Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: beta-readers

This is the title quotation.

The best part of writing

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

Last week’s quote(s) addressed my need (parallel with those who participated in NaNoWriMo) to revise the manuscript for A Bone to Pickthe second book (still very much in progress) of the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy. And I’m trying to cultivate Mabel Wetherbee’s attitude that “the best part of writing is editing.”

This quote-image from Mabel E. Wetherbee via Authors Publish reads: "Goig back and editing is the best part of writing; it's like reading an interactive novel. 'Oh I wish the author used this word here or had this dramatic reveal there . . . oh that's right! I am the author!'"

The beta-reading review

I’ve been reading through comments from my beta-readers who’ve read my first “finished” draft. I’m preparing notes and girding up my loins, because clearly, “finished” badly needed those quote-marks. I get it. No first draft is perfect (EVER). Every writer knows that, going in. And while writing a first draft is exciting and interesting and it definitely has its thrilling moments, I’m not sure I’d call it “the best part.”

Reviewing betas’ comments about where they connected and where it fell flat is both helpful and a little daunting. More helpful than daunting, because I’m an optimist with a high opinion of myself, and I like a writing challenge. But I would definitely say reading a critique is not “the best part of writing,” either.

This quote from  Marian Dane Bauer reads: "Never think of revising as fixing something that is wrong. That starts you off in a negative frame of mind. Rather think of it as an opportunity to improve something you already love."

The best part of writing

No, the best part of writing, for me, is the feeling that “okay, this time I really nailed it” in the finished draft. This is the one that passes muster with the editor, and comes out on the other end of the long process of rewrites, reviews, corrections, and more rewrites. The refining process can be tedious and humbling, but it’s worth it.

I’m still a fair stretch down the road from that goal, at present. There are still a lot of dead-wrongs, ho-hums, near-misses, and partial hits to work through. But I must go through all of them, no matter how challenging they are, to get to the best part of writing.

This unattributed quote says, "Don't get stuck in your past, use it to fuel your future."

Fuel for the future 

As with any creative project, there are parallels between this editing project with how we live our lives. Unlike writing a story, it’s not possible to go back and change the things we’ve done in real life. They’re in the past. They’re done. But we can learn from them. We can look back and think, “if I had done this one thing differently, what would have changed? How could I have inspired a better outcome?”

I think if we are self-reflective, we (a) are prepared to confront life “ahead of the game,” and (b) are in a better position to learn from the past. It’s not exactly “editing the past to suit ourselves,” but more like interrogating the past to learn as much as possible from it.

In life, as in writing, the best part is how we mine the past for the materials with which to build a new and better future.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Authors Publish, for the quote from Mabel E. Wetherbee (whom I can’t track down online! She’s allegedly the author of Whisper of the Hare and The Illusionist’s Pinbut I can’t find a primary source); to AZ Quotes, for the quote from Marion Dane Bauer, and to QuotesGram, via Pinterest (note QuotesWarehouse no longer seems to exist), for the unattributed quote about not getting stuck in the past, for the unattributed quote about not getting stuck in the past.


Jan S. Gephardt at the keyboard. Photo by Colette Waters.

Did you ever have one of those projects you thought was just about done . . . except you needed to adjust this one thing.

And then that one thing led logically to another. And after that you discovered an excellent new technique and it would apply to this current project, so now if you just revamp these bits . . . .

Eventually it HAS to end. In this case I’m talking about the novel I am THIS CLOSE to having completely ready to start productionON or before September 3, 2018, it shall be done (or else).

For reals. mean it. Friends who know me will point, laugh, and say, “Got THAT right!” when I tell you I am not a fast writer. For all my ongoing efforts to be a well-organized, methodical “plotter,” the “pantser” in my soul frequently takes me walkabout, as a way to open up whole new projects through the “discovery method.”

Here’s the color comp for the cover of What’s Bred in the Bone, created by one of my favorite artists, Jody A. Lee, based on a scene from the book.

may not live long enough to finish all of the projects I already have in my files (partially developed through said “discovery method” and mostly set in the same fictional universe), but by God I’ll have fun writing them. I also hope people will have fun reading them–which necessitates finishing them, and publishing them.

That’s my current task: sternly striving not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and working on finishing a final, publishable version of What’s Bred in the Bone.

The world I currently inhabit for as many of my waking hours as possible these days is the one I’ve been writing about (and in which I’m making the aforementioned revisions).

Set in an indeterminate future era which I call the Twenty-Fourth-and-a-Half Century, most of the action takes place on Torus Two of Rana Habitat Space Station, through the eyes of an XK9: an enormous, genetically-engineered, cybernetically-enhanced police dog named Rex, as well as his mate Shady and his human partner Charlie.

Readings from What’s Bred in the Bone that I’ve done at science fiction conventions, such as DemiCon 29 and SoonerCon 27, have been met with enthusiasm, which is encouraging. Most of my beta-readers have been enthusiastic, too. If you’ll be at Worldcon 76, I have a 30-minute reading scheduled there on Monday, Aug. 20, 11:00 a.m. in Room 211A. I hope to see you there!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the talented Colette Waters for the enhanced reality represented by her photo of me, and to the amazing Jody A. Lee, for the color comp of the cover-art-that-will-be for What’s Bred in the Bone.

Being critiqued

A Hinkley Buzzard comes in for a landing.

They’re all coming back home to roost.

Somewhat like the buzzards returning to Hinkley, Ohio (albeit several weeks later–I can’t believe I missed Buzzard Day, which was March 15), my manuscripts are slowly returning from my beta-readers.

sent drafts of my science fiction novel What’s Bred in the Bone out in March, to a collection of willing souls. Some are published writers, some are working-on-being-published writers, some are much-prized living embodiments of my “target audience,” and some are simply friends who’ve been hearing me talk about “the book I’m writing” for years, and were curious. A few are even friends of the volunteers, who became interested.

Some wanted e-book format, some wanted Word documents, some PDFs, and a few wanted hard copies, which I put in binders with a quick-and-dirty cover so they’d be quickly able to distinguish what side was “up.”

One and all, I deeply appreciate the time they’ve spent reading my manuscript and answering my questions. Not all have reported back in, yet, but I’ve begun reading the comments of those who’ve finished. They’ve proved quite interesting, and in many cases very helpful.

I’m a veteran of several decades’ worth of writers’ groups and critique partnerships, so I know how to compartmentalize (I learned that studying journalism!). It’s still sometimes a challenge not to take it personally, but the writer with a tender ego is a writer afraid to grow.

I also know how to evaluate. Not all critiques are equally valid. Some seem to come straight out of left field. Some are internally contradictory. Oh, but then there are those other ones, the ones that hit you dead-center, with a deeply resonant, “Oh, man, s/he’s right!”

Very few people will be able to resist at least a few little nitpicks, and there’s almost always an “outlier,” someone who gives such radically different feedback from what everybody else said that you wonder “what manuscript were they reading?”

At the end of the day, the best a writer can do is tell her story as well as she is able at the time, read or listen to every critique with an open mind and her heart safely tucked in a padded box somewhere, then make the changes that won’t let her ignore them. And after that, MOVE ON.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the “Haglund’s Heel” Blog, for the nice photo of the Hinkley buzzard; to Scribendi, via Pinterest, for the quote image from H. G. Wells; and to Pinterest again, for the “Read-Write-Revise-Eat-Sleep-Repeat” image (no other associated link still seems to work). I took the photo of my pile of manuscript printouts in recycled binders. Please feel free to use it if you like, but have the grace to give an attribution and a link back to this post. Thanks!

So, I wrote this book . . . the saga continues.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog periodically may have stumbled onto a mention or three about the science fiction novel I’ve been working on.

To be fair, it’s a science fiction universe I’ve been creating, the physical setting and milieu for a whole series of novels. Any blog posts I’ve written about future trends, such as last year’s series on automation, the DIY Space Station seriesfirst responders, and/or police K-9sMWDs, or service animals, all have been directly inspired by research aimed at making my fictional world seem more real.

The book’s still not published, so, no: this is not a sales pitch. It’s more like an update. After the 2016 post that marked the end of an early draft, it went through a series of editorial reviews by professionals I trust, as well as a lot of beta-readers’ reviews (note: beta-readers are kind of like beta testers, only for books).

And it underwent lots and lots (and lots and lots) of revisions. As far as the comments from my various critique resources have been going, it apparently continues to improve. I recently sent it off for what I hope is a final round of critiques. Considering the sequel’s now almost finished, I’m hopeful I can offer more substantive updates here soon.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the ever-witty Tom Gauld, via Pinterest, for the “Jealous of my Jetpack” picture, to Roxanne Smolen’s Instagram Page for the illustrated Phyllis Whitney quote, and to Kathy R. Jeffords for the “2nd Draft Won’t Kill You” design and thought.

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