I do nothing (besides trying to contact them to find out why and show understanding if that’s due to their life circumstances and basically letting it go). Seriously, then why blog about this, you say? Well, while I basically just accept it as an occurrence that I have to be prepared for as a writer, this doesn’t mean that I cannot develop workarounds to this problem.
So what’re my workarounds? Well, firstly, I’m going to ‘over-call’ for alpha/beta readers. Some people set a definite number for how many alpha/betas they want. I don’t except for making it an odd number so that if they don’t disagree in their feedback on the same point on my work, I can always go for the majority. So my ‘over-calling’ is just to put up a request on as many places as I can get my hands on: within my own social circle, on multiple Facebook groups basically as things stand now.
The next part of the workaround is at a more microscopic level, based on a personal observation: those who came on board explicitly for a swap arrangement is less likely to be a no-show alpha/beta. So the take-away is, be prepared to invest in reading others’ work if you want reliable, dedicated feedback on yours.
Is my workarounds a cure for all? No, it isn’t, and I don’t believe in such things existing because everyone is different, unique. I’ve heard of writers going through what a daunting task it is to alpha/beta read with each alpha/beta before they formalise an agreement and that’s a feasible alternative approach to mine. And actually, it’s in relation to this other alternative approach that partially inspires this particular post.
I won’t bore you with details on the actual incident but let’s just say that I think this alternative approach can lead to a misunderstanding that a writer has no trust in his/her alpha/betas before the alpha/beta even has an opportunity to display their reliability through deeds (as I experienced myself when I signed up to be a beta-reader, I end up as a beta-reader for this author eventually but at one point, I seriously felt we had gone off on the wrong footing with each other and I called off my expression of interest) and I never see a value in a relationship or correspondence of any kind where the starting point is already one of apprehension and mistrust. This is just my personal opinion, of course, and heavily influenced by personal experiences. I believe in “to each his/her own.” And if you would like to comment on this particular aspect of dealing with a no-show alpha/beta reader, I’m all ears.
So before I go into the 2 lessons, let me first provide the context for this post: the ‘fast food’ reading in the title referred to the serial fictions written in my mother tongue of Chinese that I had been reading on the Internet in my period of ‘unemployment’ after I broke away from PhD. I still read them now. Why do I call them ‘fast food’ reading? Because most of them are written poorly, there’s a lot of trend following and in general I would say they are exactly what a biased stereotypical view of self published work is. Why do I still read them then? Well, for pure entertainment value, light reading and plus I get to pick up and drop a story at whim, allowing me to venture into a broader set of genres than I normally do with physical novels. And also, I guess, the serial nature of them works on me just like TV dramas work on me.
Anyway, back to the meat of this post. Here’s what I learnt from reading this type of fiction:
- Character driven fiction- a lot of the novels I had been reading have no prose, full of internet speak and felt like someone had written an outline and then filled out the details via a factory production line. But I was sucked in by the MC and actually kept coming back to read these serial novels.
- Emotion as a driver for fiction – despite the roughness of some of the novels sometimes I was touched to the verge of coming to tears. And that’s a big thing for me- I’m normally mild-tempered, cool-headed, rational and driven by logic.
So I’ve stopped updating the diary but I will just say that I reached all of my set monthly goals for the novel that I was outlining and now it finally had a tentative name- The Convergence of Paths belonging to a series called the Seekers’ Chronicles. Basically, round 1 outline for book 1 is now done and I’m getting some fresh eyes on it so that I can use such inputs to work towards round 2. Anyway, I thought I will also give a summary on what I learnt from this exercise just to wrap up this series:
- This exercise really helped me to stay accountable on a day-to-day basis
- I can also keep track of my progress over a long period of time as those who saw my prior posts from this series would know since I also compare each week’s progress with the week prior. For comparison over longer terms, I will have to keep flipping pages of course but at least the raw data will be there.
- It’s also good for my morale since I learnt to recognise every minor things as an achievement. This is important since I have a tendency to not properly recognise my own efforts sometimes and generally give myself less credit than others might give me
Overall, I’m fairly happy with this exercise and I think I will incorporate it into my arsenal of writer self-discipline/accountability tools.
P.S. If you are interested in author interviews, they will come back soon but lately I have less opportunity to do them because it’s close to the end of the year and I’m busier at work.
As a change, this week we are skipping author interviews. It will come back next week though.
Thought I will do a re-run on this since my stance on it has changed yet again now that I have broken off my association with the epub completely.
Previously, I’ve talked about myself as a writer and the pros and cons of short story writing as I experience it. In this post, I’m just going to cut to the chase and say that I’ve now definitely decided that for now, short story won’t be my focus unless I am doing a collaborative piece with another writer. Not only am I less experienced with the short story form but through personal experience, I’ve found that I really enjoy planning and writing a short story far less than I do of a novel.
I have a sprawling mind as I think Robin Hobb puts it, my natural tendency is to think up multi-plot stories held up by a substantial side cast. As such, I feel that it’s just a hassle to limit myself to the short story form which I feel, given my current expertise, is better for single-plot stories.
However, here comes the twist to the short story and me. Through chance, I’ve met another author on Facebook who has chatted me up to do a collaborative piece with him which is a short story/novella. We are going to finalise the story concept this month and then start writing this collab piece.