How to kill a Beta…

Drew Barrymore in Wes Craven's "Scream"

B,

Seems as though you and I need to have a little talk. This likely will be an uncomfortable conversation— well mostly for you, but listen to what I say very closely… And please don’t interrupt.

What’s that? I can’t hear you? You want me to remove the tape from your mouth?

All in good time, my sweet, all in good time.

You remember not too long ago when I was all about the finishing of my book? Oh how I toiled. And then one day! Start. Middle. Ending. It was finished! Done. Finito. Termine. Getan. Acabado. Fin. I typed the end…

I even sang Free Falling in the car, and rubbed my eyes whenever I looked at her sitting there within my laptop. It had amazed me that nothing had stopped her from completion, or from becoming a real living thing. Not the times I’d given up, not the busy-ness of my life, and not the ups and downs of being uninspired. Nope. She was my imagination that had somehow hacked herself loose from the inside of my head and ran freely onto the pages of a novel that would maybe cleave onto the minds of many readers someday. This was what I had hoped most.

You did not see me in that moment, rubbing my hands together in preparation. I figured that with a few edits, voila, B, you would see my work and applaud, maybe even sob at the sad parts, or send me messages about how the world was my oyster. I pictured myself and my reactions as you told me such wonderful things about my writing and encouraged me to mail it out RIGHT THEN to an agent. Why B, in this version, the one in my head, you even sent me the postage stamp!

But I was very, very, wrong.

As all things go, the marriage between you and I took a turn for the worst and unexpectedly careened from happy little notes of “Oh this looks good.” to “Hmm, I dunno that this will work.” You started to sound more and more like I might need to correct things and then more and more like I’d be working… And working… And working. But-but I was finished!

What about this part right here, huh? What are all these notes about me needing to make myself clear? I bet I’m making myself real clear now aren’t I! Don’t you shake your head at me. Stop that!

Okay, lets everybody calm down. There are quite a few pages that you said I’d nailed it, right? What’s to be so upset over anyway? It’s not real life. I should just take this as a learning experience and fix the mucked up lines. Yes, yes, everyone takes a step back before they go forward. Night is darkest before the morn. Only a fool does not want correction or some such saying…

I see, yes, you are nodding that I am right. Of course I am. We don’t have to stop being friends over this.

To be honest, I never thought those corrections were a problem, not really. It wasn’t them that really put me over the edge anyway. I had actually started to sort them all out in my head, but, you see, it was when I flipped the page then it became clear what deviousness you were about, when you started to dig away at my characters. Somewhere along the way I’d been overzealous in my making of them or this was how you so delicately put it, and you seemed to be saying that I was lumping them (the flaws) all too high, too much, and not enough of other things, too much here, too little there, here – there like a yo-yo of criticism.

These are my characters, B! They are who they are! OH THE IRONY of it all, that you would want them so clean when you sent back my book in tatters and dirty, so so dirty now with red marks and <<>>>> pointy things slicing away at my heart!

Can’t you see it? I will make you see it. Yes, yes I will!

What’s the matter? Am I scaring you?

No, no, it’s gone on too far my love, and I won’t stop now, can’t-won’t it’s all the same these days. Time to say goodbye … I’ve got to bury you, B, I’ve got to stop you from doing this to some other poor unsuspecting creature and… Shhh shhh shh… It won’t hurt— Much.

Until I can fix the supposed problems of my book you have to die a slow death as punishment. You see this will help me find the things I need, and I so desperately need them, to fix, remake, a little death never hurt a story.

What’s that? This is real life you say?

Well then… You should have thought of that before you decided to become my Beta.

Xoxo

L

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Hot off the press!

Dear B,

I can’t tell you how much I have learned over the past few weeks in these edits.

• Formatting
• Chapter to chapter flow
• Red Penning
• Speech Tags (that make sense)
• Past perfect vs. Past perfect continuous
• Insanity
• Complacency (although I was fairly familiar with this one before)

It’s no surprise to you that most of this is new to me. I enjoy the journey with an anxiety that is regulated by fat and sugar frozen into my favorite “Cookie dough Ice Cream” and sold by the pint. And as always there is coffee – beloved brown goodness that keeps the tiny anvils from my lids .

An incredible thing has started to happen in my writing life too that actually isn’t unpleasant. Now that I am more effective and regularly in the frame of mind, a novelista that is, I am constantly making parallels from this land of fiction to the usually more dour reality.

Is it true that I may be a character in a much grander and larger book that is called life? Could it be possible that we are entranced by ourselves not just because we are vain but maybe it is because the story we live could never be less interesting than the ones we read and write? B, I think it could.

I’ve found that I am developing just now, like my characters, and it comes in instant growth spurts that only happen with great happenstance or lulls of nothing but thought (rarer is the latter). It is quite painful I might add but where is there growth without some sort of pain. It’s not all doom and gloom though, no not at all.

When I look around me, I find that I have indeed written the greatest story I’ll ever know already. I believe you do know of her dear B, she is about three feet tall and has a penchant for making her teal my little ponies fly around my office. Whenever I am hard at work on my next scene it is not unusual for the toy horses to end up right in my lap amongst my red penning in print. I am not annoyed, because to her these are characters as well and they do far more interesting things than mine. I mean flying is definitely part of the fantasy genre and they seem to never stop with endless amounts of energy, boy who couldn’t read all about that? She makes them kiss a lot too, which speaks to romance… But more on that later.

Here are the first fifty pages in real print. I stared and stared at the cover page for so long after it was printed.

ssphoto

There is a certain amount of pride already taken in this endeavor but I do feel extra so whenever I can multitask and juggle a work schedule, dinner, grocery shopping, horseback riding, and feeding the dog, diapers, husband love, and church Sunday school, all the while saying to myself, “It’s done, it’s done, it’s done! Well not quite done done, but fin for now.”

Thank you for taking this journey with me dear friend.

Ciao for now

L

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