Saturday, March 23, 2013

Beta readers: the unsung heroes of the indie world

Welcome, you few, you proud, you unfortunate followers of Overly Verbose!  The only place on das interwebz where I talk about myself and only about myself!  Ok, maybe not so much, but hey, let's call a spade a spade here...I do tend to chatter on about yours truly an awful lot here.  BUT, I'm getting some web traffic, so I guess I haven't turned people off completely?  Or maybe it's like a train wreck; you just can't take your eyes offa it!  Anyway, enough with the lead in.  Let's get to the post, shall we?

As many of you may know (and for those of you who don't, you're gonna know in about a second here) I'd written a quasi-urban fantasy novel last year.  It's about a down and out medium named Seth.  He sees dead people.  He talks to dead people.  He likes tequilla and gyros and tends to spend a bit too much money on hookers.  He's also separated and is father to a 12 year old son.  Long story short, he saw something in high school and he's convinced himself he was mistaken.  Fast forward to his 32nd year on this, our planet Earth, and he takes on a case that may drive him back down the path of insanity.  When I'd written it, I had very little writing experience.  I'd written a book previously (which I do intend to get back to and edit/clean up/make more awesomer), as well as a couple short stories, one of which got published.  

So, how did my UF get written?  I had the idea for the character in my head and how the story was going to go and I just started writing.  With the prologue, I started the book near the 'end' and went from there, all the while having a general idea of where I was going.  No notes, no outline, no character sketches: it was all in my head.  I solved problems as I went and it seemed to work out.  Anyhoo, I let it sit and wrote Words With Fiends (which you really should buy cause it's gotten awesome reviews and people seem to dig it.  I think everyone should read it.  It's groovy in a far out way) and revisited it back in the fall of 2012.  I changed it up some, transforming a few story elements here and there, fixing up dialogue, cleaning it up.  

I let it sit some more.

I revisited it yet AGAIN a couple months back.  (Yes, I am getting to my point here.  The blog IS called OVERLY VERBOSE, so I tend to type a lot.)  When I revisited it, I worked furiously to make it even better.  For nearly three weeks I did nothing but go through it, tracking the changes, fine tuning it even more.  I realized that, when I'd written it, I had no idea what I was doing so it benefited from me having spent about a year at the keyboard.

And yet I still wasn't convinced that it was any good.  That's where beta readers come in.  For those of you who don't know what a beta reader is, they're basically a test audience.  They can be friends, acquaintances, readers, writers...anybody who's willing and has the time to give your material a read for you.  They take their FREE time and perform this service for us writers out of the goodness of their hearts.  Why?  Because they want to help.  They're  generous people who harbor a genuine fondness for writers, especially small time hoods like myself, and would like nothing more than to read a good book and see indies succeed.  **for the record, I've been a beta/proofer for three indie authors, one of whom is very successful right now.  I worked my nuts off to read and proof two of her books.  I did each one in a DAY, cause that's how I roll.  I will tell you this.  I may not be great at editing my own work, but I fucking smoke at going over other people's.  Confidence isn't my strong suit but any author types out there looking for a cold read/proofer? I'm your friggin' huckleberry.  I have the references to prove it. And I also know how much work it can be.**

I count myself lucky in that I've found a very good crop of beta readers.  During the writing of my Seth novel, I bounced ideas off of one of my best friends.  I had an idea?  I pitched it to him.  If it didn't work out, we'd talk about it until I solved the problem.  He was 'Beta Zero'.  After I'd gotten the thing written, I shipped it to about four other people.  They made comments.  I went back and changed it again.  After I'd gone through my uber editing a few weeks back, I shipped it off to yet ANOTHER five people.  Two have finished it.  Both loved it.  In particular, one liked it so much that she suggested/offered to do blog tours and release events on Facebook and the like.  

I was blown away by this reaction.  I knew she'd liked it after she finished my manuscript, but this is going wayyyyy above and beyond the call of duty.  She's positively giddy at the prospect of helping me out.  ME!  Who the hell am I?  Nobody!  BUT, I'd written something she liked to the point where she wants other people to share in the experience.  This came at a time (early this week as a matter of fact) when I was pretty down on myself.  I had an idea for a short story and had finally decided to write it and when things weren't just flowing from my fingers to the keyboard to the screen, I got highly upset with myself.  Not every day is going to be productive (Stephen King said that 'sometimes you feel as if you're in a chair, shoveling shit') but for some reason I was really down on myself.  And then this one beta starts messaging me about how much she's digging the book and once she was done, goes on to tell me that she's going to help me out when it comes time for it to go out into the world.  It made me feel good.  It made me feel REAL gooood, uh huh, uh huh (that's a Stripes reference for those of you not in the know.).  

So, seven out of ten people who have read/are reading the book like it.  These are people from all walks of life.  Some I know in person, some I've never met.  Some write, some read, some don't read.  The end result has been the same.  They've all enjoyed it.  What's more?  They've all taken the time to read something from a complete and utter nobody, sacrificing their own free time not knowing what in the blue hell they were going to get.  

You should see some of the detailed comments I've gotten.  It takes time to be a beta reader, folks.  They're not just skimming over shit.  They're going through it with a fine toothed comb, doing their best to make sure what you've written can be the best it can possibly be and some go well above and beyond the call, offering to use even more of their time to help spread the word about your work when they believe in it so strongly.  

Without beta readers, I'd imagine most indies would be dead in the water.  I know that's true about myself.  If you find some that are willing to do this, don't stop thanking them.  Never stop thanking them.  Thank them until they tell you to stop thanking them....then thank them some more.  They work their nether regions off to help us the fuck out and they may just be able to give you some much needed confidence when you think you're just churning out meaningless bullshit.  You can't put a price on that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nerves and Lunacon

Howdy, you few, you faithful, you poor unfortunates who clicked that 'next blog' button and just happened to end up here at Overly Verbose.  Welcome back or, welcome for the first time as the case may be.  What do I  have to say?  Not a whole hell of a lot, quite frankly but it's been well over a week since my last post so I figured I should put up something.

So, here goes.

Nerves: I has them.  My Urban Fantasy novel is now in the hands of five very generous beta readers.  One of the reasons I haven't been updating my blog regularly as of late (besides the blatant lack of anything interesting to say) is that I'd spent the last two weeks editing the crap out of it...literally and figuratively.   I'd written it when I didn't have much experience under my belt (*ahem* still don't /*ahem*) and man did it ever show!  While I didn't change any major story elements, it still took me two weeks go re read it and sometimes, change the way I'd gone about saying things line after line after line after line (getting the point?) after line after line.  By the time I was done I was staring at a sea of red.  BUT, I'll say it was worth it for sure.  The product I'd sent off to the Fearsome Five (my betas) was much better than what I'd originally written.  So, why the nerves?   I'll tell you that...IN ANOTHER PARAGRAPH!

I've friended a lot of author-ish people on Facebook lately, so I snoop around and see what they're up to, what they're working on, etc., etc.  I see a lot of 'so excited about my new project! Best thing I've ever done to date!' and the like.  As for me?  I read something I've written, lean back, scratch my chin and say 'meh, it hasn't made me throw up yet'.  That's usually a good sign; it means I don't hate it.  But that's generally all the credit I give myself.  Sometimes I can't help but wonder if they're blowing smoke or they really believe in what they're doing that much?  Does the fact that I'm constantly wondering if the three or four thousand words I've just cranked out are complete and total shit mean that I ain't got the goods?  Does it mean that I'll forever be one of those 'indie guys' that well established authors snigger and flip boogers at behind their back?  This segues me into the part about the nerves...IN ANOTHER PARAGRAPH! (Note: I never said it would be the next paragraph up above..ha! Made ya look!)

So, I'm nervous because I'm on pins and needles wondering what the betas are going to say about my manuscript.  Will they find it totally FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition), the greatest thing since sliced bread (sliced bread is fantastic...big fan), or somewhere in between?  So far, I haven't heard from any of one.  I'd gotten a text earlier today saying that if I did something unseemly to one of the characters in my book that they would 'visit me for an ass kicking'.  That made me feel good.  Great actually.  Why?  Because I'd written a character that they're enjoying.  I'd written a character that they would like to see more of!  So that made me feel nice.  

Now, to other things.

Lunacon.  A few friends of mine invited me (read: browbeat) to go to this fantasy convention in upstate New York called Lunacon.  Turns out, some of the lovely people over at Padwolf Publishing (publishers of Apocalypse 13 where my first short story 'Hollow' calls home--on sale now by the way!!!!) are going and would like me to be there.  This will be the first time I'll be meeting these folks who I've spoken to for so many years on Facebook and have had the distinct pleasure of being in an anthology with, so I'm very much looking forward to it.  I won't be presenting or signing or anything.  I'm just going to hang out with the gang and party and people watch (maybe there will be some voluptuous Cosplay female type personages there!) and have a good time.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll get discovered!  Or not.  In any event, it's gonna be fun!  If you're near Rye New York and happen to be going to Lunacon, say hi!  I'll be the heavyset guy with the shaved head.  

So, this turned out to be more verbose than I'd originally planned.  Hey, as the French say, say lah veee!!!  Once again, thanks for stopping by what I'm pretty sure is the very last webpage on the internet.   

Until next time, take care!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Liebster Blog Award. I got nominated! Sorta...

Thank you Saoirse O'Mara for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award!  What is the Liebster Blog Award you may ask?  It's an award for blogs with less than 200 followers that deserve to be looked at and followed.  If you've never heard of it, don't feel bad.  I had to look it up to.  

What does it entail?  I shall tell you!  I'm cool like that.  I have to offer up 11 random things about myself.  Then I have to answer 11 questions as posed to me by the person who nominated me.  THEN I have to pass it on to 11 other bloggers with questions of my own. That last part will be difficult because I don't even know 11 bloggers that fit the criteria.  I've put out the Bat-signal on Facebook for people who may be interested.  So, we'll see what happens with that!  I hope I get 11, otherwise I'll lose all street cred and get booted off of the internet...FOREVER!  Kidding...or am I?

Let's get started, shall we?

11 Random Facts About Moi.
  1. I'm colorblind.  (If you ask me if I can only see in black and white I will seriously hurt you.)
  2. I've never seen Gone With The Wind.
  3. Blue is my favorite color.
  4. I hate to fly.
  5. I played lead guitar in a working cover band for three years.
  6. I have several hermit crabs named after Star Trek characters.
  7. I've seen the original Total Recall at least 128 times and it never gets old.
  8. I was an award winning artist (drawing, etc) as a teenager.
  9. When I was a wee lad, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up.
  10. I'm the youngest of four by 8 years.
  11. My favorite group of all time is Iron Maiden.
My 11 Questions as Posed To Me By The Lovely Saoirse.

  1. Cats or dogs?  Why?  Dogs.  We have an 8 year old Sheltie/Eskimo mutt named Dizzy.  Growing up we always had cats and I still dig them but now I'm allergic.
  2. Where would you go on holiday if you could freely choose?   Italy.  If you couldn't tell by my last name, my heritage is from that big boot in the Mediterranean and I'd love to visit.  Of course, if you look at #4 above, I don't fly.  But that's what boats are for.  I like boats.  Yearrrrrhhhhh. 
  3. What was your favorite book as a child?  I didn't have a particular favorite, but I'd always loved the Boxcar Kids growing up.  And anything with dinosaurs in it.
  4. Which of your blog posts would you most like to have picked up by a newspaper?   Eek.  I primarily talk about myself on my blog (probably why I have next to zero followers).  In the interest of self-interest, I'd say any of the ones involving great reviews of my self published short story 'Words With Fiends'.  (On sale now!)
  5. Which language(es) would you like to learn and why?  Italian, so I could follow through with my answer to question #2 long as I get there on a boat!
  6. Have you ever left your house in your pajamas?  Where were  you going? As an adult?  Um, no.  If it weren't for my wife and her meddling dog I may have though!  As a kid?  Sure.  Many times when I was sick as hell and was dragged to the doctor's office.
  7. Why are you participating in this blog award? Because I'd like more followers.  I have shit to say and it's important, dammit!  That and I'd like to help out other bloggers who should have a healthy following as well.
  8. Indie or traditional? (If you're not a writer, do you care how the books you read are published?) I'm indie.  Mostly because I don't have the patience to do submissions, write query letters and kiss ass only to have to wait months on end and have it be rejected.  As a reader?  I don't care how it's published as long as I'm entertained by the story.  There's a stigma against Indies it seems;that because they don't have a publisher they're 'second class writers'.  I think that's a crock of shit.  I've read plenty of independently published books that have been better than some traditionally published books.  True story.
  9. If you could read the thoughts of just one person who would it be?  I'm going out of the box on this one:  my dog.  I'm convinced that animals have all the answers but they lack the vocal chords to communicate with.
  10. Who would you like to write your obituary?  Why?  Oh, tough one!  I could go with my favorite author, the incomparable Ken Follett, but I think I'll take the fun path here.  Scott Nicholson.  His mind is a twisted, hysterical landscape of bizarre imagery and I think he'd write a fantastic one.
  11. What would most likely be on your tombstone?  Wow.  Morbid.  Hmmm.  Probably "Here lies Matt Schiariti.  Loving Husband, Father, and Son.  You should have listened to the doctor when he said your cholesterol sucked."   

And that's all folks!  I haven't decided on my 11 questions yet as I'm waiting to see who's interested.  If I get bites by writers, I'll make some writing-specific questions.  There will be a couple doozies in there as well, I promise you that!  So far I have five takers:

John Green
Nic Echo
Amy Marshall
Randi Edwards
38 Caliber Reviews

I'm going to put the feelers out and when I get 11 I'll conjure up my questions and name the hapless souls involved.  It'll all be in the comments section.

Until next time!


So I've got a fourth victim, erum, volunteer.  I'm not sure how much longer I have on this so in the interest of impatience and ignorance, I'm gonna post up my questions and just let it fly! 

This should be easy for them, as I have one question...IN 27 PARTS!!! I, seriously...I'm just we go folks!

  1. If you're a writer, tell us a little bit about any current projects you have going on.  If you're a blogger, give us a synopsis of what your blog's all about and what you'd like to accomplish with it.  If you're both then by all means answer both parts!
  2. In 200 words or less, answer the following question:  Cake or Pie?
  3. What are your pet peeves?
  4. What are your favorite books/authors/genres?
  5. If I asked you to lend me $20, would you, and do you have paypal?
  6. What inspires you?  Answer in regards to writing, blogging, anything from your life.  Whatever you choose.
  7. If you could be one household appliance, what would you choose to be and why?
  8. Through a twisted turn of fate, you're given the choice to either be blind or deaf.  Which would you pick and why?
  9. What would be your dream job?  (And don't say 'author'.  Since we're all bookish here, that's already assumed and if it's not, too bad)
  10. If you could sit in a bar and toss back a drink with any writer from ANY time period, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you be drinking?
  11. A train leaves Chicago at noon, heading east at 120 mph.  At the same time a duck leaves Philadelphia, heading west at 12 mph.  Where and when do they meet?  (This is obviously a joke, but if you can answer it and show me your backup calculations, you deserve this award.)
  12. (This is the REAL #11)--If you could pick any one actor/actress to play you in the movie of your life, who would it be?   

And that's all folks!  Remember, I'll gladly pay you next Tuesday for some blog hits today!

Until next time, folks!