It’s been two months since I started re-working on my second novel, On the Shoulders of Demons, so it’s time I give an update. It’s been a crazy two months! I’ve also moved, had all my possessions on a driveway unsure if I’d get them in the house that day, received my first feedback on The Marvellous Makeover Murders, had plumbing problems at the new house, had meltdowns about the plumbing problems at my new house, played rugby, built furniture, had more plumbing problems at the new house, more meltdowns about the plumbing, and continued to rework On the Shoulders of Demons.
Goodbye, Old Home!
After 4 and a half years, I’ve moved. I thought it was really cool living in a house that has a music album written about it, but it was time to move on. My house definitely didn’t have the space for Kale, nor for my sister, who I’ll be building an addition for in 5-10 years’ time. This house is on a corner lot, so it has lots of space to expand.
The move… was a lot more expensive than I anticipated, with the legal problems leveraging me to the max, and then moving in and the plumbing problems started… but these will pass, and I think we’ll all be very happy here.
More Rugby Photos?
MORE RUGBY PHOTOS!
As you can see, the plan to get back to losing weight… has not happened. I really need to get better at not eating my feelings when I’m stressed out.
Other things in life?
August is a month of family! Kale’s parents are visiting. Brendan’s parents are visiting. I’m visiting my family in Quebec. And I really need to finish setting up my office.
I don’t have much beyond rugby, baking, writing, family, and work right now. This move has taken over my life, but I think we’re almost at its end! So, in October (right now, every two months seems to be best for me updating on my life), I should have a few more interesting things to write about. For today, I’m going to do one more section for those who would care to hear my…
Philosophy on Beta Reading
The Marvellous Makeover Murders is a bit of a weird book, and I knew that before sending it out to beta readers. No book appeals to everyone, but weird books get more polarized opinions.
Some beta readers told me that the dialogue-heavy middle plods, where the main character is walking around and talking to each person in turn, trying to figure out who the murderer is. Others told me that getting to know the characters was entertaining and thought provoking.
This is pretty typical for beta-readers. Different readers will give opposite opinions on the same section.
Neil Gaiman gives the best advice on this, I think: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
The book didn’t work for a some people, and that’s OK. They lost interest in the long conversations. But the long conversations are part of the book—I can’t get rid of them without changing the entire idea behind it. What I can do, however, is note the places where the readers who didn’t like the book as much lost interest, and ask myself if there’s something else I could add at that point, another thread to braid into the story. Something that wouldn’t detract from what’s there, but add more.
Because giving up what makes the story unique will turn it into a hollow shell of itself. There are hundreds of people trying to become authors for each one who makes it, which means you really need to lean into what makes your writing unique. If you try to go for generic appeal, someone else has likely done it better. And no one is getting excited about your new story.
But you also want your unique story to have as wide appeal as possible. Adding more threads to the story can satisfy both urges, giving everyone something they like by being everything, everywhere, all at once.
Of course, there are also times when beta readers just point out a complete mistake. Like when Brendan pointed out that the traditional medieval fortification is the ditch—after I had published the novel. Great timing!
Whatever. That novel was more about celebrating actually finishing one than being amazing. I’ve already withdrawn it from sale.
Likewise, with On the Shoulders of Demons, a lot of beta-readers talked about how the middle section plodded, with slice of life dialogue breaking up back-to-back battles. And that was in large part because I was following the history, and focusing on getting that right—and I let the personal stories fall by the wayside. Right now, I’m trying to massage the history—combining several battles into one for narrative purposes without losing that historical realness, and then using the more conversational scenes to propel the plot along, which will make them more dramatic and fulfilling. It should be a very different book when I’m finished!
Eventually. Hahaha. Haha. Ha.
I’ll see you all in another two months!