Ready. Set. Write! CP/Beta Mixer


To cap off the summerlong Ready. Set. Write! initiative, hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk, a mixer for potential critique partners and beta readers is being held.

For a good idea of my philosophy about revising and critiquing, you can peruse the following posts. The TL;DR summary is that I feel most comfortable with a light, respectful hand, someone who tells me what works, what needs clarification, if characters are consistent and have believable motivations, how I might rework the opening pages, if something needs fleshing-out. I’ll be the final judge of whether something needs intense revising and rewriting, and how to execute it. I should edit and revise in my own voice and style, not make drastic changes because someone else wouldn’t have written it that way or doesn’t understand my style.

“Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing: #3…Rewriting”

“Lies Writers Tell… To Other Writers (Part Four — Betas Required)”

I write third-person omniscient and have ensemble casts, though if a book is focused on just one character, the POV will be closer to third-person limited. I need someone who understands how this classic default POV works, not someone who thinks it’s “head-hopping” to shift to another perspective, or who thinks third-person has the same rules about “outside knowledge” as first-person.

I’d most appreciate another set of trusted eyes on my Atlantic City books, which are extremely short by my standards (under 70,000 words). Many of them were written when I was a lot younger, and therefore need much more extensive rewriting and restructuring than the books I wrote entirely in adulthood. Though they start in 1938, they’re not straight, serious historical like my other books.

They’re a mix of historical, satire, and spoof, with a lot of humor so deliberately over the top it’s meant to be funny and not taken seriously. There’s also a lot of black humor, like Kit’s dysfunctional relationship with her mother (I guess the best comparison would be Stewie and Lois’s relationship on Family Guy). Basically, it’s not for the easily-offended.

I write interlocking series books and family/town sagas. I’m also very fond of the Bildungsroman (a growing-up novel which encompasses many years, taking a character from childhood or adolescence to adulthood). Though most of my main characters are (or at least start out) young, I don’t particularly consider them YA or MG. They’re just historicals about characters who happen to be young. The focus is on the historical drama they’re living through, not young people who just happen to be living through history. I really don’t want pigeonholed into one age-based category.

Sample excerpt from an Atlantic City book:

In the morning, Mrs. Filliard began pounding on the door.  Cinni rolled her eyes and groaned, extremely bemused to be woken up so rudely and so early.  She never woke her parents up, and felt the same courtesy should be extended to her.

“Some strange old woman came to the door and said her name is Mary Euphrosina Nicholson.  Apparently she’s Laura’s grandmother.  I hope she gets out of our house as soon as possible.  Older Papists are even worse than the young ones.  At least the younger ones like Laura have some modern ideas.”

“Please don’t call me a Papist, Mrs. Filliard,” Laura said. “It’s very rude, and implies we worship the Pope.  I disagree with a lot of what the Pope says.”

Sample excerpt from my WIP:

Vásya thumps an Austrian hard on the back and addresses him in German. “Excuse me.  Take those gloves off.  Orders from General Eisenhower are to use your bare hands to bury the bodies.  No exceptions.”

“But there’s a typhus epidemic!  I can’t risk getting typhus and infecting everyone I come into contact with!”

“That’s too bad.  The dead and dying didn’t have a choice when your leaders imprisoned them here and forced them to live in such squalid, inhuman conditions.  Now take those damn gloves off, or you’ll be forced to work in the quarry with your friends.  You’re here as punishment, not reward.  We make the rules.  You don’t anymore.”

Fédya grabs him, rips the gloves off, and throws them into the mass grave in progress. “You heard my cousin.  Now get to work, and stop trying to dictate rules to us.  The losers of a war never get to boss around the victors.”


2 thoughts on “Ready. Set. Write! CP/Beta Mixer

  1. The biggest shift in your writing style is from the past tense to the present. It’s a marker for online role players which is where I usually see it; comparatively recent as a writing style, very modern and immediate. Do you know what changed your style?


    • I started using present tense in early ’93, shortly after I read Ida Vos’s autobiographical children’s novel Hide and Seek. It was like a revelation to me that a book could be written in present tense, and made the action feel more immediate, tense, and dramatic, putting the reader right there in the moment with the characters and never knowing what’s going to happen next. I just knew I had to use present tense for my first Russian novel for those very reasons. I also use present tense for my contemporary historical family saga for similar reasons.

      I use past tense for everything else, mainly because it just feels right and because I created my Atlantic City people in late ’91, when I thought one had to use past tense. Past tense naturally followed for all my Atlantic City books, and the spin-off books featuring European characters who ultimately link back to them.

      It would be very weird for me to attempt changing my Russian novels to past tense, since those characters belong in present tense the same way there are certain actors I can only picture as existing in black and white.


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