Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SM Johnson ~ In the Service of Pleasure ~ recent reads

Yeah, pleasure.

Is this part of your every day life? Do you seek it, ask for it, look out for it, enjoy it?

EXPECTED pleasure reading is amazing.

I have the distinct honor and pleasure of being a first reader for one of my favorite authors.

Can you imagine that - being one of the first to enjoy a favorite author's new book? Before publication? Of being able to send an email filled with questions and delighted exclamations (very often there are more of the latter) to your favorite author? Sometimes it feels surreal.

That being said - I have absolutely NO influence on the direction of the story. Nor would I want to. I try to scour the text for typos and sometimes ask for clarification of things that might trip someone up who's new to the story world.

I clear the decks when the next book comes hits my inbox. It's like Christmas and my birthday all at the same time. I want NOTHING but to be left alone to enjoy the read.

I hope my beta readers feel the same about my work.

We, as writers, have a base level of insecurity about new books, I think, and nervously chew our fingernails waiting for a response from our beta readers. These are people we hope have read everything we've written, who know our "voice" and our "style". They're not content editors, it's not their place to tell us what our characters should do, but more... benevolent fans who trust our process, who like it when we surprise them with a new directions.

Speaking for myself - I really don't have a good sense of my own work. I'm never sure if I've managed to get what's in my head onto the page precisely as clear as I want it to be. Some scenes come quickly and easily, others I have to work harder to nail down, and sometimes I'm not even sure if I got the order of events to come together in the way that grows my character properly. Hell, most the time I can't even tell if I've put the thing together in any coherent manner at all.

And three people in a sex scene? Gah! Can the reader even tell who's doing what to whom? And is it hot, or just complicated?

All of that.

I want my beta reader to say, "Hey, Roman's swearing an awful lot in this book, and isn't that something he's consciously decided not to do?" Or "the way you've written that sex scene confuses me - I'm pulled out of my head trying to visualize how everyone is positioned."

I don't really want that reader to say, "Aw, you sent Jason out of town to grad school. But I really like Jason, can't you keep him?"

No, I probably can't.
I really can't manage to write the story you want to read. I can only write the story that I want to read. That's the only story that can hold my attention long enough to write a novel. In my fictional world, people don't always stay together. In my real world, three-way, polyamorous relationships fail, far more often than they succeed. Which doesn't make them any less interesting or intense or wonderful.

Which doesn't mean I don't pay attention to what people say about my books. I've come to recognize that most of my readers are much more invested in the M/M relationships in my books, and not much, or at all, invested in the F/F or M/M/F. Which is fine. Actually, it's better than fine - because I'm a lot more invested in the M/M relationships, too. So I quit dragging them through scenes wherein my only real motivation was to keep up with past POV characters. They don't like it, I find it an uninspiring pain in the ass - so how about let's just not?

The number one reason I write is to entertain myself. Because believe me, I sure don't do it for the money. But - I do make some attempt at continuity of story to give my readers a good experience.

The reason I beta read for a very select couple of authors?

Because I absolutely adore their work. I aspire to write to the level of their skill, which I admire. And I probably do. But overall - I do it because they let me, because they find my thoughts and questions helpful, because they trust me to honestly be able to grasp what they're doing with the story.

Oh, and because reading their work is my favorite thing anyway, so why not?

If an author blows you away with every book they write - especially an Indie author - and you're good at spotting typos and noting confusing bits - I recommend dropping a line and asking if they're seeking beta readers. We love and adore and depend on our Betas, and most of us don't have enough beta readers available to read on our often accelerated schedule, by the time we send to betas, we're often just waiting for that feedback before we hit the button to publish.

Tips and tricks for beta reading:

I read a word doc on my kindle and keep the "notes" feature of my phone open. I can turn that note into an email with a couple of taps to my phone screen, which makes keeping track of comments and typos a lot easier than when I was first tried to keep track of a piece of paper, and then later had to transcribe my hand-written notes.

Anyway. My only child wants to fill my 7 passenger vehicle with friends and head to the beach, so I'd better wrap this up. Yay - I get to spend the rest of the afternoon reading The Backup by Erica Kudish. Not as a beta, but as a paying consumer. And so far this book is SO fucking fabulous you can probably expect to see an actual review here, very soon.

Love to all of you, my Darklings. Oh, and hey - start reading the Quentin Black series by JC Andrijeski. Book one is called Black in White. Proceed from there and you'll eventually get to the book I just got to read, Black and Blue, which is a wild ride and a wonderfully fun read.


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