imagine this is me, and that book is my beta-reader feedback
So I’m finally (yeah, I know, I’m bad) getting around to compiling up the beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming. Four people sent me back their feedback and it’s wonderful because I’ve now got four different opinions on it.
One reader is all in on the romantic sub plots, another confessed she’s hardcore shipping the couple I intend to get together, but another person struggles with some of the relationships and the clarity of what happening, while another really didn’t get anything from any of the relationships. Which sounds bad, but it’s GREAT! Why? Because he identified himself as not being a fan of the particular type of fantasy I’m writing, so I have identified someone who is not my target market. He still found plenty to like(and his enthusiasm for those things has spurred a few spin-off short story ideas), but I now know what sort of reader these books won’t appeal to and can avoid promoting/advertising to that section of fantasy fans.
Another great thing about the differing opinions is I can balance them against one another. If most of them say the same thing in feedback, I’ve obviously got a problem I need to get onto. If two people disagree, I ponder which of them is closer to my idea of my ideal reader. And just because that one reader isn’t my target audience, doesn’t mean I ignore every note he’s made (and not just because that would be rude ;p ) but also because that different view could be just the right spice to offset elements of my story.
I love feedback, critiques, and beta-readers. It’s all so helpful to see how other people see my writing, and I’m excited to keep moving forward with editing Nothing Charming (even though I’m a little bit behind plan (and yet here I am blogging about it and not doing it, the fine art of procrastination ;p ))
edit and resubmit several of my ‘in circulation’ short stories (stories I’m currently sending out and trying to sell).
compile beta feedback on Nothing Charming and complete edits using the Deep Edits lecture packet from Margie Lawson,
compile beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely and commence edits.
as long as I can resist playing this ;p
It’s a fairly hefty list (even if the last one is more open ended with merely ‘commence’ edits ;p ) considering it’s school holidays so I’ll be doing this with kids constantly at home around me. I have some lofty stretch goals for the year though (I didn’t list them in my yearly goals yet) so I’m planning to get as much done early on as I can.
Last year I gathered all this wonderful feedback, but haven’t had a chance to actually go over and get to work on the notes. So this month is the start of rectifying that.
Also, whenever I get a short story back with a rejection I always give it at least one run through before putting it back out there – after all usually at least a couple of months have passed and usually I’ve learned or thought of a few new things which I can use to improve my work. I do quite a few more than one if it was a feedback rejection, because I have notes to work with.
Anyway, here’s hoping I don’t spend all my spare time paying Ragnarok M: Eternal Love when it comes out, and get lots of work done!
For those who’ve been around a long time, you may remember my post on how my son, Xander, reacted when seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2 in the cinema. He still sometimes refuses to watch the movie even now, four years later (we have it on blu ray and do watch it every now and again).
So when How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World came out down here in Australia, releasing on his birthday, we really wanted to take him, but weren’t sure if he’d want to go. After a long fun day of meeting Shaun the Sheep at Paradise Country and shopping for Bendy figurines, we showed him his cinema picture and the movie poster and asked him if he wanted to go. The answer was a resounding yes. We also showed Harley and she became super excited (she and I have been watching the tv series recently).
The kids loved it, and Xander has now grown enough to be able to understand that what he is watching is fiction, that the dragons being tied up and taken away aren’t real creatures suffering before his very eyes. You can still see him get tense and worried, but it isn’t the near meltdown levels of anguish he would experience before.
It’s wonderful to see him grow and mature, and it’s also fantastic when certain triumphant scenes happen he claps and cries out ‘yay!’ in the cinema he’s so happy. (and the patrons directly behind us thought it was cute <3 ). Also you should definitely check the movie out.
I read 101 books this year, so obviously I can’t rave about every last one of them here, but you can access any and all of my 2018 reviews by checking out this link to my Goodreads 2018 ‘Year In Books’. I am however going to highlight some of my stand out favourites here.
Most of these books had premises that pretty much had me screaming ‘Shut up and take my money’ but there were a couple of surprises too, as well as an old favourite.
The Cruel Prince: It’s early January, and my good friend Jake messages me and tells me ‘shut up and read this’. So I do. And he knows me sooo well that it was my first five star of the year, and so early in the year ;p Wicked fairy people, half breeds, political machicinations you do (and don’t!) see coming and TWISTS. Damn son. The next one comes out soon(like seven days from today ;p ), and you better believe I have it preodered on Audible.
The Obernewtyn Chronicles: ok sure, it’s not ‘new’ but the audiobooks (most of them) came out this year, so you know I was there ;p Doubly because Isobelle Carmody read them herself and does a damn good job.
I got into this series when I was about 15 (not perfectly sure, mid teens ). Not long after I read the first book was when I learned that the author had been my age when she wrote it. It blew my mind and that was when I first realised I could actually write for a living, I wasn’t ‘too young’, because here was this amazing story written by someone my age, published and in my hands.
The Calculating Stars & The Fated Sky: An alternate 1950s timeline, a space race not merely against other countries but for the sake of humanity, and a super clever female lead – shut up and take my money. I was extra excited to find out that when I finally got around to reading The Calculating Stars, the Fated Sky had just recently come out, so I could binge them like they were a show on Netflix ;p
Girls Made of Snow and Glass: Such a good reimagining of Snow White, and expanded far beyond the originating fairy tale so you have so much more to enjoy, plus deep insight into the ‘evil queen’. When I was done I started scrabbling around for the author’s other books and… couldn’t find them. I want more of your stuff Ms Bashardoust!
To Kill A Kingdom: Funnily enough this one popped up as a recommendation after reading Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I read the description and promptly threw my money at it. A very wise decision evidently. Sirens instead of little mermaids, cursing queens, pirate princes, enemies to lovers, star crossed lovers – omnomnomnomnom.
The Poppy War: This one is going to sucker punch you. Even with this warning it will STILL sucker punch you. There are some serious themes in this one, severe violence, war crimes, drug use, but the character arcs and the characters themselves are amazing!
Stuff & Nonsense (The Threadbare series): I’ve finally started reading litRPG, after all this gaming, and loving anime set in game worlds, I finally started a few litRPG books, and for the most part I’m loving them. Especially this series! I seem to have a thing for typically non-playable races as main characters, perhaps because they’re so out of the box. Also,this one doesn’t go overboard with the stats, there will be regular level ups with little bits to follow, but no big character sheets slapped between every single chapter murdering the story’s pacing in cold blood. It’s hard not to love a book which is about an animated teddy bear who just wants to be with his little girl, and leveling up while doing it ;p
I also read the last of The Heartstrikers series that was in this same list for last year ‘Last Dragon Standing‘ and it is a smashing ending to the series, seriously that book is a masterclass on how to satisfyingly finish a series(though you’ll have to read the whole series as well to see what a bang-up job she really did – not that’d you’d be complaining).
In books on the craft of writing my stand out for the year was The Story Equation. There were some ones I know would be good for newbies, but for me this one had the most fresh information and certainly came at it all from a different angle.
I also read quite a few biographies of trans people so I could do better justice to my trans characters rather than just basing them on my trans friends. I especially liked Janet Mock’s, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty (the second extra much because it’s focused on life post transition, whereas nearly every other book I read was very pre- and during with only a tiny bit of post). I also enjoyed Being Jazz and wish that every trans child’s parents could be as supportive as hers. I’ve still got a long-ish list that I want to read still too ;p
Were there any stand out books you read in 2018? Any recommendations for me to read in 2019?
I loved my gifted cat calendar from Japan so much I regularly posted pages on my Instagram
When I first went to write this post all I could think of was the last third of the year, where things were not great, especially not writing-wise. I thought “I’ve barely achieved anything this year. Man, I don’t want to write a round-up post about how much I failed.” But then when I looked through it, of my nine goals, three were partially completed and five were thoroughly completed. That’s only one actual fail. I cheered right back up.
On the other hand, I don’t want to entirely gloss over the failure. After all, imagine how much more I could have achieved if I hadn’t gotten bogged down in my own head/bad habits for the last few months?
I found a place which makes amazing udon near me, so this was me a fair bit of the year ;p
I love giving feedback, but this year, partly out of ambition, partly out of obligation for the large amount of beta-ing I was asking others to do, and partly because I struggle to be the no-saying meanie I severely over extended myself in the giving feedback department. In addition for my 5-6 short stories I critique every month for my writers group meeting I also beta-ed eight novels. Near the end I started to get frustrated it had been so long since I’d worked on my own stuff and that turned into a bad habit where, when I felt like I wasn’t getting anything done, I’d fall back on games for my sense of achievement, instead of using them as my treat for a job well done. I’m sure you can guess how much that helped the sense (and reality) of not getting things done…
On the upside, compared to 2017 I didn’t burn or severely slash my hands and arms, though 2018 didn’t like my right foot since I slashed the underside of my foot rushing to get a bin out in time and later severely sprained my ankle running to the park with Xander (it was six weeks before I could walk properly, and it’s clearly never going to be ‘back to normal’ because it’s very easy to pull if I walk or land funny). Generally though, health-wise, it wasn’t as awful.
my special little snowflake ;p
Harley is very much a threenager. Someone please tell me the tantrums go away >.< Also she gave me a LOT of late nights while trying to drop her day nap but failing. This mean she’d have her nap late in the afternoon, and would wake in the evening refreshed and ready for play for a few more hours, meaning we’d be up super late. She’d sleep in the next morning so *she* got the right amount of sleep, but I’m up early to get Xander ready for school and on the bus, so no helpful sleep-in for me. However, she is adorable. You should hear her singing ‘Baby Shark’ XD and her vocabulary is exploding (she’s a little late in speaking, and considering Xander is non-verbal this was a massive concern for us). She is also nuts for My Little Pony. She struggles with words more than two syllables long, unless it’s Fluttershy, or Twilight Sparkle, or Rainbow Dash, then she has allllllll the syllables ;p Also, I can’t believe she starts kindy this year!
Xander is still a sweet prince. He puts up with Harley like an ANGEL. This boy is the kindest big brother in the universe. Harley is even one of his very few verbalised words (and the way he says it too too cute!). He’s doing well in school and I can’t wait for his birthday in a few more days because he’s going to love some of his presents and where he’s going for the day.
And back to the writing, here’s how I went with my 2018 goals:
Goal#1 – Publish the Charming Series: I want to have the first four ready to go, I’ve currently got the first two ready, and three needs me to action its feedback (I’ve gathered the beta feedback just haven’t yet actioned it), so I’m close, but I’m determined to not just rush junk out there, I’d rather have them well-polished and ready for rapid release.
Goal#2 – Get beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely: Success, I gathered it. I haven’t actioned it yet, but the goal was specifically about gathering so I count this as a win.
Goal#3 – Continue writing and publishing short fiction in traditional publishing markets: I wrote six new short stories (Alone Time, Delivery Man Wanted, Money For Meat, The Taste of Blood, The Last Breath Before Foam, Against The Black Knight). One story was published this year, Groundskeeper in Stupefy Stories#22. I’ve been waiting a while to see this one finally in print so am super happy, plus , it’s a part of my Retailored Fairy Tales world which I’m planning to focus on a fair bit this next year or two. As for other stories such as the six new ones I wrote I’ve been submitting almost exclusively to pro markets this year, which means less sales so far, but I have had some hold requests and feedback rejections, which is always promising.
Goal#4 – Take my back catalogue of short stories that are out of their exclusivity periods and self-publish them: this was planned to fill out small gaps in the publishing schedule of the Charming for Hire series, so since I didn’t release that I didn’t want to squander these. I did do some work regarding formatting and covers though, so this is a partial complete with a good reason for not finishing.
Goal#5 – Start working towards creating a monthly fiction podcast: well, yes, I’ve *started* but still only at the most basic levels, looking into hosting, production schedule, what I’ll need, basic fiddling with Audacity, but no recordings. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll do a serial show (a novel read in parts) or a short fiction podcast (different story each episode).
Goal#6 – Continue being a good president to Vision Writers Group: I feel I completed this duty well this year. When the Yahoo boards glitched out I swooped in like a superhero (;p ) and found us a new home for the group as well as carefully laid down the foundation for my retirement. Yes. This was my last year as president of the group, I’m still remaining and active member though. Gotta get my critiquing/being critiqued fix somewhere ;p
Goal#7 – Complete one of the unfinished novels: I finished ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ just after Camp NaNoWriMo back in April. The two halves are quite different from one another and the plot outline mutated a bit so extensive self edits will be needed, but hey, I’ve still completed the first draft of my fourth novel.
Goal#8 – Continue learning: I’m fairly confident in this one. I added a few more podcasts to my already hefty subscription list, continued on almost entirely up to date with the 5 Years to Become a Bestseller course, and also took part in Margie Lawson’s ‘Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like A Psychologist’. I read 10 new craft books this year as well. I also beta read 8 (yes EIGHT) other people’s novels in addition to my normal feedback for Vision, and you learn a lot when teaching/critiquing others too.
Goal#9 – Rewrite Written by the Stars: I didn’t even touch this. Unfortunately it was scheduled for the ill-fated end of the year, so didn’t stand much of a chance. It’s now scheduled for the start of 2019 at least.
Even my crossword app is giving me ‘subtle’ hints I need to get to work
Like I said, not as bad as I thought. I also did all of my mini goals set last year (updating the site’s look, adding my ‘books read’ to my monthly goal round-ups, and upping my reading speed). Not to mention I read A LOT. 101 books officially completed and reviewed. I did read a few books which were bleh and I didn’t finish. I didn’t review them and aren’t counting them. I also listen to a lot of fiction podcasts.
I also enjoyed a lot of story in the form of watching anime while up late trying to get Harley down, and through my bad gaming habit. I posted about my favourites already. If you missed them or are curious here’s my Top 8 Anime of 2018, and Favourite Video Games of 2018(at least I got a blog post out of all that distraction ;p ).
And to wrap this all up, my goals for 2019:
Rewrite Written by The Stars, ideally also do my self edits and get some feedback so I can send it out to agents and publishers again.
Complete edits on Lovely/Lonely. I have the feedback, now to action it so it too is ready to be submitted.
Get the Charming For Hire series ready for publication and release it. This year for sure! I still want to have the first four 100% ready and ideally the 5th close to it so I can use the rapid release tactic.
Continue writing and publishing short fiction for traditional markets. I love doing this. Not sure I could stop if I tried.
Work on my fiction podcast. I’m not going to rush this too much, but I’d like to seriously start recording some stuff very soon. It’s something I really want to do, but also want to do well.
Write at least one new novel. What will it be? Even I don’t know yet ;p
Work on more Retailored Fairy Tales stories. I’ve got the loose plots for some Troll’s Toll sequels rattling around up here as well as some other ideas.
Continue learning. This one’s always here. It will never not be.
Are you setting any big goals for yourself in 2019? Anything you wish you could see from me? Your enthusiasm might make me add it to my goals list.
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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Read The Troll's Toll: A Retailored Fairy Tales Novella now.
Read 'Charming' (Honorable Mention in the Writers of The Future contest Q4 2014) in Leading Edge Magazine issue 68.
Read 'Short Circuit' (finalist in the 2013 Aurealis Awards Best Fantasy Short Fiction category) in Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way from Crossed Genres.
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