Archive for March, 2013

The Value of Beta Readers

I have DEAD INSIDE in to the publisher and editor, but it is also being read by several beta readers.  What is a beta reader, you ask?  It’s someone who gets to see the unedited, unpublished work before it ‘hits the shelves’ and gives me feedback on flow, character development, action, and the general ‘feel’ of the book.

Yesterday I sat down with two of my beta readers to discuss what they thought.  They had insights into elements of the book that I hadn’t realised that I had put in there.  For example, our two lead characters have very distinct personalities that make complete sense based on their backgrounds.  I sat and listened as they told me this, and realised that it wasn’t something I had consciously included.

Other examples included the analysis of the ending, and the questions about How Zombies Work, that made me think a few things through.  Clarity is essential, and if there is something I missed, or overlooked because ‘everyone knows that’ then clearly I failed to realise that Not Everyone Knows That, and I have to explain myself better.

The value of the beta reader, then, is that they are a set of eyes and a brain Not Your Own, who can look at your work and point out the problems you might not see because you are too close to the work.  Another beta reader has pointed out that my villain is not quite right.  She’s been very helpful in showing me some information that will help immensely, and I have been ‘darkening’ the bad guy accordingly.

We’ll see how all this comes together once I hear back from my editor.


My third book, the end of the series I began in RISE, and continued in AGE OF THE DEAD, has gone to the publisher and on to my editor.  This is the v2.2 draft that I sent in, a book very different from what I envisioned when I started it.

Over a year ago, when my wife and I moved to BC, I got the idea for DEAD INSIDE while driving across the Mission-Abbotsford Bridge across the Fraser River.  I jotted down some ideas and then left them to ferment in my brain for a week or so.

Once I started writing it all came together, but I didn’t write a lot of it at first.  I was working on two books at once, and my attention was split between them.  BLACK HORIZON is a science fiction story that I think is going to be the longest thing I have ever done, probably ending up at around two hundred thousand words.  It’s post-apocalyptic, set several centuries from now, and focuses on characters with some truly extraordinary, though entirely plausible abilities based on real science.  I was writing BLACK HORIZON at the same time as DEAD INSIDE until I got an email one day from my publisher at Permuted Press.  They asked what I was working on, and I sent them an email detailing the two books.  Pretty soon I had a contract for DEAD INSIDE, and was hard at work on that book.  BLACK HORIZON got shelved for the time being, and I am happy to say that I have returned to it now.

DEAD INSIDE was exciting to write.  It was the first time I have written a book this way, with a time limit and expectations of what I had to get done in that time.  I think it’s the best thing I have done so far.  It’s a far more focused story than the first two books, taking place over only a few short days.  It’s also set in a place far removed from the first two books.

BLACK HORIZON, on the other paw, is my current focus now that I have gotten the chance to return to it.  I am nearly 40,000 words into it, still at the beginning, really, and learning about the characters and exploring the new world that I have created.  And what a world it is!

I look forward to the process of creating BLACK HORIZON.  I am a slow writer though, so don’t expect to see it for some time.  I’ll make sure it’s worth the wait.