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Tutorial Writing Tips - from someone who has worked in the publishing industry

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
(Chapter list is below my introduction.)

Hey there!

My name is AEON. Yes, with all the capitals, because, well, why not? I believe roleplaying is a lot of things: It's a form of escape, writing practice, character building, world building, even a way to make new friends with complete strangers. Roleplaying is also an adventure! If you're writing with a partner, you have no control over half of the story. In a group, you have even less chance to puppeteer the situation. It add a sense of thrill. Basically writing improv.

I have decided that I'm going to start an advice thread for writing. Now, don't get me wrong, even I don't write the best while roleplaying. This is where I relax. As if I'm reading a book that I can take part in, I just want to have a good time. I'm still going to try to make exquisite posts, but I won't put in as much work as I do for a book. That being said, yes, I am a published author! No, I can't give away my author name. Why? There are a lot of identity issues that come along with divulging that.

Before publishing, I actually worked in a publishing company. I was one of the drones who sifted through the slush of books that came in. I read over 600 stories sent in from future writers. And, out of all those stories, I only accepted a single book. In this way, you can imagine how much more lax I am here than in the industry. Nonetheless, going through all those stories tainted the way I view storytelling. I'm picky. I look for the best. I refuse to read a story that I feel like I've already read. The same goes for roleplays. I will avoid ones that seems too cliche-ish. (Unless I love the specific cliche.)

I presume that many of us are writers one way or another. Some want to publish, others want to flesh out their original characters and there are those who just want a bit of fun in their life. I've met quite a few who are trying to hone their writing skills. This is a magnificent place to help train your hand at telling stories. For those who want to learn more about the publishing industry or writing in general, I am here! I will post advice at least once a week and answer any questions you have!

Thank you for joining me!

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Chapter List
Please go to the correct page a chapter is one and use Word Find (Command F for mac and Control F for windows) and search for chapter.
Chapter 1 (Part 1): Overused Plots and Clichés in General.....[On page 1]
Chapter 1 (Part 2): Overused Plots and Clichés in General.....[On page 2]
Chapter 2 (Part 1): The Dreaded Writer's Block........................[On page 2]
Chapter 2 (Part 2): The Dreaded Writer's Block........................[On page 2]
Chapter 3: How to Enhance your Writing..................................[On page 2]
Chapter 4: Outlining your Story..................................................[On page 3]
Chapter 5: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Person...........................................[On page 3]
Chapter 6: Characters..................................................................[On page 3]
 
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scorpiodragon

Four Thousand Club
How does a self-published author find an agent or attract the attention of an actual publishing company (not a self-publisher)?
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
How does a self-published author find an agent or attract the attention of an actual publishing company (not a self-publisher)?
It is rare, near-impossible, for publishers or agents to want to pick up a self-published author. There have been a few stories where it has worked out, but it tends to fall into approximate supernatural possibilities. There are many issues that arise if/when a publishing company/agent takes on a self-published author. Issues that can taint and corrupt an entire company. There have been times where a publishing company gets sued because they didn't mull over everything properly.

Writers are far more likely to move over to traditional publishing if they take their self-published book off the market and act like it never existed yet. Even then, I've seen many self-published authors still be rejected because their book once was on the market.

There was one time when I was reading through an entry. We had a special scale for books. There was a specific moment when we deemed it is time to quit reading a story and move on to a new book. I couldn't read past the first chapter without feeling as if I'd go insane. Not only did it hit all the cliches in every nook and cranny, the characters, grammar and plot were obscene. I was taken aback, because, Wolf (a nickname for the head guy) was excited for this story because, supposedly, it once got raving reviews from readers when it was self-published. We decided to look up the author's webpage and, sure enough, the reviews were wild. Top ratings, 5/5 stars. Then, we decided to read the reviews, and it soon became apparent that these readers were in it for the specific genre and characters. Stereotypical demonXangel book. It was nothing special, but hit every criteria for these fans. This is a huge concern as well. Many self-published authors have a following and figure that it will guide them to be traditionally published, but we halted all faith towards previous fans. That proved nothing to us.

There are specific ways to guarantee an author will be published with their dream traditional publisher, that I will disclose later on in this thread. It is basically the trick to get a book published.

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Please note: There is nothing wrong with self-publishing. It's a tough road to trek. Not only do you need to find an editor, hire an illustrator, etc, but you are also in charge of all marketing and signing tours. I always tell future self-publishers to not spend a single cent of their earnings on their self for the next three years. All of the money goes back into marketing your story and selling yourself. The moment an author takes a week off of marketing themselves, sales plummet.

I'm unsure where you are at. If you've already self-published or not, and if you have, whether or not it is working out. There are still plenty of self-published authors that figure it out. So, if it is working, then I wouldn't stop.
 

LazyDaze

Senior Member
Wow this is a coincidence because I was just discussing this sort of stuff with some friends. So I’d like to thank u very much for this thread. I Was wondering if u could discuss what were some common turn offs when throwing a book out, or not really giving it much of a chance at all.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
Wow this is a coincidence because I was just discussing this sort of stuff with some friends. So I’d like to thank u very much for this thread. I Was wondering if u could discuss what were some common turn offs when throwing a book out, or not really giving it much of a chance at all.
I plan to make a list of all such things soon! I'll be sure to tag you when it is posted.
 

scorpiodragon

Four Thousand Club
It is rare, near-impossible, for publishers or agents to want to pick up a self-published author. There have been a few stories where it has worked out, but it tends to fall into approximate supernatural possibilities. There are many issues that arise if/when a publishing company/agent takes on a self-published author. Issues that can taint and corrupt an entire company. There have been times where a publishing company gets sued because they didn't mull over everything properly.

Writers are far more likely to move over to traditional publishing if they take their self-published book off the market and act like it never existed yet. Even then, I've seen many self-published authors still be rejected because their book once was on the market.

There was one time when I was reading through an entry. We had a special scale for books. There was a specific moment when we deemed it is time to quit reading a story and move on to a new book. I couldn't read past the first chapter without feeling as if I'd go insane. Not only did it hit all the cliches in every nook and cranny, the characters, grammar and plot were obscene. I was taken aback, because, Wolf (a nickname for the head guy) was excited for this story because, supposedly, it once got raving reviews from readers when it was self-published. We decided to look up the author's webpage and, sure enough, the reviews were wild. Top ratings, 5/5 stars. Then, we decided to read the reviews, and it soon became apparent that these readers were in it for the specific genre and characters. Stereotypical demonXangel book. It was nothing special, but hit every criteria for these fans. This is a huge concern as well. Many self-published authors have a following and figure that it will guide them to be traditionally published, but we halted all faith towards previous fans. That proved nothing to us.

There are specific ways to guarantee an author will be published with their dream traditional publisher, that I will disclose later on in this thread. It is basically the trick to get a book published.

∆∆∆
Please note: There is nothing wrong with self-publishing. It's a tough road to trek. Not only do you need to find an editor, hire an illustrator, etc, but you are also in charge of all marketing and signing tours. I always tell future self-publishers to not spend a single cent of their earnings on their self for the next three years. All of the money goes back into marketing your story and selling yourself. The moment an author takes a week off of marketing themselves, sales plummet.

I'm unsure where you are at. If you've already self-published or not, and if you have, whether or not it is working out. There are still plenty of self-published authors that figure it out. So, if it is working, then I wouldn't stop.
I had two books self published. Both of which are out of print to my knowledge now. A poetry book through Publish America in 2007 which I only got a check of $8.30 for and a novel through Llumina but that publishing company appears to have gone out of business or changed its name. I know one author I am kind of friends with self publishes her books through Lulu but also was a Publish America author with at least one book. But then Publish America seemed to take anyone. It’s funny really. The publishing company that went out of business accepted another novel of mine and a children’s book that I need to illustrate but the Publish America rejected my one novel, not the one that was published but the one I put on the back burner in favor of my novel published in 2011. Since then I haven’t published anything, mostly written my stories, simply due to not having the money to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars for these self-publishing companies.

Illustrators...gods yes. I can understand the hassle there. They charge like $300 an illustration from what I have looked at, both through self publishing companies and independently. Since I really started writing, I’ve just wondered how famous authors do it, getting signed with an agent and all that...like Stephen King or R.L. Stine or...oh who is he? James Patterson.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
@scorpiodragon

From what it sounds like, and perhaps I am wrong, Publish America sounds like a Vanity Press. Basically, they're a company that makes it appear that you are traditionally published, but in the end, you're self-published. If you ever have to shovel money over to get your book published, then it is a scam. Traditional publishing companies and agents don't ask for a single cent from you. All their money comes from the profits made through your book. This is why authors receive small royalties. The money for your book is going to the editors, agents, marketing team, etc. The difference is that they work along side with you.

Whenever we accepted a story, we would put together a team that made for the author's disposal. Their only job for quite some time was to get the book done, out on the shelves and marketed properly. Vanity presses don't do this, or only do it for a short amount of time. They get their revenue from authors shoving money their way. They don't care about stories. They don't care if it ends up sinking. They'll look for the best still, just so they can get extra cash, but otherwise, they aren't too picky. The worst part of it all is that they hardly ever give up the rights to the book. They own it now. And the author is not allowed to send it into any other publishing companies.

$300 for an illustration is cheap. I am an illustrator myself, which is why I am out of the industry and working on animation. You are paying for their years of practice, school, materials and time. It can take me days to finish a detailed illustration. I always tell writers to start saving now for your ideal illustrator. Even setting $20 aside each paycheck will do the trick. If you don't try to haggle an artist on the first job, they're likely to give you a pretty discount the next time to show their appreciation.
 

scorpiodragon

Four Thousand Club
Oh for sure. If I had known now what I had known then, I wouldn’t have gone with them. But, like I said, they seemed to accept any first time author. From what I have gathered, they have since changed their name twice and there are a lot of reviews talking how bad they are. Honestly they did little work though I do have to say I loved my cover design for my poetry book. I’ll keep your advice in mind the next time I think of publishing but I am generally avoiding self publishing companies by reading reviews and avoiding anything that will cost money. I also understand it is taking a chance to pick up an unknown author and traditional publishers may not want to do that, at least that is how I imagine the reasoning to be.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
Chapter one (part 1): Overused Plots and Clichés in General

As I said in my introduction, I have read over 600 stories that were submitted to a publishing company I was once a part of. When you add those as well as books from published authors that I've read, you can imagine I have gained an understanding of what I see over and over.

I should start by talking about how our rating system worked. We didn’t have time to read through an entire book if we didn’t think it’d make it. On one occasion, I rejected a story after reading the first page and a half. It seems brutal, but I’ll explain the reason one may be rejected in a snap in a later post.

There were a few things a story could have that would give it bad marks. Getting these marks didn’t mean it’d necessarily be rejected, but it shot down the odds like a tumbling boulder on a mountainside.


1. Prologue that could not be absorbed into a different section of the story.

Prologues are a tough subject. Publishing companies do not like them. I don’t even like them. You need to be some writer to get away with a prologue. Such as, Brandon Sanderson.

What reason do we have to dislike them? That has a lot to do with the fact that I can’t remember a single prologue that was at all good or needed in those 600 books. Whether the prologue was something from the past or a jump in the future, it just seemed like a waste of space.

There was one occasion where a prologue I read wasn’t bad, but the author didn’t realize the opportunity he’d have if he had decided to slip subtle hints of the past in the present of his story. It’d add a sense of thrill, mystery and excitement. After reading the prologue, the rest of the story was dull and underwhelming. We asked him if he’d be willing to forgo the prologue and leave those hints. Sprinkle it throughout his story instead. (We sometimes gave writers a second chance after revision.) He refused. He wasn’t published through us. (After researching, it seems it still isn’t published, but I’m unsure.)

By far the worst prologue I have ever read was from this female author. It began with a girl main character hearing a knock on her front door during the night. She opened it and beyond the entrance was a beast that attacked her. And then, it jumped into chapter one. The first issue, she had that underwhelming feel as the last guy. The second issue? It was nighttime during the first chapter. The MC was writing at her desk, got ready for bed and then it hopped to her being attacked. The prologue she wrote showed the future of the FIRST chapter.

There are a few more problems that we run into with prologues. Overall though, ask yourself if it is a must. Would it be better if the story told the prologue? Would it be better to show it through emotions of other characters? Etc..



2. Info dumps. In the corners, in the crannies, at the beginning, anywhere.

If there is one thing we disliked more than prologues, it was info dumps. Mostly because majority of prologues were only info dumps.

What is an info dump?

Just like it sounds. You dump a load of information to your readers. Almost any reader will close a book out of sheer boredom when it comes to info dumps. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a paragraph of information, but you shouldn’t have an entire page.

Everything I mention always has exceptions. I am a symbolic writer. When I take the time to describe something or an event, it is likely because there is a message in it that needs to be deciphered. Edgar Allan Poe often does this as well. There is a difference between purpose and wanting to shove information at a reader.

Well, how do you defeat the dreaded info dumps? You need to divulge information to your reader somehow. You must tell them about a certain war. They gotta know about the sub-character's past, right? RIGHT?

WRONG, sort of… This falls into the category of, "show don’t tell". If there are two characters that have a rocky past, don’t tell the reader that information. Show the discomfort they have around each other. Show them buttheads. Show them scheming to bring the other down until the past surfaces.

There are far superior ways to teach the reader information from your book without it becoming monotonous and mundane.



3. The mirror scene.

You want to describe how a character looks like? Well, why not have them look at themselves in the mirror and describe their appearance to the reader? Don't do that. Frankly, we hate almost every appearance description. We don't want a jotted down list of all their outward appearances and emotions.

Eyes - Green
Hair - Chestnut brown
Smile - enchanting
Height - 5'5
Skin - Fair
Clothes - Pink skirt with a loose white top
Personality - Cute with a side of boring

Characters aren't grocery lists. It is rare to take considerable note of someone you just met. (Character sheets are NOT the same thing. This is for writing in general.) The best way to describe a character is by using interactions of nature and man/woman to mold them.

Examples:

The hem of her white dress danced with the wind as she stared out into the open sea.

He couldn't help but grace the back of his hand against her fair skin. Her breathing was harsh and scratchy. Even her brown hair appeared to dull in color.

(Or a more body build description.)
When the man heard the news, a buzz flared between his ears as his brow furrowed. He clenched his teeth and poured into a sprint. Each footfall was quick, direct and his strides were long.

From those descriptions we know a character is wearing a white dress, another is sick with brown hair and the last man is athletic with a possible anger problem.



4. The Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, anime syndrome.

I'll be explaining this more in the cliches during part 2. But I'll touch up on it now. We don't want knock off Star Wars, LotR or anime. However, we do welcome twists on such things. I could spend an entire chapter on anime, and I likely will. I am a fan of anime, I've loved the stuff since I was nine, but I am as well an animator who would never animate anime for specific reasons.

So, let's focus on Star Wars and LotR. Should I even try to count how many stories were just rip offs of the originals? No, I shouldn't. That would be impossible. There were far too many and it became ridiculous. We forced an immediate rejection when one author decided to even name their world, Middle Terra. Like I said, when I open up with part 2, I'll better explain how you can knock the syndrome out of the ballpark while still keeping all your favorite attributes of either one.

For now, consider how much your story may resemble the two.


That's it for part 1.

@LazyDaze (I will tag you for part 2 as well.)
 
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That's why you have to make an impression fast - first chapter, first page, first paragraph even. Cuz these guys don't have time to waste on finding out if your whole story is great or the same old turds they see every day.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
That's why you have to make an impression fast - first chapter, first page, first paragraph even. Cuz these guys don't have time to waste on finding out if your whole story is great or the same old turds they see every day.

Exactly. Though, and I will of course touch on this, I never expect people to make the perfect hook from their first draft. I always warn future writers that they'll redo their first chapter far more times than they can imagine and to never sit comfortably on their first version. For my first book, I redid the first chapter 36 times before I was content and it felt right.

I said first so many times...
 
I was just wondering, I know publishers are put off by long stories (they cost more to publish, to purchase, etc) Suppose a whole story is very long, not Harry Potter style but LotR style. As a result it obviously has to be split up into a number of books. Ultimately though, that long story, which will become multiple books, is complete.

Is that off-putting to publishers?
 

LazyDaze

Senior Member
WOW, this was really helpful. A lot of things you said was like you were reading my mind. Some stuff I avoided, but it was by chance or at least not for the reasons you specified. LOL. For example, I wasn't going to do a prologue, but that's because finding out the history is actually an important plot point of my story. I was actually thinking of adding one in because other friends of mind were thinking of doing some. However, because I lacked a prologue, I was most definitely going to do an info dump some time down the line. After you laid it out that is actually just the same thing as a prologue. LOL

Appearance description-I can be guilty of this too. The only reason I might not do it, is because I got lazy and actually don't like going out of the flow of the story to right a paragraph on what people look like. Especially since you might have so many characters in a single novel. I do need to find creative ways to add in little descriptions like you said and I will be more cognizant of that in the future.

Overall you either opened my eyes to some things, or confirmed things I was already doing right, but unsure of.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
@Breech Loader

Okay, this is a tough question to answer. I will make a chapter on how to appeal to publishers/agents in the future that will go even further into this information. But I'll answer your question the best I can.

Why is this tough to answer? That is because it is a yes and no answer. Let's sift through it all.

You're right, long stories cost more to publish and purchase. It also appears daunting to future readers and thus a long book stays on a shelf, collecting dust, never to be chosen. Yet, there are some books that are over 1,000 pages long that people gravitate toward. Once again, Brandon Sanderson is a shining example of this. He has created a name for himself and people know that his stories are worth reading. And, his books that are that long are masterpieces.

Long books can be published, but, as said above, not without consideration of previous works. My suggestion here, if you want to keep your book long, is to put it on the back burner and start a new series or an individual book. Get published using one of those and establish your name. Most of the time, authors never become their most famous due to their first series or book either way, so it is a more attractive idea to publish your lesser treasure first and save your masterpiece for your future.


Okay, now let's delve into series idea. You might view publishers as pricks after this, but please, trust me. Publishing companies/agents don't particularly like a complete finished series. Strange, I know. They do, however, like knowing whether or not you plan to make it a series and if you've already have plot points in mind. That helps them know if you're worth investing in. So why wouldn't they want an already finished series, besides some editing?

That's because they like more control. A publishing company/agent should never make you completely uproot your story and change every little detail. That is blasphemy. Any company that plans to force you to do such, run the other way. Nonetheless, they do want some control. Not for themselves, but for the sake of the writer. These are people who have trained long and hard to know figure out the best course of action for stories. It is quite common to see writers who have finished their entire series be unwilling to budge or change any of their books.

There comes the issue. When writers act like this, they become blind to their own errors and plot holes. Both of which we the publishers are seeing. When we offer different routes, they put their foot down, become unmovable and we reject their book.

After all that being said, you can cut up the book into more. We only ask that you are willing to manipulate it for all of it to work out. We need to make sure there are climaxes in each one, good character development, progression, etc. If you don't allow the company any leeway, they'll cut you off.

(Sorry if there are tons of errors in this post. I needed to hurry. I'll edit it later!)
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
@LazyDaze

The best way to combat the character descriptions is to EXTREMELY flesh out a character. I do this through role play, one of the reasons I am here, as well as grabbing two characters, putting them into a scenario and only writing dialogue. Neither one of these things end up in the final product. By doing this, your character will teach you who they are.

Write down their description in precise, monotone, detail. Do not try to be fancy. Do not try to be clever with words. Just lay it out there. Get that urge to make a list out of the way and only return to it for the sake of your own memory.
 
That is actually incredibly helpful, AEON! It's a long series (far too long for a single book), it's not actually complete but I know exactly where it's going... It actually helps, to know that it doesn't have to be 100% complete to be applied. I'm actually chunking through second draft now.

As for getting another book published first, I do actually have other first drafts of stories around. Also known as fanfiction ;). But jesus, I'm terrible at thinking up snappy names.
 
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SkyGinge

Shroom for More Effort
Great thread! Loving the insights into the world of publishing, as that's where I aspire towards once I've finished my upcoming church training. Will be keeping a close eye on this thread!
 

Coyote

Your Favorite Nightmare
You know.... one of the ways I help myself sleep at night, is by convincing myself that I’m the next JK Rowling, rather than the next rejection. The author of the century, with contracts, signing sessions, movies, fans with fan art and t shirts and figurines of my characters, or even whole theme parks dedicated to my stories. I close my eyes a create a name in lights in my head. My name. For the sake of my sanity, I do that. I have to. I refuse to accept that I wasn’t destined to inspire the world with stories in every genre imaginable, capturing the imagination and curiosity of anyone who ever opens a book with my name on it. Because underneath that brimming confidence, or maybe even arrogance.. is dread. I offer people a taste of the stories to come and they’re always amazed or fascinated but the last thing I’ll ever do is let it get to my head. I know that it’ll take sweat and tears to even sculpt a plot worthy of the eyes of a publisher. All I hope is that someone will see it. They’ll dig a little deeper, search a little further, think a little longer about my story in the hopes that they see what I see. Something worth discovering. So with that long winded speech about my hopes and dreams, I’ve got one question.

When the day comes that I’ll sit in front of someone who may or may not be the person publishing my story, how can I ensure that the story remains distinctly mine? I’m not confrontational and I’m very mild mannered but I’ve little patience for people who want to tinker and mess with my characters. It’s my belief that it’s the characters that make the story and I’ve poured my life blood to make them in my image. How do I know if I’ve got the negotiating power to protect the most valuable parts of my work? When is it too little or too much? If you’ve read this far, thank you so so much for your time. All of your help is greatly appreciated
 

Coyote

Your Favorite Nightmare
You know.... one of the ways I help myself sleep at night, is by convincing myself that I’m the next JK Rowling, rather than the next rejection. The author of the century, with contracts, signing sessions, movies, fans with fan art and t shirts and figurines of my characters, or even whole theme parks dedicated to my stories. I close my eyes a create a name in lights in my head. My name. For the sake of my sanity, I do that. I have to. I refuse to accept that I wasn’t destined to inspire the world with stories in every genre imaginable, capturing the imagination and curiosity of anyone who ever opens a book with my name on it. Because underneath that brimming confidence, or maybe even arrogance.. is dread. I offer people a taste of the stories to come and they’re always amazed or fascinated but the last thing I’ll ever do is let it get to my head. I know that it’ll take sweat and tears to even sculpt a plot worthy of the eyes of a publisher. All I hope is that someone will see it. They’ll dig a little deeper, search a little further, think a little longer about my story in the hopes that they see what I see. Something worth discovering. So with that long winded speech about my hopes and dreams, I’ve got one question.

When the day comes that I’ll sit in front of someone who may or may not be the person publishing my story, how can I ensure that the story remains distinctly mine? I’m not confrontational and I’m very mild mannered but I’ve little patience for people who want to tinker and mess with my characters. It’s my belief that it’s the characters that make the story and I’ve poured my life blood to make them in my image. How do I know if I’ve got the negotiating power to protect the most valuable parts of my work? When is it too little or too much? If you’ve read this far, thank you so so much for your time. All of your help is greatly appreciated

Little bit of a note to the above. I’m currently authoring my first book (hopefully) and I’ve got unbelievable passion for all of it. I plan for it to be a series that are then followed by prequels. I’ve spent 2 years planning the past present and future of every individual character with any importance to the story, even having details in the first in place that set up the plot in the second, third, and forth books that I plan to have for just about every character (and there’s an extensive tertiary cast). I’ve showed a few chapters of my work to various professors of my university and they’ve all said the same thing. “It’s certainly ambitious but I’m encouraged by the level of depth and detail you’ve put into the design of the story and the world”. I know this is a HUGE project for a new author but I have supreme confidence that I can pull it off. If it’s worth noting, I’m a few chapters away from finishing a manuscript for the first book that will probably sit just shy of 300 pages.

I just thought this might be worth adding. I’ve also read a few of your other posts, especially the one of about giving the publishing company a little control. I’m perfectly willing to receive criticism and shift pieces of the story, world, or even parts of character’s personalities if the suggestion leaves the core concept of the character alone (For example, I might change the way someone deals with a situation but if they’re the arrogant asshole archetype, I want it to stay that way until further development). I want to make things work too and I’m willing to accommodate to a certain extent. At the end of the day, though, I’m still cautious and protective of my work. Hopefully, this clarified a few things that may have been unclear in my previous post. Again, thank you so much for you time and your advice is supremely helpful.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
@Coyote @Idea (I am tagging you to this because it answers your beta reader question.)

As you have read above, the publishers would like some wiggle room. You (should) receive a team at your disposal. One member of this team is your editor. While an editor can be an all-rounder role, an Alpha Reader is probably what you are concerned about. Alpha readers don't worry about grammar or punctuation like an editor does. Their sole purpose is to delve into your story, pick at the seams, rip it a part and lay it out for the both of you to see. They won't alter anything. However, they may highly suggest some things must be changed that tend to be major, such as, gaping plot holes or forgetting a character has an injury.

They also invest time getting to know the story and each of your characters. They're the ones that will say, "From this and this and this, that particular moment is entirely out of character and doesn't sit well with me. From reading this passage I am given this impression. Is that your intention? If not, let's change it together."

Here's why you should always consider what an Alpha Reader says. They will not have heard of the plot or your future intentions. If they don't understand something in your book, someone who spends countless hours dissecting stories, then you should be sure that the rest of your readers won't remotely comprehend the part either.

There are certain exceptions. I have an Alpha Reader who works with me on a regular basis. (By the way, I am a professional Alpha Reader, but as you can imagine, we aren't supposed to do it for our own stories.) I had a character who read an entire book in the matter of thirty minutes. She came to me and said, "This is physically impossible and doesn't make a lick of sense." All I said in return was, "It doesn't now, but there is a purpose." The topic was dropped. She realized that was every bit of my intention. Her reaction was exactly how I want readers to react. Remember what I said above, they're your first fresh reader, their view point is pure and precise. So if you intentions worked out, then that is a good sign.

On the other hand, if you are having to explain yourself to an Alpha Reader. Meaning, the Alpha Reader is confused and you don't understand why they are. You. Have. Messed. Up. Once again, they're your reader, the rest of your audience won't have you beside them explaining your book to them.

As an Alpha Reader, I usually make three pages of notes for a single page. We take no shortcuts. And, at the end of the day, it is up to the writer which notes they will heed to or alter.

∆∆∆
Okay. That is an Alpha Reader. Let's talk about the rest of your team. Everyone else will know your book inside and out. They are under oath and contract to never reveal a single part of your book to the public without your say so. You map out your entire series for these guys and they'll be the ones who will figure out the immediate hiccups.

I get where you are coming from. My series is 25 books long, consisting of 5 different series that can be read in any order. I need to map out the contents of each series to my team and show where and how they connect. They know exactly how it'll end and they won't tell a single soul outside that room. If they did, I could sue.

No one is a perfect writer. The first book in my series was over 600 pages long and I wanted it at 450. My team and I had to pull a part all the plot points and found the ones that are pointless. You never delete them, you cut it out and see if you can save it for a future book.

A better way to demonstrate this is by talking about a book I'm writing now. In fact, nine people wrote a single book together. Each meeting we would draw up a map, put an X where the characters were and discuss what needs to happen from there. Why it should happen? Who should be involved? etc. Your team will do this with you, but you'll be the one who presents it and they will pitch ideas or tell you what they aren't sure of. At the end of the day, you have full control, but if you don't listen to a single bit of advice, they may drop you. These are professionals. They've been at the game for many years. They're meant to be considered and listened to. I've never seen a team from the company I worked at change the story at all, they enhanced the immaculate work that was already there.

At the end of the day. If a publishing company is destroying everything you created, then get out. They're hijacking your story. You'll see the difference between enhancement and complete 180.
 
Last edited:

Coyote

Your Favorite Nightmare
@Coyote

As you have read above, the publishers would like some wiggle room. You (should) receive a team at your disposal. One member of this team is your editor. While an editor can be an all-rounder role, an Alpha Reader is probably what you are concerned about. Alpha readers don't worry about grammar or punctuation like an editor does. Their sole purpose is to delve into your story, pick at the seams, rip it a part and lay it out for the both of you to see. They won't alter anything. However, they may highly suggest some things must be changed that tend to be major, such as, gaping plot holes or forgetting a character has an injury.

They also invest time getting to know the story and each of your characters. They're the ones that will say, "From this and this and this, that particular moment is entirely out of character and doesn't sit well with me. From reading this passage I am given this impression. Is that your intention? If not, let's change it together."

Here's why you should always consider what an Alpha Reader says. They will not have heard of the plot or your future intentions. If they don't understand something in your book, someone who spends countless hours dissecting stories, then you should be sure that the rest of your readers won't remotely comprehend the part either.

There are certain exceptions. I have an Alpha Reader who works with me on a regular basis. (By the way, I am a professional Alpha Reader, but as you can imagine, we aren't supposed to do it for our own stories.) I had a character who read an entire book in the matter of thirty minutes. She came to me and said, "This is physically impossible and doesn't make a lick of sense." All I said in return was, "It doesn't now, but there is a purpose." The topic was dropped. She realized that was every bit of my intention. Her reaction was exactly how I want readers to react. Remember what I said above, they're your first fresh reader, their view point is pure and precise. So if you intentions worked out, then that is a good sign.

On the other hand, if you are having to explain yourself to an Alpha Reader. Meaning, the Alpha Reader is confused and you don't understand why they are. You. Have. Messed. Up. Once again, they're your reader, the rest of your audience won't have you beside them explaining your book to them.

As an Alpha Reader, I usually make three pages of notes for a single page. We take no shortcuts. And, at the end of the day, it is up to the writer which notes they will heed to or alter.

∆∆∆
Okay. That is an Alpha Reader. Let's talk about the rest of your team. Everyone else will know your book inside and out. They are under oath and contract to never reveal a single part of your book to the public without your say so. You map out your entire series for these guys and they'll be the ones who will figure out the immediate hiccups.

I get where you are coming from. My series is 25 books long, consisting of 5 different series that can be read in any order. I need to map out the contents of each series to my team and show where and how they connect. They know exactly how it'll end and they won't tell a single soul outside that room. If they did, I could sue.

No one is a perfect writer. The first book in my series was over 600 pages long and I wanted it at 450. My team and I had to pull a part all the plot points and found the ones that are pointless. You never delete them, you cut it out and see if you can save it for a future book.

A better way to demonstrate this is by talking about a book I'm writing now. In fact, nine people wrote a single book together. Each meeting we would draw up a map, put an X where the characters were and discuss what needs to happen from there. Why it should happen? Who should be involved? etc. Your team will do this with you, but you'll be the one who presents it and they will pitch ideas or tell you what they aren't sure of. At the end of the day, you have full control, but if you don't listen to a single bit of advice, they may drop you. These are professionals. They've been at the game for many years. They're meant to be considered and listened to. I've never seen a team from the company I worked at change the story at all, they enhanced the immaculate work that was already there.

At the end of the day. If a publishing company is destroying everything you created, then get out. They're hijacking your story. You'll see the difference between enhancement and complete 180.
This sounds like a dream come true and I didn’t know that Alpha Readers were a part of it. What an innovative idea 🤩 that was unbelievably informative and everything you said sounds completely reasonable. I can’t wait to work with a team one day
 

SkyGinge

Shroom for More Effort
@AEONmeteorite : A slightly off topic question from me, but given you've upheld him as an excellent example twice now, what do you think makes Brandon Sanderson's writing 'masterpieces?' I ask this as someone who just finished the second Mistborn book in the early hours of last night. Now that I'm used to his style I'm appreciating it as a whole but I remember when I read the first book some two years back, I didn't think his writing style was anything special - more something serviceable where his strengths lay in the very creative magic system and (as the novel unravelled) frankly superfluous plotting and a great knack of springing a strong and unexpected twist on you.
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
@SkyGinge

Brandon Sanderson has fulfilled something that many writers are unable to accomplish. He can make boring things exciting. Such as politics. He is a master at dialogue. Making each character speak in intriguing and unique ways to get their point across. Many writers have this capability, but it is near-awkward obvious. Writers tend to have the issue of deeming just two-three personalities in a character. The reader can expect how a character will react every time, no matter what, and that's a failure. Brandon Sanderson still has expected reactions, but he understands that characters are brimming with far more personalities than just three, making all political and strategic talk fun to read.

Sanderson is also capable of having many point of views without feeling like we, as the readers, are missing out. This is clear when reading The Way of Kings that jumps between different main characters. His prologues aren't too shabby either. His prologues are the only ones I never skip or get bored of reading. They actually appear crucial.

I find it breathtaking the steps he is willing to take for his books. He and I are a part of the same religion. (In fact, I've met him on a few occasions.) No matter the fact that he is religious, he doesn't fear touching on topics that are dark and corrupt. He understands that they are his characters, they've put them in such-and-such a timeline and this is what happens during that time. It's brutal, but realistic. (There is a good reason as to why they tend to be in the YA/Adult sections.)

And, as you mentioned, his creativity is unending. He has the same intentions as myself; connecting many different things to make a bigger picture. He takes a considerable amount of time studying things. Such as the metals in Mistborn. He is a professor at a university for creative writing, and often goes to other professors to interview them to help hone his magic systems, rules of the land, etc, in his stories.

I actually do not find Mistborn to be his best series. I loved it, yes, but there are others that are far more riveting. And, if you read his books and look close enough you'll see a reoccurring character in every single one of his stories. All of us are still trying to understand who he is.

To finish off, Brandon Sanderson isn't my favorite author. Not even close to being my favorite (though he is high up there). His works are fantastic teaching tools and I urge people to read them to enhance their own writing. They show character dialogue, development and build super well. He shows magic systems and laws. Twists and turns as well as compelling villains that we love to hate. Perspective change is valued from The Way of Kings, and he can write a prologue I can manage to read without wanting to rip my hair out.
 

PaulHaynek

The Roleplayer Nobody Likes
*Agree with OP*

*Realize you're making all the mistakes listed*

*and that's just part 1*

*Realize you will never become a good author*

*cry some more*
 

AEONmeteorite

Architect of Worlds
@PaulHaynek

You've got this!!! I read one of my stories from two years ago and I even made a handful of mistakes that I'll be teaching about. I think that we all eventually learn these things one day, but I figured it'd help writers overcome the obstacles faster if I write them out for everyone.
 

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