few months about my writing style, and the changes I’ve noticed.

Editing Through The Years

Cover by Christian Michael

Editing these three books has been a unique and eye-opening experience, because each of these three were written several years apart!  Rise of the Forgotten was written over the course of several, several years, and I believe the first ‘final’ draft was completed in 2013 or so.  Burning Skies was finished I think around 2014, and then Orc War Campaigns in 2016.

Going through and doing a renewed proofread on all three in a row, I’ve discovered just how much my writing has evolved and improved over the years.  Why do I say that?  Well, let me put it this way.  As I went through and proofread each one, I dog-eared every page that needed work.  And as you can see in the picture below…Rise of the Forgotten needed a TON of work, Burning Skies far less, and Orc War Campaigns very, very little (click the picture to see it larger)

From Top to Bottom: Rise of the Forgotten, Burning Skies, The Orc War Campaigns

And most of it had to do with resolving writing style issues, word choice, sentence structure…some of the choices I made in books 1 and even 2, I read and go “What the hell was I thinking back then??  That’s a terrible way to write that scene!”

I also cut a lot back.  In fact, in both books 1 and 2, I completely cut out entire paragraphs, because they were completely useless paragraphs and they only slowed the story down!

And I, erm, “began to notice” a common issue in my earlier writing…

So It Began

“Cardin Began to move…”

“Sira started to look around.”

“Reis began to sit up.”

“Kailar began to draw her sword.”

Just a small sample of what I found.  Everyone ‘began’ to do things, no one actually did anything.  And I spent a lot of time and effort fixing this issue in each manuscript (but far more often in books 1 and 2, almost no instances of that in Orc War Campaigns.)

Changing “Cardin began to move” to something as simple as “Cardin moved” or even better, “Cardin ambled over.”  Word choice that moves the story forward actively rather than ‘starts to’ move the story forward  but doesn’t actually do it.

That was perhaps the single-most annoying aspect of my older writing style that I found.  Hopefully I caught all examples of it and fixed them all :)

That’s all I have for today, folks!  Check back next weekend for news on the new books, including hopefully cover reveals and, if all goes well, release  dates!

-Jon Wasik

Chronicles of the Sentinels – 1st Revision Completed!

Hi everyone!

I’m happy to announce that I’ve completed the 1st revision of Chronicles of the Sentinels!

1st printed copy of Chronicles of the Sentinels book 1
1st printed copy of Chronicles of the Sentinels book 1

What does this mean?  Well for starters, it means I’m one step closer to sending it out to beta readers.  I continue to follow my writing process, which I wrote a two-part article about, and so tonight I printed out a hard-copy of the manuscript and will begin the 2nd proofread tomorrow.  I usually catch a lot more and red-ink in a lot more revisions in this step, plus I just like reading paper better than on a laptop :)

When I told one of my friends that I finished read-through #1, she asked me, “So what did you think?”  Well, I like it!  For starters, it made me laugh throughout the novel, not non-stop but lots of little moments here and there.  The fact that I’m laughing at it when I wrote it is pretty good: I don’t usually do that in my own novels.  I hope beta readers laugh as much as I did :)

It’s actually the shortest novel I’ve ever written, the previous three novels were all high-fantasy and usually well over 300 pages.  So it packs a lot of punch for only 220+ pages!  A lot happens, including some awesome character moments!  I don’t know if it is because of all of the pre-writing work I did or what, but all of the characters and their interactions came out very well, in my opinion :)

Image Source - http://branislavboda.deviantart.com
Image Source – http://branislavboda.deviantart.com

I think Emmi definitely goes through the most difficulties in the story, however not only does that pave the way for character development in book 1, it opens the door for a lot more in book 2!  I think the development for Chris and Alycia is a lot more subtle, so I’ll be interested to hear what readers think about each of them :)  There’s so much I want to talk about in the novel, but I don’t want to spoil it all for everyone!

I still haven’t decided on a volume title for this first novel, and that’s starting to bother me.  It’s getting down to the wire and I really have to make a decision.  I think that’ll be the last hurdle I need to overcome before I send it to beta readers.  I want to give them as complete a package as possible.

Chronicles of the Sentinels – 2nd Draft By the Numbers

A little change from the 1st revision, which I had documented in this article.

Word Count: 72,872
Page Count: 226

I’ll be curious to see how big of a difference revision #2 makes :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon