Anna Questerly

Anna Questerly
Bookseller and bibliophile turned author, Anna Questerly writes medieval fiction and fairy tales for smart kids and young hearts. For adults, she creates Utopian fantasy as A.J. Questerly.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Managing Your Muse: Part 6 Communication

Once you have your teams in place. You need a way to communicate effectively with them. These are the two worksheets are what I give to my teams, so we're all working toward the same goal of making my book the best it can be. Would love to hear your thoughts or comments as this is a work in progress.  

Alpha/Beta Reader/Critique Partners

While reading, please look for and comment on the following. Go ahead and notate directly onto the manuscript. Please be sure note any additional concerns or questions you may have while reading. I realize this is more like homework instead of a pleasurable reading experience. Please know, your honest feedback is vital for me to make this book all I want it to be and I appreciate you taking the time to do this for me.

Is he or she likable?  Do main characters come across as multidimensional?  Do they have distinct character traits and personal history?  Are the main characters' goals well defined?  If he/she acts out of character, is there sufficient motivation?  If historical novel, are actions consistent with social norms of the time fully or if not, have they been supported/explained? If fantasy/sci-fi are actions consistent within magic/technological boundaries established within the story? Are his/her motivations believable? Do you care about him/her? Were you able to see character’s growth throughout story?

Is he/ she unlikable enough?  Is he/she well-developed and multidimensional? Does he/she have distinct character traits and personal history?  Does he/she have a well defined goal?  If he/she acts out of character, is there sufficient motivation?  If historical, are actions consistent with social norms of the time, or if not, are they fully supported/explained? If fantasy/sci-fi are actions consistent within magic/technological boundaries established within the story? Can you understand what makes the villain bad? Is he/she believable?

Other Characters
Do secondary/tertiary characters contribute to and support the plot without being detracting from or diminishing the importance of main characters?  Can you tell characters apart? Are their voices unique enough to tell who is speaking in dialogue? Do the supporting characters contribute to storyline and setting?

Are all characters described through a balance of action, dialogue, and narrative?  Do you care about these characters?  Are conflicts between characters well defined?  Do they have sufficient challenges/obstacles in the quest for their goals?  Do they react appropriately to new situations or challenges? If Fantasy/Sci-fi/Time Travel, do characters react to new time/place appropriately or appear either too blasé or too overwhelmed?

Relationship and Conflict
Are the-conflicts, both internal and external, believable and well-motivated?  Are relationship and conflict components of the story properly balanced?  

Do characters exhibit a range of emotion shown through character interaction?  Do emotional scenes evoke the intended response from you? Do emotional scenes develop forward momentum of the story? Do you get the humor? Did you notice any unintended humor?

Does dialogue effectively develop characters, express emotions, and advance story action?  Is dialogue stilted or overly narrative in style?  Are transitions between dialogue, action, and narrative smooth?  Does each character have a distinct voice so his/her personality comes through? Are there scenes of only talking heads or can you see conversation unfolding within a setting with the characters acting believably within that setting?

Are descriptions of characters, clothing, scenes, etc., adequate for you to visualize?  Did I balance the use of all senses?  Did I use dynamic description instead of halting the action for long narrative descriptions?  Are mood and emotion part of the descriptive process?  Are descriptions handled through a viewpoint character rather than author-intrusive narrative? Can you see the people and places and understand how the viewpoint character interprets both?

Did I  make changes from one character viewpoint to another smoothly and clearly without jarring you? Is there a viewpoint missing as a reader you’d like to see?

Does the opening put you there? How long did it take you to become settled within character’s viewpoint or attuned to narrator’s voice?
Does the opening scene fully convey the setting and include character description and character interaction?  Does it set up or introduce the major conflict?  Does the opening hook you as a reader?

Writing Technique, Style
Does important action take place on stage?  Is background information woven in at appropriate times, when it will have the most forceful impact?  Did I set up clues/complications to keep you interested?  Did I make transitions between scenes/chapters smoothly and effectively?  Does story progress at engaging pace?  Do I have a distinct voice?  Is style suitable for intended market?  Did I demonstrate skill with language/mechanics?  Does research appear to be accurate?  Are story components necessary to the story included? Are there excesses that could be cut and not affect outcome/motivation?

Is ending satisfying to you? Was it expected? Is it fair? Did it seem to be the inevitable outcome with hindsight? Were elements important to the ending foreshadowed throughout the story? Does ending resolve all major issues? Is it believable?  Any major holes or unresolved issues?

Does manuscript tell entire story (beginning to end), including necessary background information?  Does it define major conflicts (internal and external) and the resolutions?  Does it show a coherent, believable plot line?  Is  setting an integral part of story?  Does story develop through interesting series of events in a logical progression of cause and effect motivations? Did you notice any continuity issues? Any questions the manuscript didn’t answer. Would you have been happy if you’d purchased this book? If you didn’t know me, would you recommend this book to a friend?

Line Editors/Proofreaders
Please look for the following and mark errors/concerns directly onto the manuscript. Feel free to notate additional concerns you may have as well. Thank you for taking this time to help me make my book the best it can be.

The basics.

Homonym abuse
Missing words
Repeated words

Important yet easy to overlook:

Tense errors (past to present, present to past, etc)
Point of View errors (looking for consistency within scene, easily identified changes where intended)
Sentence structure (varied lengths of sentences, long sentences need to be easy to navigate and make sense.)
Fact Checking when needed

I’d also like your opinion on the following:

Font choice (style and size)
Formatting choice (chapter headings, margins, page numbers, space between the lines)
Consistency in formatting
Word Choice (note any preferences where needed)

Was there anything they jarred you out of the story? Were you satisfied with the ending? Did you like the main characters? Would you have been happy if you’d purchased this book? If you didn’t know me, would you recommend this book to a friend?

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