What Is A Beta Reader?

According to Wikipedia:

A beta reader is usually an unpaid test reader of an unreleased work of literature or other writing, who gives feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author.

Note: A beta reader is not a professional and can therefore provide advice and comments in the opinions of an average reader.

Let me make this clear, to publish or become published, you don’t need to have a beta reader.

Let me also make this clear: beta readers are a tool and Shekinah Glory Writing Services is a fan of beta readers!

Beta readers are a great, living addition to your writing tool kit. They can give honest opinions and observations about what you’ve written. They can be just as passionate about your characters as you are. They can ask questions of you to pull out more story–sometimes parts you didn’t think about!

Beta readers are the unsung heroes of revising and drafting! Don’t believe me? Ask Stephen King. It was his wife, Tabitha, that rescued a novel from the trash because she liked what she read! That novel was Carrie.

Keep writing dear ones!

For My Grandmother, Arceal Williams

Today, this morning marks 5 years since my grandmother has passed. Here is what I would want:

I want to go over her house today at 4221 Prairie Avenue, with the swinging gate that creaks. I want dogs to be barking as soon as the gate shuts with a metal clanging protest. I want to walk up the brick walkway—looking at the lush magnolia tree. I want to talk up the gray stairs to her front porch. I want to knock on her front door with the ‘family knock.’

I want her to open the door without her walker, glasses and eyes bright. Her gray hair pulled back. I want the smells of Lysol baptized floors to greet me. “What made you come by!” I want to kiss her cheek, clean and smelling of Nadiola cream. I want to smile at her, betraying nothing. “I just wanted to see you.”

I want to sit in her front room, on that same cream colored couch, inviting and warm. “Did you eat?” I smile, stomach rumbling. “No ma’am.” I want her to laugh loud, her drawl evident and soothing. “Come getchu something den!”

I want a plate she’s make me; making me full with her presence, strong with her whit, ready with her strength. “What’s been goin on baby?” I want to kiss her face again with the plate of leftovers in front of me on her dark oak table. She would sit across from me, snapping beans or wiping counters. Bleach and lemons steadying me.

I want to tell her I’m writing. I want her to know I took her advice. I want her to know the girls want to know how to sew in the Spring. “That’s good, Jennifer.” She never did call me Jenn. “Grandma, I finished my first novel!” I want to drink her sweet tea, watching her reaction. “I knew you could do it! You was always so pretty and smart!” I want to study her favorite red house dress. The paisley pattern making her look more regal than I ever thought. Her hair coifed and short. Her hand would be on her hip. She would look at me, giving me future and past. The one standing as the ten-thousand Maya Angelou spoke of.

As I finished my plate, she’s come close to me and just hug me. She was never one for words. But in her love, in that embrace, her love would soothe the jagged parts. The parts that wonder how, why and keep me dreaming. “So proud of you, Jennifer. And bring me a copy of all those books to put in the China cabinet.”

I would hug her back, “Yes ma’am.” I’d squeeze her once more. I’d help clean up, and she’d tell me how I’m not doing it quite right. I’d ask if she needed anything. She’d lie and say no. Fiercely independent at almost 90. Don’t wait so long to come by!” She’d pat my hand, kissing it. “I’ll see you later, Grandma.” I’d say. She would smile at me, and I’d hug her again, going towards the front door. Leaving the solace of her warm green kitchen, the sleeping watch dogs to go face the world again.

*Note: This image was taken on the actual front porch of my grandmother’s house here in St. Louis, MO. It was also used for the cover of my book, WriteLife. If you would like to purchase a copy, click here.

The Stutter: What Happens When the Words Don’t Sound Right?

There is a madness in writing that is not found in any other profession.

The profession by nature is madness! You take what is in your head, a thing unseen or unknown to other people, and translate it to words. This at times, in the effort of being honest, is hard.

It’s hard because thoughts are fluid, they are invisible, they exist only in the mind of the person that has them. Which is made crazier when you have to make these thoughts relevant to other people–who aren’t or will never be in your head.

What’s to do, right?

Give up?

Ignore this screaming ideas in your head?

No.

Write them down. Let the thoughts out. It doesn’t matter if they don’t make sense to you at present. Don’t worry about syntax, spelling and cohesion just yet.

The goal in times like this is to release the thought into words. This is how you overcome what I like to call the stutter.

The Stutter is what every writer experiences one time or another. It’s the feeling that doesn’t let what is in your head get to your hand. It’s not a crisis of confidence, it’s translating.

The cure? Writing!

You cure the stutter by writing! You free write, you write drafts, you edit, but by no means do you surrender to the stutter. You take it hostage and make the stutter into story. You write it into submission!

Go forth and write…no more stuttering!

[image from Google]

The Hard Work

There is a saying among writers when it comes to first drafts: they are all crap. No matter how gifted the writer, all first drafts are crap.

Don’t debate me, just listen.

However, I love what Nora Roberts says about blank pages and drafts:

“You can’t edit an empty page.”

This is from the same Nora Roberts who has written 200 books. Two. Hundred. That’s a level of prolific that is unmatched. But it’s true–no one can read the stories in your head, dear one.

The advice I can give for writing first drafts is the same as was told to me: write. No matter how it looks or sounds, get it out of you. Write it down. The way you become a better writer, to develop the muscles they make writers prolific only come by writing!

Write! Write! Write!

The thing that helps me to try and be prolific is to give myself a deadline. That helps to focus research, and allows time to gather thoughts (or confidence) to write. The major hitch to keeping you from writing is more often than not is confidence or time.

Writers are and can be master procrastinators especially when we don’t think we can or should try to write. Fight the urge to ignore the need to write.

Fight it!

The benefit of doing the hard work is the sweeter part of adding to your draft, watching the story expand and change. Don’t allow the fear of how something will sound or look to stop the joy from coming.

Get to work.

Jennifer P. Harris

Founder, SG Writing Services

[Image from Google]

Bend Blank Pages

I have never been afraid of a blank page or the secession of them. I wanted to fill the blank pages the I had. The best therapy for me is, and still is, school supply shopping. I love having a supply of blank pages. A fresh notebook is the sexiest writing item.

However, I understand the intimidation of blank pages–I get it. What I want to remind you of one thing: you are in control.

As a writer, you are in control.

The worlds you create must bend to your will and talent. They must! Here is motivation for how to continue to make the pages to your will:

Confidence. The story, before it is ever seen by anyone else, belongs to you. You must know every idea, personality or plot belongs to you. Because you are the Alpha and Omega to your own story, act like it.

Confront the Hang-Ups. This happens more often than you think. When you write as particular genre, like erotica, you may be constructing a scene which may be beyond your personal comfort zone. First, this is okay. You have the right to feel uncomfortable. Embrace that. After you embrace it–push past it. The story you write should be complete! If you are anxious to see what happens next, so will the people who read the story. So, tell it.

Show your work. Just like in math classes, when you write, show your work. If you choose to have your first draft in the traditional pen and paper format, keep the draft. Make your notes on the pages or margins.

For me, there are some works just begin on paper so I can see what I’m working on. It allows me to see in my own head–which is sometimes chaotic as the heads of most writers are. Writing down what my mind sees hasn’t been a problem. I allow myself to feel, to see and to write.

To you dear one, I offer the same advice. Scratch through the ideas that don’t work or make sense. Spell things in corners or on back pages. You are the master of your work. Master it.

I believe in you and all your pages hold. Go forth and fill them!

[Image taken from Google]

In The Beginning

There is an anxiety that will always come when you begin a new writing project. There is this trepidation that will come as you begin to hatch the plan to put thought to word to screen or paper.

Don’t fear these moments of creativity, embrace them. If you still have anxiety over putting thought to word to paper, try these steps:

1.) Don’t rush the idea. There are certain stories and concepts you don’t need to jump head first into. Researching helps with this type of anxiety about a topic you desire to write about. Certain topics require you have a working knowledge of the topic you desire to write about, or the story you desire to write.

2.)  Utilize Social Media. In the world of becoming a writer, deciding to write, there can be this creative loneliness where you feel no one is or could be experiencing the same thing you are.  Join a writer’s group or a writing group. Find one of your favorite writers on Facebook or Twitter and follow them. On Twitter, I follow the amazing Tananarive Due and on Facebook I am one of ‘the people of the page’ for Anne Rice. Sometimes they will even answer questions you as a fan/potential writer even pose! The writers’ groups are places of comfort and idea exchange. Tips are exchanged and networking happens. Use all your resources available to you.

3.) Don’t Be Scared To Make It Up. I got this piece of advice from Tananarive Due (again, see step #2!)! I asked her about creating a backstory for a story, and the backstory not found in research. She told me if there a myth that I needed, to literally make it up! When she said this to me, I was amazed! I hadn’t thought about what it would mean to make up what I needed–when my job as a writer is to make things up! This is one of the reasons as a writer is it is imperative you be an avid reader, and be comfortable in being a better reader than you are a writer.

4.) Break The Boxes Open. There are so many things you as a writer can do, so many stories to write, don’t be afraid if you have an idea to cross over. If you do horror, and have an idea for a romance novel? Write it! If you do romance, and have an idea for a sci-fi saga? Write it! Don’t be afraid to stretch out! It’s your talent, your time, your imagination. Use it!

5.)Embrace The Process! Writing is hard. Let no one tell you different. It can feel impossible, and for the intimidation of creation, you can freeze! Don’t fear the process! Free write the idea, see how it sounds, and work from idea to free write to draft. You can do it. If you get stuck, and you think you need to start over? Start over. The only rules in writing are the ones you create. There is a roux to it which is in order to be a writer:  you gotta write. You. Have. To. Write.

Be encouraged, dear one. You can do it. So do it.

 

Jennifer P. Harris

Editor/Founder-Shekinah Glory Writing Services

The Words Matter

Image result for writing quotes

Writing is the most incredible thing I could ever do. I am glad I decided to come back to something I consider my first love.  With that said,  I understand the importance of doing what you love–and being bold enough to ask for help.

Writing, being good at writing, can indeed make you cocky. Being a writer, becoming a writer, you have to develop a steadfast humility. You have to be able to recognize you don’t know everything about writing. You have to have an understanding of the art your are pursuing. You have to understand writing, language, the art of communication is an art form which you are or have to continue to learn. You also must trust enough in your own talent to continue to advance towards your writing goals.

You don’t know everything.

You can’t know everything.

You have to be open to learn  more about your craft. In that learning, you allow yourself to grow in your writing. This new information allows you to build more confidence in your writing, which only adds to your personal faith in your talent.

Don’t shy away from critiques, workshops or even writing coaches (yes, they are a thing!)!  The purpose of a tool is to develop a skill. Don’t shy away from tools. They will only help.

Hustle. Grind. Believe. Write.

 

 

Jennifer P. Harris

Editor/Founder-Shekinah Glory Writing Services