Category Archives: Writing Tips & Tricks

Questions to Ask Beta Readers (My List)

Since we talked all about beta readers a few weeks ago, today, I thought I’d share my list of questions that I send out to my own betas. When I was first looking for betas back in the end of February, I came up with this list, and have been sending it out each time I enlist a beta. I find this list touches on everything that will help me as a writer know what needs to be fixed.

The important thing is to make sure you’re asking clear, concise questions that betas can answer easily. If you need more feedback based on something within the world, or a character, be sure to ask more detailed questions regarding that certain subject.

Note: This list is tailored to my own tastes and what I’m looking for betas to answer. Feel free to copy this list and switch it up to meet your own needs!

#1: Did you notice any obvious repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or capitalization errors? Examples?
#2: Is there anything about the world-building that doesn’t make sense and could use elaboration? If so, please explain.
#3: Did the setting interest you? Was the world vivid in your imagination?
#4: Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? Why or Why not?
#5: Were there any parts that confused you?
#6: Did you notice any inconsistencies? If so, where/what?
#7: Were there any spots where the story lagged or you lost interest? If so, why and where?
#8: Were there any scenes that bored you or had you skipping pages? Why?
#9: Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to hold your interest?
#10: Were any parts of the plot predictable?
#11: What grabbed your attention most?
#12: Were you confused by the multiple POV’s?
#13: Who was your favorite POV? Why?
#14: Who was your least favorite POV? Why?
#15: What was your favorite and least favorite part of the book?
#16: Did the climax feel climactic, was the payoff in the end worth reading the whole book?
#17: Was the end satisfying?
#18: If this book were part of a series, would you pick up the sequel?
#19: What was your immediate thought after finishing the book?
#20: Lastly, why did you keep reading?
Bonus Question: Is there any way I can repay you for taking your valuable time to read my work? I am available to return the favor of a beta read as well!


What do you think of this list? Are you going to use it the next time you’re looking for betas? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

The 101 on Beta Readers (And Where to Find Them)

One of the most important steps in an author’s writing journey is getting feedback on their work. No matter if you’ve written your first draft or your tenth, feedback is always valuable. As authors, we are so close to our own work that it can be difficult to catch mistakes – whether they be plot holes, character inconsistencies, or pacing. This is where having a beta reader comes in.

Critique Partners and Beta Readers

Critique Partners

A critique partner – or CP, for short – is a fellow writer on the same journey as you. Unlike beta readers, who will be reading the work as a whole, a CP will help you look at your work on a more personal level. They’ll help you spot plot holes, character and world inconsistencies, help you brainstorm ideas, and so much more. With your CP, they’ll not only be looking at your own work with a close eye, but you’ll also be looking at their work as well.

It’s both polite, and common curtesy, to give back what you receive. Don’t be a bad CP and take their feedback without giving some of your own!

More often than not, by gaining a CP, you also gain a friendship. Having someone in your corner who roots for you every step of the way is so helpful in the writing process.

Beta Readers

Beta readers – or simply known as betas – can be writers themselves, or just people who love to read. Unlike CP’s, who will most likely know your book inside and out, a beta will go into your book with fresh eyes, unknowing what awaits inside, much like a reader would if they picked your book off the shelf.

A betas feedback is beneficial, as they’ll tell you how they felt about the book as a whole. Did they like the story? Did it grip them the entire way through? Were there any parts where the pacing dragged? These are all things betas will be able to point out to you. They’ll be able to tell where the weakest and strongest parts of the novel are in a way that the writer – who’s so close to the project – can’t always see.

While you can enlist family and friends to be beta readers for you, it’s best to find someone who has an unbiased opinion of you and your work. Your family and friends most likely won’t be honest with their feedback, in an attempt not to hurt your feelings, so finding someone who can lay on the hard truths about your work is more beneficial to your growth as a writer.

NOTE: A beta reader and CP are in no way obligated to do any editing for your novel. Don’t expect them to do line edits, copy edits, developmental edits, etc…unless you and your CP or beta have specifically agreed to exchange any type of editing for one another.

But How Do You Find Them?

The only way to find beta readers and critique partners is to get involved in the Writing Community. I find Twitter in particular to be the easiest place to meet writers, but there are plenty of other places, too.

Twitter Hashtags and Chats:

• #amwriting
• #amreading
• #amrevising
• #amediting
• #WritingCommunity
• #AngstySquares
• #MuseMon
• #1lineWed
• #StorySocial (Every Wednesday at 8pm CST)
• #Chance2Connect (The second Tuesday of every month at 8pm CST)
• #WritersPatch (Every Sunday at 10am CST)

Facebook Groups:

Free Beta Readers, Free Critiques, and Paid Editors
Professional Beta Readers
Beta Readers & Critiques
Writers Helping Writers
Writers, Beta Readers, Critique, Advice, Writing Exercise & Rainbows!
First Chapter Critique Group

Reddit:

BetaReadit
Beta Readers

NOTE: I’ve also heard that Goodreads is an excellent place to find beta readers, but I’ve personally never tried it. I’ve found all of my beta readers and CP’s from Twitter.

When Should You Start Looking?

You can start looking for beta readers whenever you feel ready, but it’s important to do so BEFORE looking for a literary agent, editor, or attempting to publish. It’s also recommend that your draft is as clean as possible before sending it to betas. You want them to focus on the STORY – not the grammar and spelling mistakes inside.

A good beta reader can catch many of the mistakes as I’ve mentioned above, and many of these things can be fixed with a few rounds of revisions. No matter if you’re looking to traditional or self-publish, you always want to have your manuscript as good as you can get it. Having a manuscript littered with easily fixable mistakes will not only bring rejection, but often, more work for an editor (who will only charge you more for their time, if you’ve hired a freelance editor).

What Should You Ask?

The more specific you are, the better the feedback will be. Give your betas something to look for or keep in mind while they’re reading. Here’s some examples from my own beta reader questionnaire that I sent with my last WIP:

• Is there anything about the world-building that doesn’t make sense or needs elaboration?
• Did the setting interest you? Was the world vivid in your imagination?
• Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? Why or why not?
• Were there any spots where the story lagged or you lost interest? If so, why and where?
• Were there any scenes that bored you or had you skipping pages? Why?
• Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to hold your interest?
• Were any parts of the plot predictable?
• What grabbed your attention most?

Feel free to be as detailed or simple with your questions as you see fit!

How Many Beta’s Do You Need?

As many as you think you do! There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but my personal advice would be to secure ten beta readers, at least!

The reason I say this is because you want a wide variety of people to look at your manuscript. Everyone will come at it with a different opinion and take on what they get out of the story. With ten different pieces of feedback from ten different people, it can be easier to pinpoint what is and isn’t working.

Example:

If you have ten beta readers and eight of them finish the book saying they LOVED the ending, but two said they were disappointed, whose feedback do you agree with? But if eight beta readers say they hated the ending, and two say they loved it, what do you do then?

If a majority of beta readers come to the same conclusion on what aspect of your story isn’t working (Act I dragged, this character fell flat, they loved the ending, etc…) more often than not, they’re right. If one or two beta out of ten mention, it could be their personal opinion.

It’s also beneficial to have a larger number of beta readers in case someone doesn’t finish. People are very busy, and even though people may commit to read your work, not everyone always sees it through. Make sure you have enough betas that if someone does stop reading, then you’ll still have plenty of feedback to work with!

What To Look For in a Beta Reader

Familiarity in Your Genre

You’ll want to find someone who actively reads what you write. For example, if you’re writing an epic fantasy complete with sword fights and dragons, but give your manuscript to someone who has never picked up a fantasy book in their life – well, their feedback might not be the best.

You want to find someone who would be in your target audience.

Honesty

Finding someone who can be brutally honest is the next thing to look for. It may sting at first, but you’ll have to grow a thick skin. Find someone who won’t sugar coat things.

How to Work With a Beta Reader

Develop a Thick Skin

To be a writer, you have to have thick skin. It’s just the way the profession goes. You will face rejection every step of the way, and working with betas readers will be no different.
The beta reader stage is all about whipping your manuscript into shape. It’s about fixing everything you can’t see with your own eyes. A beta reader’s job is to judge your manuscript, not you.

Ask Questions

As I mentioned above, asking questions is so important. By asking detailed questions and getting detailed answers back, you can see where your manuscript will need the most work.

Analyze Their Feedback

Once you get your feedback, it may take a while to digest. I recommend reading all of it and letting it stew in your mind for a couple of days before trying to make changes. Having betas also gives you a chance to step away from the manuscript. Take a step back and really think about what they’ve said, why they’ve said, and if they’re right.

NOTE: Beta readers are not always right. Take everything they say with a grain of salt. Remember, this is still your work, and you can choose to agree or disagree.

Swap

I personally think the best way you can pay a beta reader back is by offering to beta read for them in return. Betas take time out of their lives to read your work, and returning the favor is one of the best things you can do. When I enlisted my beta readers, I offered to return the favor to every one of them.

At the end of the day, having beta reader’s feedback is one of the most valuable things you can have as a writer. Beta readers help to make your story stronger, and help you grow as a writer. It’s important not to skip this step in your writing process!


How do you work with beta readers? Are these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

4 Reasons to Join the Writing Community

Writing is a lonely process. Most of the time, us writers are holed up in a room, all alone, with our own thoughts, dreams, and ideas. It’s such an isolated process that it can be hard to remember there are other writers – and people like us – out there. Since joining the Writing Community two years ago, I’ve connected with so many amazing writers, and found a place where I can fully be myself.

So where do you join the community?

It’s all over the place! Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc…However, Twitter is the best place to be the most active. So many writers have accounts, as well as literary agents and publishing houses, and it’s the easiest place to interact and communicate.

But what benefits are there to joining the Writing Community?

1.) Community

There is a community full of writers out there. People who are on the same journey as you – whatever level you may be at. There are those who are writing their first novel, or their second; others who are ready to self-publish or already have. Whatever path you’re on, there will be hundreds of others just like you.

Like I said before, writing is a lonely process. But finding a community that you can connect with, where you can talk to like-minded people, makes the writing process a little less lonely.

2.) Connections

Being part of the community also means making connections with people. Other writers, editors, freelancers, critique partners, beta readers, and literary agents – they’re all people you can meet, and it’s important to get to know them.

Well, you don’t have to get to know all of them.

But making a few meaningful connections with other writers who can become your critique partners, or getting to know what an agent likes or dislikes by their tweets, can build meaningful connections that are guaranteed to help you along the way.

3.) Advice

Another amazing part of the community is learning advice from other writers, agents, and editors. So many of these writers tweet out daily writing advice, or agents will tweet things they frequently see go wrong in writer’s query letters or manuscripts.
Twitter can be a goldmine of advice.

Follow writers like Delilah S. Dawson, Susan Dennard, or V.E. Schwab for advice on writing.

4.) Platform

Whether you’re self, traditional, or small press publishing, one of the most important things you will have to do as a writer is build your author platform. By building an audience of people who are invested in you, and your work and brand, you’re already making a name for yourself in the publishing world.

Marketing is harder than ever these days, with so many markets oversaturated with products; but by ensuring you are active, and actively making connections with people, you’ll only continue to grow and build your platform. Follower count isn’t the most important thing – but building connections is.


If you’re interested in joining the community, follow along with hashtags like:

#WritingCommunity
#writingcommunity
#amwriting
#amediting
#authorlife
#writerlife

Do any of these tips help you want to join the community? How do you interact with other writers? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

6 Tips to Help You Read More This Summer

I love the summertime. In fact, summer is my favorite season! There’s nothing better than sitting out in the sun with a good book and enjoying the breeze. I love wearing my summer clothes, and being outside during this time of year. Where I live, most of the year it’s freezing or just too cold to go outside, so I try and enjoy the summer for as long as I can!

Summer is the perfect time for barbecues, water parks, campfires, family vacations, and so much more! But during the summer, it can be difficult to remember to read! There are so many other fun activities that occupy our time, and sometimes reading can slip our minds! If you’re looking to read more this summer, look no further! And if you’re hoping to make a reading a habit, check out my blog post all about how!


#1.) Bring a Book Everywhere

No matter where you go, carry a book with you! Or if you have a kindle, that works too! There are so many moments in our day where we can slip in a little bit of reading time, even if it’s just a paragraph or a page.

Whether you’ll be a passenger in a long car ride, traveling on a plane to your perfect vacation destination, or camping out, steal those moments to read instead of checking your phone. Oh – and you might want to bring more than one book!

#2.) Don’t Be Afraid to DNF

There is not enough time in our lives to force ourselves to read books we don’t like. Our time is so precious, and we need to enjoy every moment of it. If you’re just not enjoying a book for one reason or another, don’t be afraid to put it down. Find a different book you know you’ll enjoy. The summertime should be all about relaxing, not stressing!

#3.) Listen to Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a form of reading, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! They’re perfect for long car rides, or whatever travel plans you may have. And if you don’t – turn your audiobooks on at home!

I would listen to more audiobooks if I could – but the CD players in my car no longer works!

#4.) Read Lightly

Believe me, I’m a lover of huge, 800 – 1,000 page books. They’re fun to read, and they have their place. But even for a fast reader, a hefty book with such a large page count can still take some time to read.

Try limiting yourself to smaller books in the 250 – 400 page range. Not only will you read more, but if you’re traveling, you can take more books! The bigger the book, the less room you have!

#5.) Do a Summer Reading Challenge

Some people are very goal oriented, so have a reading challenge is a perfect way to keep them on track. Not only that, but they’re fun, too!

The PopSugar Reading Challenge, 2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge, and NY Public Library Challenge, are all great examples you can try. Or if you want, make your own!

#6.) Ignore the Hype

There are tons of book that come out every month. Tons. Every month, I hear about the hottest new releases, and can’t help but want to buy and add them to my TBR list. But the hype only deviates me from reading what I already have on my shelf.

Instead of reading books that are (and have) been waiting for me to read for months, I buy the newest books and devour them first. Not only does this keep me from reading what should have been read months ago, but it also makes me feel stressed about missing out.

Instead, try and ignore the hype. Take the summertime to read what you already have, or catch up on some old favorites. Even if the hype for a new book dies down, don’t worry – the book will still be there.


Do you find these tips helpful? What do you do to read more in the summer? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

How to Use Music as Writing Inspiration

I’ve always been an avid listener of music. I grew up in a house where music was always playing. My Dad taught me from a young age the importance of music, and what an impact it can make. Since then, my tastes in music have not only grown and changed, but become one of the biggest sources of inspiration for all my writing.

That said, I simply cannot write without finding a few songs to use as inspiration for whatever I’m currently working on. I don’t always listen to music when I write, but when I’m stuck on a scene, I’ll pull up the playlist I’ve created and take some time to listen for a while. Normally, inspiration strikes while being lost in the lyrics and rhythm of the music. I swear by it being an excellent source of inspiration, and if you’re struggling, here’s a few tips that’ll help you out!


Step 1: Find Songs That Resonate With You and Your WIP

The first thing to do is find songs that will resonate with you and what you’re working on. Whether it be songs with lyrics in them, or instrumental music, it’s important to find songs that will really evoke ideas, inspiration, or motivation within you.

* Emotion

What kind of emotion are you hoping to invoke? Love? Sadness? Anger? What songs bring tears to your eyes? Find music that will accurately represent what kind of emotion you want to feel, especially if you’ll be writing it for specific scene.

* Lyrics

Listen to the lyrics next! There are so many great lines within song lyrics that have sparked so many of my ideas. Here’s some examples of songs with lyrics that have really inspired me.

 

*Soundtrack

If you could pretend your book was being turned into a movie, what songs would you want on the soundtrack? Look at examples of all the other great movie soundtracks and study how they fit into the atmosphere and theme of the world.

Step 2: Create a Playlist

Once you’ve picked out plenty of songs, the next step is to create a playlist. My favorite way to do this is create one in my iTunes library, putting all the songs for that current WIP into the playlist. Then when I’m writing – I listen to that playlist and only that playlist! It keeps me focused on the task at hand, and gets me pumped up to write. It keeps me from getting distracted wanting to get up and do something else, similar to when your favorite song comes on in the car and you don’t want to get out.

The most important step is figuring out the right songs that really capture the mood you’re trying to convey. I find pretty much all my songs through iTunes, or by falling down a rabbit hole in YouTube and finding new artists.

Check out some of the songs on my Androids Series playlist:

• Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Lorde
• In for the Kill (Skream’s Lets Get Ravey remix) – La Roux
• The Only One – Evanescence

• 24 – Jem
• Panic Switch – Silversun Pickups
• The Outsider – A Perfect Circle
• Believer – Imagine Dragons

Or even one of my newer projects, Forbidden:

• Horns – Bryce Fox
• Seven Devils – Florence + The Machine
• Bedroom Hymns – Florence + The Machine

• Don’t Let Me Go – RAIGN
• Sorry – Halsey
• Love is a Sacrifice – Ivy & Gold

Step 3: Use it as Writing Fuel

Once you’ve crafted your playlist, get to writing! Play your music while you work, and let it keep you motivated and in the zone of your world.


What music do you listen to while writing? Let me know in the comments!

XOXO – Devon

6 Things to Do Before Starting Your Novel

So, you’re getting ready to write your novel. Whether this is your first book or your tenth – here’s a handy list of things to do before you even begin putting words on the page!


1.) Outline Your Novel

Often times when I hear writers ask, “I don’t know what should happen next” My question is, “Did you outline your novel?”

Having an outline – whether it be detailed or not – can really help you keep on track. Knowing what happens beforehand will keep you motivated, and prevent you from suffering the dreaded writers block. It’s easier to sit down for a writing session and know where to take the story, rather than sit for an hour and wonder what happens next.

If you’re not an outliner, this might not work for you, and that’s okay. Everyone has a different method of writing their novels. If you don’t like to outline, it may help to just known the story beats of your novel, too. Check out Save the Cat! Writes a Novel to get a good idea on how to learn story beats.

2.) Know Your World (And Your Rules)

Every fictional world has a set of rules. There’s certain limits to a magic system, or certain rules within the government control that can’t be broken. Whatever it is – it’s important to know the rules within your world and how they work together.

Let’s take Harry Potter, for example. In the world of Harry Potter, people born who can do magic are known as “witches” and “wizards”. People who cannot do magic are known as “muggles”, and children born from muggles who have magic are known as “mudbloods”. Those born to magical parents, but unable to do magic, are known as “squibs”.

This is a perfect example of knowing your world. It’s important to know who can do magic and who cannot, and why that is. JK Rowling went so far to create an entire government based in her world of Harry Potter, known as the Ministry of Magic. Knowing your world, and the rules of the world, and how they work together can ground your story and make it feel more real.

If you want a more in-depth look at how JK Rowling created the rules for her Harry Potter universe, check out this page here.

3.) Organize Your Writing Space

It’s important to keep a clean writing space. Having a clean writing space will not only keep you free of distractions, but also keep you tempted from cleaning up. You’ll be able to focus more clearly on what’s in front of you, than what’s around you.

When I’m outlining, it’s always messy around me. Books and papers are littered everywhere. But when it’s time to write, I make sure my desk is neat and organized.

4.) Make an Aesthetic

Making an aesthetic is a favorite of many writers. Finding pictures that capture the atmosphere of your characters and world is a great way to not only keep yourself motivated, but to see what kind of imagery you’re going for with your novel.
It’s a great way to get a feel for your world, or what your characters interests and personalities are like.

I find all my pictures for my aesthetics on Pinterest, and even create different boards for all my ideas! I use Canva to edit the pictures together!

DoH31NiUwAAR02D.jpgAesthetic 1.jpgAesthetic 1.jpg

(*All pictures found on Pinterest. Credit goes to all artists. I do not own these images).

5.) Make a Playlist

Many writers love using music as an inspiration, myself included. Similar to an aesthetic, create a playlist of songs that really capture the atmosphere of your world, characters, or specific scenes. Play them as you write or just to keep yourself immersed in that world.

6.) Stop Procrastinating

This might be the hardest one yet! It can be so difficult for writers to sit down and begin their novels. There’s so much self-doubt and fear that goes into writing a book, and sitting down to write only makes those doubts even worse.

But the important thing to remember is that if you have a dream, no one else can make that dream come true but you. You will eventually have to sit down and do the work. But by utilizing all these tips above, it can be much easier to dive into the work, and enjoy the act of writing your novel.


Do you use any of these tips before writing your novels? Let me know!

XOXO – Devon

6 Tips to Make Reading a Habit

Reading is fun, and it’s just like every other entertainment medium out there. But so many people struggle with picking up a book, or never develop a consistent reading habit. If you’re someone who’s struggling to read more – or just looking to form a new habit – here’s six tips that should help you out!


#1. Find Books You Enjoy

I’m a big believer that high school English classes killed a love of reading for many people. Being forced to read classic literary novels that were hard to understand, digest, and even comprehend really sucked the joy out of reading for countless teenagers.

But here’s a secret: if you want to get back into reading, and make it a habit, it’s important to find books you’ll actually enjoy reading. You don’t have to read Charles Dickens or Nathaniel Hawthorne to be considered a reader. All you need to do is read.

Whether it’s YA books, science-fiction and fantasy, historical fiction, even graphic novels or comic books, find a genre that you will really be invested in. Reading is so much better when you actual enjoy it.

#2. Always Carry a Book on You

Whenever you leave the house, keep your book on you at all times. There are plenty of moments throughout the day where you can squeeze in some reading time. Like between classes, or waiting during a doctor’s appointment, or at the bus stop. You get the idea.
Think of it this way: if it’s a moment where you’d pull out your phone to browse the internet, try pulling out your book instead.

#3. Reduce TV Time

TV can be a great source of inspiration, creation, and wonderful storytelling. But TV and books are two entirely different mediums that tell stories entirely different ways. They both have their benefits, but TV can also be a time-consuming distraction.

For example, if you normally spend about three hours a night watching TV, try cutting your TV time down to two hours, and use that last hour to read. When developing a new habit, it’s important to be consistent.

#4. Set Scheduled Reading Times

If you find yourself struggling to sit down and read, try setting some scheduled reading time. Set a timer for fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes – or however long you feel comfortable – and just sit down and read. Give yourself permission to sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever novel is in front of you for the allotted time period.

Even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day, doing it every day will only help you form a new reading habit.

#5. Set a Reading Goal

If you’re someone who is highly goal oriented, setting a reading goal can be a great motivator. Find a goal you are comfortable with – like reading one book a week – and stick to it. The important thing here is to motivate yourself to meet your goal, while also working at a comfortable pace. Set a goal that will not only keeping you invested, but also having fun. Because that’s what reading should be: fun.

#6. Read Daily

Find a time within your day where you can dedicate it fully to reading without any interruptions. Even if it’s only a page a day, the important thing is to be consistent. Reading daily will not only help you develop a reading habit, but it will also teach you to read faster, improve your vocabulary and writing skills, and stimulate your creativity. You can’t go wrong with a daily reading habit.


The important thing to remember is that reading should be, above all things, fun. Don’t force yourself to read books you won’t enjoy, and read at a pace you feel comfortable.

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Do you use any of these tips to develop your own reading habit? Let me know!

XOXO – Devon