Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Importance of Test Readers—by Alex Cavanaugh

CassaStar Elizabeth invited me to share with you today something about writing. Since this was an important part of my process, I decided to focus on test readers. Why would you need test readers? Bluntly put, it’s another set of eyeballs on your work. Test readers will see things you’ve overlooked – stilted dialogue, plot contrivances, continuity errors, lack of information, confusing transitions, and so forth. We are so close to our work that we often miss these things. Test readers need to be objective in order to be effective. A spouse or close friend might feel reluctant to hurt your feelings. (Then again, that might be your toughest critic!) Test readers should be familiar with your genre and know what to look for in a good book. I also believe a mixture of readers and writers is best. Allow your test readers the opportunity to read through the entire scene or manuscript. When they return your work, read every suggestion and consider changes. If at all possible, sit down with your test readers (or get with them online or on the phone) and discuss each page. Sometimes comments are vague and you need clarification. If there’s an issue with a scene, you need to know exactly why it doesn’t work. This opens up discussions and you can bounce ideas off each other. It’s easy to grow defensive, but resist the urge. Consider the validity of each suggestion. If your test people had a problem with a scene, then so will other readers. Be open to changes that will improve the flow of your story and strength of your dialogue. Once you’ve made alterations, let them read it again to be sure all issues were addressed. My test readers for CassaStar identified several mistakes. They pointed out scenes where more description was required to clarify the situation. They really assisted with my dialogue, suggesting cuts and changes where necessary. We even read through several scenes to achieve a smooth flow of dialogue. Without their help, my manuscript would still be a jumbled mess! Do you employ test readers? Alex J. Cavanaugh CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC To pilot the fleet’s finest ship… Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard. Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential. As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit? “…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal Trailer: Links to purchase: AMAZON - BARNES & NOBLE - BAM Also available in eBook format for Kindle, iPad, Nook, and others Bio: Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.