Z 086

By Henrik Nordenberg (1857–1928) (http://www.zeller.de/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you follow me on social media, or anywhere really, you’ll note that I’m currently writing a magical realism novel called Glassmere. The elevator pitch is that it’s Downton Abbey meets Narnia. It’s set in the spring and summer 1914, and is the story of two generations of sisters (Eleanor and Julia who are in their late teens, and Alice and Lucy who are in their late seventies) and their connection to a place called the Other Country. If you want an aesthetic feel, my Pinterest board on the subject is quite comprehensive.

Typically when I’m writing it’s behind very closed doors. Once the whole thing is written, taken apart, put back together, and edited, I share it with beta readers. Simple as that.

But Glassmere is different. It’s a novel I’ve been working on, on and off, for more than four years. It’s rather well outlined, if I may say so myself. Everything about the project simply feels different. So yes. Different. It’s a word I’m using a lot here.

And it’s not just that the novel is different. I am different, too.

I am working. A lot. My children are growing up but also demanding more of my time. And it occurred to me, after thinking a bit about Mary Robinette Kowal’s approach, that alpha readers might just be the way for me to go. Like Mary, I’m a theatre geek, and much of my book is — in my mind, anyway — rather performative. But I also think that a more thorough alpha read will mean less of a beta read later on, and result in a stronger first draft than in previous works.

It’s also inspired by the collaborative novel I’ve been writing with Jonathan Wood. He just asks the best questions. He has the best insights. And they happen right in the middle of the process rather than after the fact. Those questions often open up doors I never realized were closed in the first place, and I don’t want to miss out on that opportunity here.

If there’s anything that the last six year of writing professionally have taught me is that the process is always changing… because my own life is always changing. And I am changing. So rather than step aside from it, I’m going to embrace it and try something new.

What will it require? I’m not asking for line edits or typo awareness. But to swipe directly from Mary, this is what I’m looking for:

So I ask my readers to tell me:

  1. What bores you
  2. What confuses you
  3. What don’t you believe
  4. What’s cool? (So I don’t accidentally “fix” it.)

I enjoy stream-of-conciousness reactions as well, because that tells me how the story is playing. Talking to me about sentence level stuff at this point is like going to a rehearsal and saying, “Your actors aren’t in costume.” I know that.

So — do you want to be my alpha reader? Let me know!