Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

 

Those words are from the opening of Riders on the Storm by The Doors from 1971. I find it a little ironic that I’m quoting a song that came out when I was barely alive but the words fit this topic to me in my head.

When you think about your story, it’s born in your imagination and when you’re done with it you throw it out to the masses (okay, you hope masses buy your story) all alone to survive and get some lovin’. Right?

There’s a few steps between A to Z in getting your story out there and there’s one that most authors (I’ve found) overlook. I was asked in an interview a week or so ago about where I came up with the ideas for calls for submission (I’ve been on a roll with those this year; have you seen them?). My answer? I think they come from the same places that authors find their inspirations – all around me. Music, articles on FB, news trends, seasonal and every so often requests from readers. So when you find that idea, that little kernel of thought, what’s the next step?

For both newer and more experienced authors this is probably a hard thing – where to find someone to brainstorm with, someone that could also be known as…duh duh duhhhhhh, a beta reader. Those illusive readers out there that can give you feedback, be used to bounce ideas off of, know your characters (and sometimes worlds) so well that they can tell you when you’re not doing something right, and the most important thing a beta reader should do for an author? Tell them when what they’ve written isn’t exactly the best thing ever. I know, right? A beta reader should be comfortable enough with you to tell you when you’ve written something that might just suck.

Where should you look? I’d suggest starting in two different places. First place – professional organizations and/or conferences. Look at your local chapters for Romance Writers of America or the GLBT chapter that is primarily online, Rainbow Romance Writers (http://www.rainbowromancewriters.com/) and then look at attending a conference. I’d suggest attending your first conference, whether it’s RWA or RT (the two BIG conference) or GRL or AAD, as a reader. Go and attend workshops – but better yet? Sit in the lobby and TALK to other readers and authors. Start some friendships that COULD turn into beta readers BUT don’t start a conversation with someone just for the specific purpose of finding a beta reader. ***important side note: a beta reader does not need to be a professional editor or writer but they do need to have some experience with giving constructive feedback and that you can trust them with your ideas and stories***

Second place to look – online communities. Both Facebook and Goodreads have different groups that you can join and, oh wait for it – start communicating and making friends (are you getting my main idea here?). THEN as things progress (after time, not the next day), ask if someone would be willing to look at something you’ve written. If they say yes? Don’t send them the 99 million page saga you’ve been writing since you were ten. Send them a scene (1-4k) that you’ve been struggling with, give them a brief (200 word or less) synopsis of the story and some background on the characters and then ask them for their thoughts and opinions.

If you are really lucky, a lasting friendship will form. I’m lucky. I’ve got several friends that I’m able to help move through from an idea to a published book. I’ve gotten to know their characters and worlds so well that their characters come to visit me (sometimes way too often) and keep me company on the treadmill LOL. I’m able to help them see where they can expand or delete, how to plan for book six when they’re writing book four, how to plug a plot hole that they didn’t even see.