For the previous posts in this series on my writing process, click on the links below.
Part 1 - Introductions
Part 2 - Ideas
Part 3 - Outlining
Part 4 - First Draft
Part 5 - Revisions

After I go through a few drafts of editing on my own, I then pass the manuscript off to my wife, Leah, whom I consider an Alpha Reader. By definition, an alpha reader is generally the first person to read the book and often does so while it’s being written and helps you brainstorm as the story develops. Now, Leah doesn’t usually read the book chapter by chapter as I write it, however, I will often toss ideas around with her during the drafting process. Although she doesn’t know all the details of the Blood and Tears story, she does know some of the major events that will end the series. I did this because it really helps for a writer to have a second brain and I needed someone else to know roughly how it would all end to ensure I’m properly setting up those events now. Leah and I think similarly but she has the luxury of not being as close to the work as I am. Thankfully as both an alpha-reader and my wife she has a huge vested interest in the success of the book. And no one other than me knows the characters as well as she does.

I’ll give you an example of how she helps during the drafting process before reading the actual manuscript. I may come to her and say something like this…”I want character A and B to have this conversation because it will disclose a major thing that happens 5 chapters from now. This conversation needs to happen because of the information it will give the reader. Here are a couple of ideas on how I wanted to do it. Which one do you think makes sense?”

At this point, she will usually ask some follow up questions and I’ll answer the best as I can without giving away too much of the story. Then she may tell me which one she likes best or present an entirely new approach. Then we’ll go back and forth discussing pros and cons until I have an idea on how to better approach a scene. Sometimes, I don’t even give her as much information as I did above and just say I need ‘this’ to happen but don’t know how to do it. Then she might toss out some ideas. Even if I don’t take any of her suggestions, the point of the exercise is to help get my creative juices flowing by talking things through with someone else.

At some point I give her either a partial or complete manuscript to read. The prose is ok but not pretty at this point. The goal of Leah’s first read through is to look for big things (i.e. character inconsistencies, plot holes, scenes that aren’t working, clunky conversations, confusing descriptions, places where things need to be fleshed out more, etc.). Usually her comments are general and sections are sometimes circled with a “revisit your dialog here” or “description gets repetitive here.” Usually we’ll talk about each chapter as she reads them and I’ll ask a lot of questions to make sure she’s giving me the feedback I need to make the book better.

Once she is done, I’ll go back and consider her suggestions which are generally right and make the changes. Then I’ll do 1-2 more passes to really tighten things up from a prose standpoint.

Afterward, Leah will read the manuscript again, but this time she will do a line edit, helping me with grammar, punctuation, etc (areas she is much stronger at than I am). Although it isn’t her main focus, she will also look at the story’s content one last time to review any changes since the last draft.

Then I’ll make one more round of edits based on Leah’s second read through before shipping everything off to beta-readers.

We’ll cover beta-readers in the next post in this series.


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