Beta-Reader Update #6

When Jon Rance reviewed a few sample chapters of Not Famous for me a while back he told me, “One of the first things I was told by my publishers is that most of your readers are women. You need to appeal to women as well as men.”

So, I decided to find another female beta-reader. It took a while to find one, but I did, and she is currently reading the manuscript and has already given me some great feedback.

After reading the prologue and first chapter she said she was “intrigued,” which I considered a great sign.

After reading more, she told me, “You are really spot on with dialogue. It reads as people speak. So hard but important.” She also commended my descriptions of the characters.

She did recommend cutting/changing an interior monologue by the main character she felt disrupted the flow and recommended using that time to have the main character focus more on his waiting for his love interest to show up at Starbucks where she works.

The prologue of the novel goes into the main character Nick’s failed marriage proposal to his longtime girlfriend, but, my new beta-reader told me “I know that he isn’t happy with the outcome of his proposal, but I haven’t gotten a sense of the depth of that disappointment. Even if he doesn’t know it yet, we should have an idea. I know you have completed it, but I want more from him.” I will have to address that.

One thing I’m glad I haven’t heard is any complaints that the main character wasn’t likeable enough. Both my first beta-reader and Jon Rance felt that was something I needed to work on, so much of the changes in this current draft addressed his unlikeability. I am hoping this means I was successful in achieving that.

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Beta-Reader Update #5

So, my second beta-reader has given me some quick, general feedback. The most significant one being that I need to axe some adverbs. It appears that I’ve overused several and need to cut a bunch out.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Adverbs like clearly, obviously, actually were frequent and numerous, and I’ve cut out probably 90 percent of them. It’s crazy to use the Find function in Microsoft Word and see just how many instances of these offending words are.

This is what’s great about beta-readers… They catch things you don’t see, and different readers find different things. Keep in mind I still haven’t given my manuscript to the person who will actually be editing.

Writing My Book Blurb…

My novel is now in the hands of my second beta-reader. While I’m taking another step away from the manuscript I’ve decided it’s time to start working on the book blurb/description.

Which has been a lot harder than I thought.

I started a couple weeks ago, and my first attempt was shared with a private Facebook group for feedback. I got a lot of construtive criticism and suggestions. I’ve been tweaking quite a bit since, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Nick Forrester thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with his longtime girlfriend—until he proposes. Instead of engaged, he winds up humiliated and alone. He only realizes he’s ready to stop licking his wounds and start dating again when he meets Alli Conwell, a socially awkward 19-year-old Starbucks barista who might just be the next Taylor Swift.

Alli moved to Boston to make a name for herself on the local music scene. She’s ambitious, talented and determined to succeed on her own terms. But Nick soon learns that Alli has a mysterious side as well, and she’s strangely secretive about her life before moving to the city. As their relationship blossoms, so do tensions created by the past she’s trying to hide and the past he’s trying to forget. Will their secrets bring them closer together or tear them apart?

So, what do you think?

[NOTE: Blurb has been updated to reflect suggestions my from my first beta-reader and other tweaks.]

A Little Advice From Jon Rance

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been posting regular updates of the writing and editing process of my novel Not Famous. I’ve recently had a beta-reader give me her thoughts, and following her comments and input, I made some tweaks and trimmed out more than 10,000 words from the manuscript to tighten things up and address certain issues.

Bestselling author Jon Rance, who follows me on Twitter, has noticed my updates and kindly offered to check out the first few chapters.

After some recent tweaking (I moved some backstory from Chapter 2 to a new prologue) I sent him a sample last night, and this morning he sent me back some comments and a marked up Word doc.  His comments and insight were great, and I’ve begun taking his advice into improving the first few chapters, and will be spending the next week revisiting the rest of the manuscript.

Like my beta-reader, he found that I hadn’t made the main character likeable enough. I had made a point to put him in a pretty bad place in order to give him a starting point for significant growth, but apparently went too far in that I made him someone readers couldn’t root for. Obviously that is still something I have to work on before I send the manuscript off to the next beta-reader.

Rance was sure to clarify that despite the extensive markups, he told me he liked what he had seen. “You can write and it’s clear you have a story to tell.”

So, I’ve got work ahead me in the next round of edits. Hopefully I’ll be done within a week.

Thanks again to Jon Rance for taking the time to not only read the first few chapters of my novel, but to mark them up and write a detailed review for me.  I look forward to making this novel worthy of publication!

Ranking Nick Hornby’s Film Adaptations

This summer, the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 2009 novel Juliet, Naked is expected to get (limited) American distribution.I’m looking forward to finally having the opportunity to see it, though, in truth, not every adaptation of Hornby’s novels has been a great, but the film was produced by Apatow Productions, and Chris O’Dowd (from The IT Crowd) plays Duncan—which is perfect. So, I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be a solid entry in the growing list of Nick Hornby novels adapted to film. As of now, only two novel haven’t been adapted yet, How to Be Good, and Funny Girl… and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if neither do end up on the big screen.

So, in anticipation of the forthcoming American release of Juliet, Naked, I decided to rank the current film adaptations of Hornby’s books.

5. (Tie) Fever Pitch (1997 and the 2005 remake)

I hesitate to even include these adaptations since they are basically fictionalized versions of Nick Hornby’s nonfiction book of the same name.  The 1997 version featuring Colin Firth marginally beats the 2005 American version with Jimmy Fallon since the former actually involves Arsenal, the football/soccer team at the center of Nick Hornby’s 1992 autobiography. The 2005 American remake had nothing to do with Hornby’s book, and despite technically being a film adaptation of it, isn’t even listed on his (seldom-updated)  official website as one of his films, and with good reason. Rather than taking place in England, the film takes place in Boston. Instead of football/soccer, the protagonist is obsessed with the Red Sox. It seems they merely licensed the use of the title, and that hardly seemed worth it to me. The 1997 film is not my cup of tea either. So, these two basically get honorary positions at the bottom of the list.

4. Slam (2016)

This was a tough one to rank because this adaptation was produced in Italy and therefore, is in Italian. In fact, I hadn’t even bothered to watch this adaptation, figuring it be too difficult to enjoy by reading subtitles. But, for the purpose of this list, I decided I had to watch it and as luck would have it, it is currently on Netflix. One thing I will say about it, is that, it stays quite true to the source material, which is why it comes ahead of the Fever Pitch movies. It’s been a while since I read Slam, but I still recognized that much of the dialogue was straight out of the book, and what was changed was mostly minor. I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was reading the subtitles or not, but I felt the acting was only fair and some of the characters were miscast. Generally speaking I like it when movies stay true to the source material, there are always reasons to cut things from the movie, and this movie could have been improved by taking out some characters. In the book Sam has a dumb skater friend called Rabbit who is in this movie, but didn’t translate to film very well. Also, the arc involving Sam’s mother getting pregnant happens in the film, but would not have been in the film either.

3. A Long Way Down (2014)

This was a somewhat disappointing movie even though it mostly stays true to the source material. I was mostly bother by what I felt were some unfortunate miscasts and a few unforgivable plot changes—most notably the romantic relationship that is revealed at the end between the JJ & Jess characters.This novel is not as loved as other Hornby novels, but I’ve read it a few times and was excited about another Hornby novel-to-film adaptation. Perhaps it just wasn’t going to meet my expectations because they were too high. In fact, I’ve only bothered to see this movie one time because I didn’t want it to poison the novel. Perhaps I was too harsh and should watch it again, but the casting of the film always bothered me. Aaron Paul was just not right for J.J. and Toni Collette (who previously starred in the adaptation of Hornby’s About A Boy) just didn’t match what I envisioned her character to be. The best casting of the four main characters was Imogen Poots as Jess. I suspect this was difficult to adapt properly because the novel tells the story via each of the four characters rotating POVs. The story progresses with us returning to each character’s perspective many times very effectively, while the movie tries to accomplish a similar effect, though only once per character—it was pointless to attempt in the film.

2. About A Boy (2002)

I love this film. It’s a huge leap ahead compared to A Long Way Down. Personally, I enjoyed the novel of A Long Way Down more than the novel of About A Boy, but I’ll prefer the film version of About A Boy over A Long Way Down. No question. This film definitely takes some liberties with the source material, seeing as the novel takes place is 1993 and the movie came out in 2002. The music of Nirvana and the death of Kurt Cobain plays a significant role in the later events of the novel which would not have worked so well, and so the climax of the film is completely different. Marcus’s father’s role in the movie is greatly reduced from the novel. But, it is still a solid film, perfectly cast, and it was even nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. I’ve watched this movie several times over the years because it is a great flick in its own right.

1. High Fidelity (2000)

Not only is High Fidelity a phenomenal film adaptation, I would consider it the gold standard of film adaptations. I’ve read the book and seen the film multiple times each and love them both. The film stays surprisingly true to the source material (with really only a few changes), and the moving of the story from London to Chicago was flawless. The novel is rich with monologues from the main character Rob, which is translated to the film with voice overs and the character breaking the fourth wall by talking directly to the viewer. The casting is spot on. Bruce Springsteen has a cameo. Jack Black was perfect as Barry. The only negative that can really be said about it is that Harold Ramis had a small role as Rob’s (John Cusack’s) father that was cut from the final edit of the film. It is a shame there hasn’t been a director’s cut released on DVD/Blu-Ray because it be great to see Ramis’s role and other scenes restored.

Post-Beta-Reader Editing Part 2

A few days ago I reported that I was editing my novel with the goal of reducing the nearly 109,000 word manuscript down to  less than 100,000.

Today I can report that I succeeded in that goal.

After two passes of edits, the manuscript went from 108,952 words to 98,727 — a reduction of 10,225 words!

I have to say I’m amazed that I could do it. I actually found the process much easier than I expected—even fun. I knew that by cutting out redundancies and extraneous details and dialogue that I was making the manuscript stronger. I was also able to fix various issues I discovered, such an inconsistencies and minor errors. Of course, I also implemented some suggestions from my beta reader to make the main character more likable.

I still have some editorial revisions to make, some suggestions to review, and I’ve decided to restructure the first three chapter to help create a better hook for readers.  But, I have to say, I’m excited about the progress that has been made, and, as corny as this sounds, I’m proud of myself for succeeding cutting as much as I have.

Post-Beta-Reader Editing Part 1

Well, I’ve been keeping busy since getting all the feedback from my beta-reader on my novel Not Famous. As I mentioned before, I got some great feedback, and I’ve already started going through the comments in the manuscript, making suggested changes.

In addition to some editorial tweaks suggested by the beta-reader, I was advised to go through the manuscript, clean up redundancies and tighten things up a bit. My plan is to reduce the word count of my manuscript as much as possible by making passages more efficient and cutting things that just aren’t necessary. The manuscript as it was when I got it back from my beta-reader was just under 109,000 words. My goal in this editing phase is to bring it down as close to 100,000 words as I can. At the end of today I got it down to about 106,600 words. So, I’ve managed to trim about 2,400 words in a day. Not bad. There’s more work to be done though.

I know a target word count of 100,000 is still considered pretty high.  Best-selling author Jon Rance saw my recent blog post via Twitter and told me the following:

Can I get my manuscript down to 90,000 words or less? I’m thinking probably not. Okay, I know it’s possible because even though I tried to make every scene matter, I know some scenes, if I was writing for a publisher would likely be recommended for the chopping block. I even thought my beta-reader would call some out. She didn’t, but after telling her a few scenes I thought she might have suggested be cut she agreed that a couple scenes featuring a minor character were, in her opinion “extraneous.”  I can see why she said so, but I still feel at this time this minor character is still necessary and I’m hoping I can reach my target word count without cutting those scenes.

Anyway, if I can get the manuscript down to 100,000 words I’ll be happy. I’m not cutting stuff just to cut it either. Reading through the manuscript again after a break has given me the opportunity to see it with fresh eyes, and I’m definitely finding it easier to pick out parts that were unnecessary and negatively affecting the pace of the story. I’m tightening dialogue, trimming scenes… anything to improve the efficiency of the writing.