Tag Archives: beta readers

The Good News and The Bad News (call for beta readers)

The good news is that Resurrection is finished.

Pretty much.

The problem is that I don’t have a last line. It’s been so easy for other stories (much easier than first lines, certainly), but this one is giving me NOTHING. So I’m going to have to stew on that.

I’m going to try something different with this one and let people see it before it’s been in revisions for years. I know, crazy. But I know now that I can take criticism, and I’m thinking that it might actually be easier to take when I know there’s still work to be done. Fear not, dear betas. I’m not sending rough draft crap. This thing is in good shape, as far as I can tell, and I’ve enjoyed reading it over. It’s just that I know there’s work to be done.

I need to get this last line in, go over the last few chapters to get them out of “first draft” and into “revised draft” state, maybe improve some fight scenes, and get her out.

Annnnd I have to remember who volunteered to read it.

#ImSoOrganized  #MarthaStewartRightHere


So anyone who’s not put off by a little blood, dead bodies*, and maybe a little undead sexytimes and fighting, who likes the WIP snippets I shared here and here and here… comment or drop me a line at kate.sparkes (at) live.ca. I’m just looking for impressions, thoughts, places you think it drags or could use more of something. It’s short (30,000 words), so there is room for more… whatever. I might throw this one up on Wattpad, too. We’ll see.

This one’s been a lot of fun to write. I’l be waiting anxiously to see whether it’s fun to read…

*Seriously, not for people with really weak stomachs, or who are going to hate me for killing children. I DIDN’T DO IT. It was the rogues.


Holy Crap, Did I Finish Something Before the Deadline?!

*deep breaths*

Friends, it’s as done as it’s going to get for now. I’m in the process of contacting people who have so generously offered to beta read for me (let me know if I miss you, my notes are gone), and then I can get to work formatting for them, sending it off, and then cowering in my basement while I wait for them to beat the crap out of me my book.

Actually, this is good timing. I’m going on vacation next week. I’m going to be reading (finishing one book, alpha reading another), resting, hanging out with the best family in the world*, and trying to give my brain a break.

My brain might not want a break, which could be awkward, but we’ll try that.

And above all, NOT thinking about my book.

HAHAHA! Just kidding. I’ll be worse than a new mother who’s sent her baby to live at the circus for a while.

*Sorry, other families.

Oh, Happy Day


Eight pages, guys.

Eight pages until I’m done this *expletive deleted* round of revisions. There are still a few changes to make in the last chapter, but the end (or rather, The End) is so close I can smell it.

And folks, it smells goooood.

I can’t type fast enough to keep up with all of the exciting that’s happening right now. I know how it ends, and I’m still getting all twitchy. It’s a great feeling.

Know what else is a great feeling? This:

Last night, my brother called me. This doesn’t happen often, but wasn’t entirely unexpected, since we’re staying with him and his adorable family when we visit Ontario later this month. But one of the reasons he called this time was to inform me that my sister-in-law had got a hold of my book. It was an old version, the first one I sent out to volunteer victims readers for feedback, but which my brother hadn’t had time to read (true fact: no one in my family had read it up to this point). I got quite nervous when he said that.


Apparently I have two weeks to finish the next book so she can read that one, too.

Yaaaaay! I mean, that’s impossible for me, but that’s a great reaction!

Gotta love when that happens. It wasn’t just that someone said that they enjoyed the story and wanted more, but that it came out of the blue, from someone who had no obligation to read or to give me feedback. I wasn’t waiting to hear what she thought, because I didn’t know she was reading it. If she’d hated it, she could have said nothing and told my brother to chuck it in the garbage. Instead, he’s going to read it. I told him to wait for the revised version, but he’s thinking about reading both and letting me know what he thinks of the changes.


So that’s one more person who’s going to beta read for me when this thing gets wrapped up. For anyone else who’s waiting, the plan is to finish what I’m doing now (probably tomorrow, if I can sleep tonight and not get up to write), then go through backwards to polish everything up right nice n’ shiny, and then I’ll be in touch to see if you’re still interested and to find out what format you want it in.

And then I’ll hyperventilate until people get back to me, and then I’ll probably cry a bit, and then I’ll get back to work.

Sounds like a plan?

Stop Being Awesome. Stop it NOW.

Seriously, guys. I go away for the weekend to the Land That WiFi Forgot, and I come back to an impossible number of tempting blog posts in my WordPress reader. Even being selective has left me with over a dozen open tabs waiting to be read.


Knock it off with the insight and the encouragement and the sharing of links that I then have to click on and read because they are ALSO useful or delightful. Stop making me happy to see your names on those posts and your smiling faces beside your re-blogs.

Stop being such an amazing community of writers, because it’s super distracting. I don’t have time for this many superstars in my life.


Ugh, fine, don’t look at me like that. You just keep doing what you do, I’ll deal with it somehow. Just don’t expect big word count numbers from me until I get caught up. 🙂

(I wish I could say I used the weekend for that,  but I find it hard to get writing done at the in-laws’ house. I did get more editing done on Bound, though, and I’m thinking I need a couple more beta readers for mid-to-late summer. I’ll put up a post requesting those when the time comes, but if anyone wants to volunteer to subject yourself to that, I’m just looking for people who are willing to point out story/character issues, slow spots, unanswered questions that absolutely can’t wait for the sequel, WTF moments… the big stuff, no need for nitty-gritty grammar issues just yet. Raise your hand, shoot me a message at kate.sparkes (at) live (dot) ca, send up a smoke signal somewhere visible from my house, whatever. And bring the awesome!)

CPs and Protecting Your Work- How Do You Do It?

I recently had an experience that has the little gears in my brain a-whirling, and I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on the subject.

I’ve been trying out a few critique partners (CPs), trading a few chapters to get a feel for each other’s work and critique styles, and to see how well we might work together. It’s a harder process than I anticipated, but necessary. I appreciate my friends who have read over Bound in its various stages of done-ness, who gave me gentle feedback when I needed it. But there comes a time when you can’t rely on friends and family to tell you what you need to hear, and you need an unbiased opinion. Enter the CP, a creature a step higher than the beta reader in the editorial chain.

The first one I worked with gave me good advice, but she seems to have disappeared. I’ve found a few other potentials through Ladies Who Critique, but for the most part we’re still feeling each other out. One, on advice from a friend of hers, asked me to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before she sent her work over.

My first reaction was, “Well that’s odd, but whatever. Can’t hurt.”

Really, it’s a good idea. I tend to trust that other writers aren’t out to steal my work; I know I’ve got ideas (concepts, anyway) lined up out the door and down the street SHUT THE DOOR, IDEAS, YOU’RE LETTING THE HEAT OUT! Jeez, born in a barn much? What was I saying?

Oh, right. I don’t need to lift ideas, concepts, plot twists, or anything else from someone else’s work, and I tend to trust that other people will offer me the same respect. Couldn’t hurt to cover your ass though, right? Seriously, we hardly know these people.

Completely agreed. And for that reason I almost signed; after all, I had no plans to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise screw with anyone else’s work, let alone this person’s (who seems super nice, and I wanted to work with her).

And then it hit me, as these things tend to do. Slapped me right upside the head.

I need to watch my own ass, too. Legally speaking. Not literally, I’m not that bendy.

Her novel has nothing in common with Bound, which is my main focus right now, and what she’d be critiquing. But it’s not my only project. The Newfoundland Supernatural series (working title only, please check your torches, pitchforks, and/or flaming pitchforks* at the door) of short stories and novellas that I’m working on is still in early stages, but it keeps popping up, insisting that I work on it between other things. And for that one, there are surface similarities.

Some genres are just full to busting, this one in particular. In a crowded elevator you try not to step on anyone’s feet, but it’s kind of accepted that you’re going to bump into one another. Also, you’re stuck smelling other people’s farts, and all you can do is suffer through it and hope the stink doesn’t follow you out. But I digress.

To put it more clearly (and less disgustingly), when you’re using similar concepts/tropes, there’s a really good chance that you’re going to have some of the same ideas, even if you think they’re brilliantly original. Most of us will grumble about it but acknowledge that the idea wasn’t stolen, and in the end the stories come out completely different, anyway.

If I signed a NDA saying that I wouldn’t use any of the information in any way, I could be opening myself up to lawsuits over ideas that were mine to begin with, just because I read them in someone else’s work at a later date.

Is that being paranoid? Probably. I don’t think this person would sue me, and I hope she doesn’t think I’d steal her ideas.**

Fact is, you can’t copyright an idea. Stephanie Meyer can’t stop other people from writing a vampire-werewolf-dumbass girl love triangle, presumably because it’s an idea that people could have arrived at on their own. Can you imagine how busy the courts would be if there were lawsuits every time someone based a novel on a fairy tale? *shudder*  In essence, if I signed this particular NDA, I’d be saying that it was OK to sue me for having a similar idea/concept/setting/etc. I don’t know that the lawsuit would go anywhere, but I don’t want to have to worry about it.

It hurt to say no, mostly because I’m a people-pleaser who cares way too much what strangers think of me. My first thought was, “if I don’t sign, she’s going to think I’m an idea-sucking monster.” I’m sure I’m not giving her enough credit, but hey, I’m nuts like that.

Got me thinking, though. Am I doing too little to protect my own work? So far I’ve only showed the full manuscript to trusted friends, and the CP I hope to continue working with seems like a trustworthy sort (and in the same “why the heck would I steal YOUR idea when I have my own?” boat). I think my idea is good. I like it. I’m having fun with it. But I’m also aware that it’s not as special to other people as it is to me, and I don’t think I need a layer of legal documentation to protect my precious snowflake; I’d be happy with a casual agreement that the work won’t be reproduced or redistributed in any way. Maybe that’s the wrong attitude.

What I want to know is, where do you stand on this? Do you get people to sign something before they critique a work-in-progress or review an unpublished work? If not, do you worry that people will take advantage of your openness? Am I being unreasonable in not signing a 2-page document full of legal-speak that’s just protecting someone else’s hard work? Have you been in this situation on either side, or has someone reproduced your work without permission? Any other thoughts?

*Officially calling shotgun on “Flaming Pitchforks” for my band name.

**Actually, I know she doesn’t think that– she got back to me, and completely understands why I couldn’t sign. Darn it, I like her!

The Five stages of Critique

I’ve been blessed with a critique partner. A good one, too. I have no real idea who she is, but she’s beyond helpful. She’s finding little problems I hadn’t even thought to think of before (like asking how many people a single duck will actually feed), passages where I might be trying to fit just a wee bit too much backstory into a scene, and typos that I somehow missed on my first dozen read-throughs.

She gives me positive comments, too- kind of the sugar that helps that bitter, bitter medicine go down. Those I can take. They make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy and kittens and butterflies and rainbows and unicorn farts.

The negative “helpful” ones, though… I might not react so well to those.

This is normal, right? Surely I’m not the only one who reads a comment and goes through the five stages of Critique:

1. Denial

“No. What the hell is she even talking about? Did she READ what was on the page? There’s nothing wrong with that passage.”

“Nope, nope, nope.”

*major WTF facial expressions*

2. Anger

*snarling, bared teeth, increased heart rate*

“Who does she think she is? How dare she attack my precious work like this?”

“Wrong, wrong, WRONG. This is all her, she’s being too nit-picky. This was a BAD IDEA.”

*more snarling and growling and gnashing of teeth*

3. Bargaining

*trembling and/or deep breaths*

“OK. Well, it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if she’d just read what happens 5 chapters from now… maybe if I send that next part she’ll see it differently.”

“It can’t be that big a problem. No, if I just shift around three or four words over here, maybe that will fix this glaring plot hole that she claims to have found.”

*reaching for alcohol and beaucoup de emo music*

4. Depression

“Oh my god I SUUUUCK! I’m the worst writer in all of the history of all of the things! I can’t fix this.”

“I’m going to have to give up. Look at all those notes… I bet all of them are negative. I can’t fix this.”

“I’m a failure. I’ll never get this right. I’m not good enough to fix this. This whole thing was a mistake. I can’t handle this.”

“In case I didn’t say this quite loudly enough before… I SUUUUUUUCK!!!”

5. Acceptance

“Ugh. Let me look at that again. Huh. Well, maybe that does repeat something I said earlier, just a little. And I guess using the word ‘generally’ does weaken that sentence. I’m gonna politely disagree and leave this one alone, but maaaaybe she has a point about these pronouns being confusing…”

*deep breaths*

“One thing at a time…”

*go back to first note*

“Eh, this isn’t so bad. I can do this. It’s going to be so much better when I’m done.”

Maaaaybe I don’t go through all of these over every comment I read. That would be crazy, right? Yeah. But as a whole, reading over whatever chunk of writing just went in front of the judge… well, I may have exaggerated just a wee bit, but this happens.

Tell me it gets better. It must; I can already feel my skin getting thicker. And what I take away from this whole thing is this:

The “I can do this”

The “this isn’t as big a deal as I thought it was. She’s only finding minor issues, here. This is not the end of the world”

The “you know what? This story friggin’ rocks. But I can still make it better in a lot of tiny ways.

And I come away with a massive dose of gratitude, and a new-found appreciation for a critique partner who should be very thankful that she’s a complete stranger who doesn’t actually have to witness the horrible faces I just made at my computer screen.

EDIT: You know, I really should be happy. Not one of my readers has actually mentioned a glaring plot hole (yet), or hated any characters they’re not supposed to hate. People even enjoy reading this. I can only assume that my partner will find bigger things to point out some time, but I can honestly say that I think this book is good. And I should be proud of that.

But I’m still terrified of sending the next chapters. :/

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