finding the betas

driving to edmonds and back three times in one weekend is not my idea of a good time. particularly when, on one of those trips, the heavens opened up and a deluge caused night to fall early. but sometimes you have to suffer for your art, so i soldiered on.

this weekend was the write on the sound writer’s conference in edmonds, washington, a pretty little town on the sound, about 40 minutes north of my house in west seattle. my schedule was a bit ridiculous: friday was a half-day fiction workshop. saturday was a 20 minute manuscript critique. it wasn’t until sunday rolled around that i had a full day of hour long workshops. i drive a stick. my left knee hurts.

it a number of ways, it was well worth it. the fiction workshop gave me new feedback on the first section of a lesson in vanishing. that opening has been workshopped to death. first on scribophile, then at WOTS, oh, and that’s also the section the FAS has (still haven’t heard back on that). i met the BF’s middle school social studies teacher, completely by accident-he happened to be in the workshop. nice guy, quite entertaining.

some of the pieces were good, some…not so much. i bit my tongue and tried to recall everything i ever learned about constructive criticism while working on my school literary magazine (which was peopled with early versions of hipsters. gah). then i went and blew off steam with karaoke at the baranof, the hands down best place for karaoke in seattle.

the manuscript critique was interesting. that’s the best way i can think to describe it. the first thing they told me was they loved my book. they did have some useful tips for me on completing the rest of it, and recommended i come to the publishing workshop they were doing the following day. it turns out the publishing workshop i had signed up for (not theirs) was geared more toward non-fiction and memoir writers. would have been helpful to know that ahead of time, but whatever.

the workshops themselves on sunday…hit and miss. mostly miss, unfortunately. the publishing workshop run by the two manuscript critiquers had some useful information, particularly when it came to author bio, synoposis, and the different avenues of publication. at the end of the workshop one of them even recommended a local press to me, suggesting that i submit shadowdemon for consideration.

the other two workshops i attended that day, well, the second one i was there with my mother. if i hadn’t been, i would have walked out. i didn’t learn anything, which was disappointing. the last one, on mystery writing, had some good information, but the lecturer threw it at us in one half hour. the workshop is an hour and a half. she was entertaining, certainly. and the handout will probably be useful if i ever get around to plotting a mystery. but i didn’t pay to sit there and listen to her talk about herself for an hour.

i think the best part of it was finding the betas. when i showed up sunday morning, three of the women who’d attended the fiction workshop with me were also there, and had come up with the idea of continuing a writer’s circle, to ensure further feedback as our respective projects limped along. i exchanged email addresses with them, and one of them turned up in the mystery workshop with me. we spent a few minutes talking about our ongoing paranormal romance writings, and she offered to be a beta reader for some of my work. wOOt!

now comes the self-doubting. as exciting and ego-inflating as it was to hear all the lovely comments about shadowdemon, they’ve only seen the first chapter. i’ve spent the last couple months living with audrey yelling at me, and i know, at least as far as books two and three are concerned, i’ve got some re-writes in my future. it was never my intention to make her so wishy-washy (because i hate wishy-washy female protagonists) and yet that’s how she ended up. so i need to strengthen those two books.

and i’m not sure i want to go the route of small press. it would have some advantages, i know: getting published would add that much more polish when i get around to shopping the next series around. there’s also the possibility that if i end up selling something to a larger publishing house, they could pick up the rights and reprint it.

but one of the drawbacks, one of the biggest, is the lack of funding for marketing and promotion. yes, i have facebook. my friends have friends. i live with a fuckin’ musician-he networks his butt off. with a full-time job, another book to edit, another series to begin writing, and trying to maintain some semblance of a personal life, promotion isn’t at the top of that list.

i’m getting ahead of myself, though. first step is to finish the first round of edits and get it out to the readers. then i’ll worry about small press versus the big kahunas.

*image via ci.edmonds.wa.us

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