What causes you stress as a writer? Things have been really busy here behind-the-scenes at Byrd Nash, and that always gives me a great deal of personal stress and pressure. The three biggest areas that are the most stressful to me as a writer are 1.) working with Beta Readers; 2.) reviewing suggested changes from my editor; and 3.) publishing the book and wondering if anyone will care.
Stress as a Writer: Working with Beta Readers
From a writer’s viewpoint, I’ve discussed how to work with Beta Readers to build a better book and how to find them. Time and time again, they have saved me from making foolish mistakes or simply gave me additional ideas on how I could present some information better in my storytelling. They have helped me through times of doubt (did this scene come across as I wanted?).
However, it would be a lie to say this is an easy process emotionally. This is the first time the story is seen by others (outside my inner circle). Will they like it? Will they see what I’m trying to show them? How will I deal with all of their comments (some of which I agree with, others I don’t)?
Frankly, I also have trust issues. I don’t open myself up to just anyone. But I do plan on publishing books, so if I want to fulfill my dream I have to start cracking open that door. Having a team of Beta Readers, some whom I know, others who I don’t, helps build that confidence.
Another thing is the sheer amount of time and effort it takes to juggle comments. For example, Bane of Hounds (currently being seen by Betas) has over 1,000 comments from the 10 Beta Readers. It’s a lot to deal with it, so I’m glad that I’m using a program like Beta Books to manage comments and my replies.
So why do it? Well, if you plan on publishing and releasing to a larger audience, you will also be subjecting yourself to criticism. Most of that will be from people who have no desire to help you (at least Beta Readers do want to help!).
You can avoid some of the harshest criticisms in reviews by going through a Beta Reader process if you sincerely listen to what they have to say about your writing.
For example, on the short story The Wicked Wolves of Windsor (in the book of the same name), one Beta said they didn’t understand some of the wolf’s motivations. It was unclear to them. I went back and wrote a scene where Dorieann bicycles home and the wolf converses with her, revealing more of the history/folklore of what makes him. This extra scene became one of my favorites!
Another instance was the short story, The Queen’s Favorite (also in Wicked Wolves). Readers wanted to know more about what happened next to Elaine. I didn’t want to do that because the ending is rather dramatic, and I wanted THAT to be the ending.
Thinking this problem over, I felt readers really wanted reassurance that Elaine was going to be okay. Without revealing the ending, I put in an extra paragraph showing that she was going to regain her position with all honor.
While I don’t do everything Beta Readers request, I do take it under serious consideration. Still, it’s hard to have others read your work and criticize it. I’m hoping as I get further along in the process, it becomes less of an emotional whirlwind for me.
Lately, my Beta Readers seem to think that catching every little typo is their job. No, their job is telling me what they liked or didn’t like about the action, plot, or characters. In the future, I will need to make that more clear to them.
Some suggestions if exposing your creative work is hard for you:
- Use people you know first.
- Start with a small group, like 3-5.
- Use a program to manage beta reading that is specifically designed for that purpose.
- Show them a few chapters, not the entire story. See if you work well together.
- Wait on feedback. I wait a week before I start reading comments from Beta Readers.
- If they suggest something that you don’t feel right about, wait 48 hours or a week to make a decision.
- Even if you disagree with their suggestion, take their feedback graciously.
- You don’t have to do everything they suggest, but do realize if all your Beta Readers are saying the same thing that you need to re-examine the work.
- After handing off your work, start on a different project to stay busy.
Stress as a Writer: Working with an Editor
If you plan on publishing, you must work with an editor that has real editing experience. No matter how much you think you’ve reviewed your book, there are still issues with typos, grammar, continuity, or other tweaks that need to be done so that the work is understandable to hundreds and thousands of readers coming from different levels of knowledge and education.
On every Byrd Nash book I’ve had an editor, and while some reviews have listed typos as an issue, trust me – that book was seen by at least 6 pairs of eyes and those typos still got past us!
It’s a fact of life there will be typos or grammar mistakes. The best thing you can do is reduce the likelihood of how many are there. The only way to do this is to hire an editor.
Things I like to get from an editor
Pointing out historical inaccuracies (for example, the use of the word renaissance for a particular period of time that wasn’t used during the Regency); noticing the overuse of certain words (I often repeat the same word in a paragraph unknowingly); my problematic use of then/than (dyslexia will never recognize this, so I’ve given up); continuity issues (especially about time!); and little things like the wrong verb tense or the need for a comma.
I want to see their enthusiasm for the story, places they recommend that I expand descriptions or go into more depth with a conversation or character. Where I’ve duplicated details that would be better cut. As a former working journalist, I have no problem with the cut-cut-cut!
Thing I don’t like to hear from my editor
Where they re-wrote a large blocks of my text. I am not paying my editor to be my “voice” (and it is why I don’t give them credit on my book bylines). I would rather the editor just write awkward and let me deal with re-writing it.
I don’t like someone else re-writing how I phrase things – let me do that as I’m striving to convey a certain point or image. I prefer suggestions over re-writes. Let me do my job – the writing. You do the editing, which is suggesting changes when it comes to the creative side of the story.
Back to trust issues. For me to show my work to someone who is going to review and provide edits I have to know that 1.) they know more than I do; and 2.) they have the diplomacy to form a relationship with me of give and take.
Since I plan on writing some future stories set in different historical periods, I’ll be reaching out to some new editors who have expertise in this area. Working with different people is going to be a stressful ride. I’m hoping I find a few good ones that I can stick with.
Suggestions on how to work with an editor
- Make sure you edited the work many times before submitting. The more raw the draft, the more errors they are going to find, making it rather hard on your ego!
- If trying a new editor submit a chapter (or X amount of words) and see how they respond. Do you feel comfortable working with them?
- Finding an editor is about compatibility. They must show your problem areas but also know what your needs are emotionally and recognize your vision for storytelling.
- Respect must go both ways.
- Know what you want from your editor as there are many different types of editing (discussing story concepts, fact-checking, suggestions on words and continuity, copy editing, line editing, and proofreading).
Will anyone care when my book is published?
A big ego thing that I probably won’t get over is wondering if anyone out there will care when a book launches.
It can be very scary to hit that “publish” button on Amazon (or another publishing platform). It truly is a leap of faith. It’s that jump off the high-dive into mid-air, trusting there is water under you that you can swim in. And I was never a deep end of pool or rollercoaster person.
I can always feel the inward tension building the week before a book launches. It twists me up internally, and I often get stress-related illnesses due to it. In an attempt to get over this, I’m backing off the demanding schedule I set for myself and setting a more realistic schedule.
What to do if you worry during a book launch
- Make sure you have set up the steps for a book launch, so there are no surprises.
- Realize there will be surprises! LOL plan for 3-5 days to get them sorted out.
- Set up a support team, often called a Street Team, of fans that can give you that clap on the back, job well done feeling when you are launch.
- If you have someone you can delegate tasks to, do so. Share the burden and lighten your load.
- Give yourself a little celebration – dine out (or order take-out), a special dessert, or a token gift to acknowledge that yes, you did it!
- Have another project you can focus on so you don’t get so wrapped up on this one book.
2019 and 2020 taught me a lot about what writing marathon speed I should be doing. I think realistically that 3 books a year and somewhere between 4-6 novellas is far more my speed than 4 books a year with short stories.
I would rather share consistently with you, my readers, than hobble along, stressing over one massive epic book once a year. I hope you feel the same.