I'd been a member of Kelley Armstrong's (then) online discussion forum, having inhaled her work, since around 2003. This was the place where I'd joined the OWG (Online Writing Group) after warming up on fanfic. This was a place where I'd made a number of lifelong friends, including Terri Giesbrecht who, to date, is my longest serving beta reader. Never one to hold back, she's constructive and thorough - working consistently at pace. If you've read any of my work, odds are good it was her critique and savvy that helped get it into shape. MVC (Most Valuable Critiquer/Critter) status guaranteed.
1. For those who don't know, who are you?
My name is Terri Giesbrecht, I’m an unpublished author and beta reader. I write whatever strikes my fancy, romance, paranormal romance, fantasy, and a wee bit of horror. I also beta read anything I can get my hands on.
2. Game talk – how do you organise and manage your game? How has it evolved?
As an author, I’m not sure I have much organisation when it comes to writing. When I started this whole thing, I loved writing and would just sit down and write. It was just that simple. I still have not rhyme or reason to my process, I have an idea, I sit with it until I feel ready to make sure I can get the words out and do a good job of it. I pretty much write out scenes in my head every day until they drive me crazy enough to get them out.
I once tried to do an outline – because someone told me that that was the way to go – and I hated it. I lost all creativity due to the fact that I had it all written out already and then felt guilty for ignoring my guidelines. (I’ve been told that it’s okay to do this, but I just don’t like it).
Beta reading – I believe – is an art form. One of my favourite things is to get to delve into a new story and help the author with things they can’t see because they are too close to the work. The process hasn’t evolved that much, I read a story once to enjoy and to pick up on little things that stick out. The second read through is for picking up all the bigger things I missed during the first read.
3. Talk us through one of your biggest achievements in your game – give us the story behind it. How did it play out?
For years I’d heard of this thing called Nano (NaNoWriMo), I had NO clue what the hell it was. I asked one of my author friends about it and she explained the concept. I was blown away that people could write that many words in that short a period of time. The next November I was determined to win Nano. I had no idea if I could do it but come November 30th, I had a novel of 50,000 words. I was flabbergasted that I could achieve that goal. Since then, I’ve done five or six Nano’s and won them all.
As a beta reader anytime I can help an author get published is a huge achievement for me. I’ve had a few authors message me and say I helped them get published and that makes me very happy.
4. As far as the beta reading goes, I know you've worked slush pile as well (for the likes of horror journal Deciduous Tales, if memory serves). How does that compare to reading ad-hoc for authors 'here and there'?
Beta reading is more about finding consistency errors. Like a character coming into a room they never left, or repetitive words, or a sentence that makes little sense in general. Things like that. With a slush pile, you are not looking for continuity errors (which have hopefully all been addressed by a beta reader), you are looking for a good solid story that fits well with the theme of the anthology. So, if they are looking for macabre stories, that’s what you look for; original, weird tales of the macabre.
The Deciduous Tales crew was awesome to work with. They sent us the first anthology so we could see the types of stories they were looking for, this made it way easier to flag the stories that we thought would fit that criteria.
5. It's great if things go according to plan. Tell us about when it didn't; how did you handle it? What were/are those challenges?
Since I’ve never been published, yet, I don’t really have anything that didn’t go according to plan.
I did have a problem during my third Nano, I think. I’d finished early and was starting to do some edits when my laptop crashed, and I lost all 50 thousand words. I was devastated. From that I did learn that you should ALWAYS back-up your work.
6. Give a pep-talk to someone on game in your field.
Best advice for an author is to read as many books and as many genres as you can. Don’t feel like you have to write every day, if you don’t feel like writing, don’t. I feel like this will go against every other author’s advice, but for myself I can’t force myself to write and if I try, I lose creativity.
As a beta reader, read as many books and as many genres as you can!
When doing the actual beta read try to pick out the good along with the bad. Nobody, and I mean nobody wants to open a story to find only negative things. If you laughed out loud at some point, tell them that. If you cried in an emotional scene, tell them that. If something doesn’t make sense to you, point it out, because if it didn’t make sense to you, chances are it won’t make sense to someone else. Let them know what touched you, and what didn’t. Be real, be honest, but in the end ALWAYS be kind.