Monday, August 9, 2010

My Alpha Readers

Most of you know what Alpha Readers are. They're those pesky people who either a)beg to read your manuscript in advance so they can offer sage advice, or b) I beg to read my manuscript so that I have a better chance of getting it accepted and (hopefully) breezing through the editing stage with my publisher.

Last month I completed the first draft of AMMON. The first thing I did was take a couple of days off (writers like Allyson Condie take an entire month away from the manuscript).

When I can't stand the wait any longer, I start on the 2nd draft process. This is what I do:
-read through manuscript on the computer
-flesh out scenes that I left hanging
-research "holes" or "questions" I wrote to myself
-work on better transitions
-organize chapters so that there is an average of 10-20 pages per chapter
-track character introductions so that they have descriptions, etc
-combine sentences and get rid of passiveness where possible
-add commas

After the 2nd draft is ready, I send it to Alpha Readers.

For AMMON, I'm doing something I haven't done before. I asked three people who are not writers or editors to read the manuscript. I decided on three so that I'd have a good variety. They've read all of my books and have enjoyed them for different reasons.

Then I chose three more Alpha Readers who are excellent writers and excellent (although a bit nerve-wracking) editors.

This will give you a good idea of feedback I've received based on the type of Alpha Reader.

Alpha Reader #1: 28 comments
Alpha Reader #2: 859 comments

Can you guess which one is the editor/author?

Regardless of the number of comments, all of them have been helpful. I don't always take every bit of advice, but I do consider it, especially if I hear it more than once. So it's important to have the feedback of more than one or two Alpha Readers. (you always need a tie-breaker, right?)

And the best part is that I still love the story. I've hit burn-out on the computer, but not burn-out on the story. When I'm reading certain sections, I'm just as excited about it as I was when I was writing.

Just for fun, here are the cast of characters (names subject to change):


Ammon: oldest son of King Mosiah

Aaron: son of King Mosiah

Omner: son of Mosiah

Himni: son of Mosiah

Muloki and Ammah: missionary companions

Lamoni: King of the Land of Ishmael
Son: Pacal
Daughters: Meztli & Romie

Moriah: King’s Clothier
Son: Zaman
Daughter: Elena

Abish: Servant to the Queen

Gad: Blacksmith

Loki: Brother of Gad.

Dedan: Friend of Zaman

Pahrun: King’s head guard and chief advisor

Kumen: servant

Corien: servant (brother to Kumen)


Maria Zannini said...

God love alpha readers. They are life savers.

On an 80k word manuscript, I generally average about 250 comments, give or take 20-30. My forte is plot logic and world building.

A few of the others in our group are better at grammar and syntax.

I tried a couple of non-writer readers once, but like you, the most I got was a handful of comments. Useful but not in depth.

Annette Lyon said...

You've got another hit on your hands, my huge number of comments notwithstanding!

Krista said...

Oh, just reading the character names makes me anxious!
In my small experience, the more feedback (for better or worse), the better the book has a potential to become.
Good luck, Heather! I know it will be awesome.

Rebecca Irvine said...

How do you get Alph readers to respond in a timely manner? Maybe I am just too nice, but some of mine takemore than a month to get back to me.

Heather B. Moore said...

Rebecca, when I start working on the 2nd draft I know I'm about a week out so I'll ask the Alpha Readers in advance if they can get it finished by a certain deadline (I try to give them 2 weeks)

Trent and Nicole said...

The list of characters also makes me anxious to read Ammon. About how long do you take to research? Write? Edit? I'm sure it varies some from book to book, but is it roughly the same percentage of time? And when do you find time to write? I've just always wondered how long research takes to prepare a good book. And yours are always good books.

Heather B. Moore said...

Maria, I agree!

Nicole, it takes me about 5 months to get a first draft, then another 4-6 weeks of the editing and polishing process. Of course that doesn't include the editing I go through with my publisher. I get up early in the morning a lot to write, especially if I have to write during the summer. Other than that, I look for snatches of time and take advantage of it.