BTS018, Revisions with AutoCrit, Back to Blogging, and Professional Beta Reading
BTS018, Revisions with AutoCrit, Back to Blogging, and Professional Beta Reading
Last week my revisions for Missing became analytical thanks to the AutoCrit software. I’m also getting back to blogging my novella after a long absence. And, I have some exciting personal news to share with you. So, stay tuned for more details coming up in the show.
My Current Favourite Tea
As I’m recording this episode of the podcast diary, I’m drinking a cup of Lemongrass & Giner Tea by Tea2. I love how the lemongrass and ginger flavours compliment each other. The only downside is if I leave the tea bag in for too long the tea becomes too strong to drink. And, I’m the type of person who loves strong tea and doesn’t add anything to the tea. I drink it straight, that means no sugar, milk or lemon, I just drink it as is.
One of the reasons why I love drinking this tea is because I have a caffeine sensitivity. What I mean by a “caffeine sensitivity” is if I have more than three cups of green tea I will start to feel nauseated, and this tea calms my stomach. Today, as I’m recording this it’s 2:41 pm on a Tuesday and I’ve already had a cup of Jasmine Tea and two cups of Sencha Tea, which is why I’m drinking this now.
What I’m Reading
Last week I finished reading the Visitor by Lee Child, and I started reading The Pharaoh’s Secret by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown. This book is number thirteen in the Numa files series. So, basically, this series is about a group of US National Underwater and Marine Agency. To me, these characters and stories remind me of a team of expert treasure hunters which a bit of a modern-day Indiana Jones feel.
The Pharaoh’s Secret sits in the Action & Adventure genre, but I’m tempted to call it a thriller as well, but I’m possibly wrong about that classification. Even though it’s book thirteen, this is the first book that I’ve read in this series. I’ve read a few books in the Isaac Bell series, but this is my first Numa files book. And, so far I’m loving the story, it’s quite fast paced with a lot of action.
What drew me to this book was the pyramid on the cover. From memory, the cover has black and yellow tones with a picture of the great pyramid. So, that’s what drew me to the book other than the fact that it’s called The Pharaoh’s Secret. I guess I’m a bit of an ancient Egypt nerd, there’s a part of me that’s fascinated with that culture and period. That’s what made me pick up the book, I didn’t actually read the blurb at the back of the book. Yes, I’m a bit of an impulse book buyer. And, it’s actually been a great read so far, and I’m not at all disappointed.
I’m super excited to announce that Roland and I have finally started planning our USA Trip. It’s a little late because we’re leaving on May 3 and arriving back in London on May 31. Prior to this, we book the first flight to San Francisco and the flight from New York back to London as well as the first ten days of accommodation. There’s a part of me that’s a little excited because we’re going somewhere new this time. We’ve been to the USA a few times, and we like to go to certain places because those places are our favourites.
This time I’m finally getting to go to Las Vegas. I’m not a huge gambler, so you’re not going to find me in a casino, but I’ve always wanted to go because it sounds like an interesting place to visit. We’re just going for the weekend. And we’re booked accommodation, and it looks beautiful. Roland and I are staying in one of those themed hotels.
Podcasting and Traveling
So, hopefully, in the next podcast diary or the podcast diary after our weekend in Las Vegas, I will share photos from our trip and the images of our hotel. I’m not sure as to which episode number that will be but keep a lookout in your podcast app during May. A few episodes of the behind the scenes podcast will be recorded in advance so I can edit and publish while I’m away. Perhaps, I will record updates and add them to the episodes as well, but there might be a difference in the recording quality because I’ll have to use a different microphone than the one I’m using now. But, that’s for me to worry about. The podcast diary shows in May will be a picture of travel and hopefully writing.
Roland is going to California for work reasons, and I’m coming along for fun. But, I’ll be writing and podcasting as per usual. I’m not entirely sure how this is going to affect my publishing schedule, but I hope that I do find the time to revise Silence, while I’m away as per my publishing schedule. My original plan was to do a final round of revisions during May while Missing is with the editor. Now, that I’m talking about this, there’s a part of me that’s a little nervous because I’m concerned things may not go as planned. In theory, all I have to do is revise a little bit each day.
Revisions with AutoCrit
Last week, I started my third draft revisions with AutoCrit.* I know I mentioned this earlier but, AutoCrit is best used after your initial round of revisions focused on plot and story structure. On Thursday, I foolishly left my revision to the last minute partly due to the short working week. The first four days of the week I attempted to cram everything else, and as a result, I put off recording this podcast diary because I needed to make the revisions a priority. Without the revisions, I would only have the day to day tasks that run my businesses to discuss, and no one wants to hear about that.
I ended up doing six hours of self-editing in one day. As a result, my brain was fried, I could barely string a sentence together, and I had trouble concentrating. I had a short attention span, similar to a small child with a red ice block, minus the hyperactivity. Poor Roland had to put up with this fried version of me, but he is super patient. All of this comes down to cramming too much work in a short period, but I’m glad I did this because I felt like I achieved something quite significant.
So, I started off the revision session with consistency checks. For instance, the spelling of a particular word. In my case, I need to check that I was consistently spelling “smartphone” and not “smart phone.” I also need to make sure that I had the place of birth of a character right if it was mentioned. After reading the first draft, I noticed a lot of my characters where from the same place and in the revised drafts I decided to change things up. Due to this change, I needed to check that any references were consistent if I referenced his place of birth at all.
As I was writing the epilogue during the revised draft, I realised that I might have messed up the layout of the setting. This particular setting is used quite a few times, and it’s important that I get it right. I need to make sure that all lamps, bookshelves, drinking carts, sofas, and views from certain places in the room are consistent.
Excess Dialogue Tags
As I imported my manuscript into Auto criticism and produced the report, I noticed that it had flagged excessive uses of certain dialogue tags. It wasn’t particularly excessive overall, the score I received was average but, certain tags were overused and needed to be reduced. This meant I had to go through the manuscript and pay attention to the highlights and make corrections. Basically, my writing hangup is, I will write the dialogue then add a tag, and in some cases, an action or even reaction of a character will flow on after the official tag. In some cases, this was changed to action without the official dialogue tag.
An Example in Action
For instance, below is a terrible example from one of my earlier drafts.
‘I hate this train station. Too many bad memories,’ James said with a smile as he leaned in for another kiss.
So this piece of dialogue was changed to this.
‘I hate this train station. Too many bad memories.’ James smiled as he leaned in for another kiss.
The change I made was simply the dialogue followed by the action because let’s face it, you get that James is talking without the obvious “James said” tag because the action is being performed by him, thus implying that he was talking and not Valentine. And the reader is smart. I felt that in the original version I was spelling things out too much, and it was quite redundant. However, sometimes I opted to keep the official dialogue tag and the action because it didn’t sound right when read out loud. In those cases, the dialogue tag was needed, so it was left in its original form.
There’s a part of me that still thinks that I need to go through and give each character a specific voice, but that could be over analysis talking. And what I mean by this is giving characters pet phrases and their own way of constructing a sentence, just to provide them with a unique voice. But, not over the top, just to add a subtle difference between the characters. As I alluded to earlier this could be over analysis talking.
Changes in Tense
Within AutoCrit there is one huge summary report, and then there is a whole range of individual reports. And one of these reports is the changes in tense throughout your story. What the report actually does is it highlights all the tenses in your reports. Each tense is coloured codes to make this easier for you.
The report initially threw me off because it highlights all tenses even in dialogue. As a result, I panicked and did a lot of research into shifts in tenses. I actually did this research on Wednesday evening, and I think that come to three hours, so that’s nine hours of revision, not six. This is what my analytical brain does to me, it treats me as if I know nothing.
Tenses in Dialogue
After all of that research, I came to the conclusion that dialogue should always be written in Present Tense no matter if the conversation is happening now, or in the past. And the same with direct thought. So if the story is written in Third Person Close Point of View with Past Tense, the dialogue should still be written in first person present tense.
The reason for this is simple, the story is told through a character’s point of view and the dialogue moments are what the character remembers, and thus recalled the conversation as it happened. In light of this, your characters should speak in Present Tense unless they are talking about the past or the future.
Upon seeing the report, I panicked but soon realised that it wasn’t that bad. When it comes to future tense and the usage of words like “will”, sometimes you can only say things in future tense because the action is yet to be performed. And, that’s another thing that threw me off too was my future tense usage in the narrative, but that was only done occasionally.
Further Reading on Dialogue
Look, I’m going to end the grammar lesson here because, to be honest, I’m still trying to understand this myself. Nevertheless, during my research, I came across a series of blog posts from the blog of an editor called Pen Ultimate Word which I will link below. These four blog posts are mammoth in-depth posts and to be honest they are the best posts on this topic that I’ve seen thus far. So, if you’re writing dialogue or editing dialogue, then I highly recommend you check out these posts.
The posts from the Pen Ultimate blog:
- Dialogue in fiction: Part I – How to write authentic dialects and foreign accents
- Dialogue in fiction: Part II – The essentials
- Dialogue in fiction: Part III – The nuts and bolts
- Dialogue in fiction: Part IV – The nuts and bolts, cont’d.
- Dialogue in fiction: Part V – Writing your characters’ thoughts
Professional Beta Reading
Guess what, I’ve finally made a decision about something that I’m on the fence about for quite some time. And that decision is about hiring a professional beta reader. I’ve decided to commission a professional beta read for Missing because I’m in a headspace where I need feedback. Even though I’ve put my book through AutoCrit and it’s given me I thigh score and thinks my book is well written according to specific criteria. There’s a part of me that still thinks my book sucks.
I’ve been thinking this way for quite some time now, and I need to get myself out of this headspace. The truth is my book probably isn’t as bad as what I think. This mindset is because I’ve been over analysing my story and I’m so familiar with the story that I cannot get an honest perspective. And, Roland is super busy and has other things on his plate. I’ve been giving him subtle haunts about getting around to reading the novella, but I think it’s time for me to pay for a beta read.
The Next Steps
In light of this, I’ve found a company that offers professional beta reading, and I plan on contacting this company next week. I’ve checked out the companies website, and according to the service description, the beta readers will provide a report highlighting plot holes and comments on the overall story based upon a readers perspective. That’s just my own reader’s digest summary, but the page goes into the service in greater details.
I believe this will give me the reassurance that I need last this time, and to be honest, a bit of feedback would be great. There is a scene in the story that I’m bored with, but I cannot work out if it’s intact boring or if my feelings are the result of mew going over the scene four times. So, next week I need to contact these people to figure out whether they have time to read my novella, and if they have a reader who likes the crime thriller genre.
Blogging a Novella
As I was writing the first draft of Missing, I started blogging a revised version of my first draft on my website authoradhay.com. Before hitting publish, I performed a basic line edit, and proofread using the computer to read out back and then ProWriting aid and Grammarly. At one stage I had written the first act of the story, and I shared the first three chapters on my blog.
After this, I continued to share the chapters as I edited the book spastically. I found that this experience led me to become stuck because I become fixated on the book not being perfect. Well, duh, the book isn’t perfect because it’s the first draft. But it really messed with my mind, and I ended up stopping.
The Next Steps
However, I’m back to blogging my novella. Throughout last week, I updated the current eight chapters on the blog based on the revisions I’ve made so far. I plan to add additional chapters up to the end of act one. Chapter nine is currently available for reading and chapter ten will be released sometime over the next two weeks.
After this, I want to commission character artwork for James Lalonde in preparation for an interview that I want to share on the blog as well. So, I’ll have to commission artwork that I can use for content marketing purposes. This interview is a little strange in concept because it’s me interview myself as James. A bit weird but still fun, and hopefully enjoyable for my future readers.
Blogging for Story Feedback
Now this one is a bit scary, but I want to start directing traffic to these chapters. I’ve been avoiding this because I’m feeling insecure about the story. And, it’s time for me to get some feedback. It’s this reason that I need to keep in mind. I’m doing this for feedback, so I can change things now and not get one-star reviews on Amazon after I hit publish. There’s a part of me that would prefer to get comments on my blog before the book is published and start a dialogue with the readers and create a better book instead of the alternative that I mentioned before.
However, I will take down chapters three to ten before publishing my book on Amazon KDP because I want to be exclusive to Amazon for a period. According to the terms of exclusivity, I can only publish ten percent of my novel on my blog or give away though services like book funnel. So, anything after chapter two will need to be taken down. I plan on doing this three weeks before I hit publish on Amazon just so that when KDP scans the web, they only find ten percent on the internet.
For those of you who are curious soul’s, the button below will take you to my author blog, and there you can read the first nine chapters for free, no email sign up required.
Smarter Goal Setting
There’s a part of me that feels bad for sharing this but, I didn’t make any revisions to Smarter Goal Setting last week partly because was a short working week and I ran out of time. Nevertheless, this week I plan on adding the actionable steps at the end of the chapters. And by chapters, I mean the first three chapters. Anything else after the first three, I’m going to claim as a win.
Last week, I purchased the K-lytics Self-Help category report from Alex Newton, and I learned a few interesting things. One of those things was about how books are published in the self-help genre. As a result, I’ve decided to record an audiobook because a lot of books in the self-help genre have audiobooks. But, I’m not going to do this first thing after hitting publish. I’m going to wait for my first 25 reviews and hitting an income goal. It’s not just about the income goal. The real target is the reviews, I want to know if the readers love the book before I record the audio version because audio is expensive to change and is permanent.
So, that’s what I got up to last week. I’m hoping in the next Behind the Scenes Podcast Diary which will be episode 019, that I will have finished the self-editing phase for Missing and submitted the story to a professional Beta Reader. Or, at the very least contact the company about their availability. Depending upon my experience I will talk about the company I reached out to and discuss my experience with professional beta reading, and my thoughts on professional beta reading in general.
Thanks for listening, and happy reading and writing, everybody.
* DISCLAIMER: This blog post contains affiliate links (marked with an *), which means if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. The commission helps support the blog and allows us to continue to make content like this. Thank you for your support. 🙂
I’m Amelia. I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Missing, the Lawn, and the Candidate. On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process. Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.