I want to start by stating one truism as it relates to my writing. That is: I have no idea if anything I've written is good or not. If I wrote the next great American novel, I'd literally have no clue. There would be no feeling in my bones or some inner instinct that lets me know that I had done something legendary or fantastic. On the flip side of that, I have no idea if what I've just written is pure garbage. I genuinely have no sense of good or bad as it relates to the written word.
I mean, I think I know when something's good or not, but there is no first-hand experience to back that up. I, inevitably, have to rely on others to tell me whether a story is compelling, mediocre, or garbage. And, the thing is, that opinion may not be representative of the actual quality of the writing and storytelling. After all, writing fiction is an art form, and all art is subjective.
This novella I've been writing? Well, it started out hard. I had a vague concept of a story, a decent first chapter (in my mind), a character that I thought was sorta mediocre and a whole lot of Fog of War that clouded the road from the first to the last chapter. This was me making things up as I go along...literally.
So when I polished up the first nine chapters and handed them to my wife, I had absolutely no idea what the feedback was going to be. In fact, my overall expectations weren't that high.
Now, there are a few things about my wife you should understand. First: she's a reader. I have (or had) boxes of paperbacks stuffed away in storage. Not just pulp Romance novels, but authors like Clive Cussler, Dean Koontz, Steven King, and so on. We have shelves of books around the house, most of them hers. She's worked in an elementary school library and reads all of the new books that come in for the kids. When it comes to whether or not something is worthy of publishing, she would know. She is, in many ways, the audience I'm writing for.
I should also mention that she does the bills. In order to produce a semi-professional book, you need to outlay $2000 or more. That's quite a sum that's coming out of our pockets. If the book sucks, there's no way she's going to subsidize that just as a hobby - a golf league would be cheaper in the long run. So. if we're going to pay for a couple rounds of editing, proofreading, cover art and formatting, it has best be worthy of the money we spend.
Because of these factors, my wife is the perfect beta reader for my stuff.
With only the first nine chapters, my main beta reader (my wife) loved the book. She stated that specifically; told me it was the best thing I've written to date. In fact, she questioned the notion of using it as my loss-leader.
Yeah. It was an ego boost.
Granted, speculative fiction is art, and the appreciation of art is largely subjective. While this book is part of a High Fantasy canon for my literary world, the story itself is kinda dark and is more oriented towards action and adventure. Everyone has specific likes and dislikes, but for my wife this one obviously hit all of the high notes.
In a flurry of activity, I did my best to polish the remaining chapters for her to read. We have some technical issues that I need to address, requiring me to rework portions of the work (two chapters, really). None of this, however, really detracts from the overall story per se'. I'm in the middle of a rewrite of the last chapter, and then I'll be done. I might let it sit or a week or two before I go back and revise a second and third time. Then it'll be off to the editor.
I've spent so much time working and reworking my Franky Falawell epic that I questioned whether anything I wrote outside of that story line would be any good. My first attempt at this character was abandoned because - in my mind - the story sucked. Having these questions answered really got me over a huge hurdle. I feel more confident now moving forward, knowing that the novella, at its core, isn't some mediocre product that I'm just throwing out there to entice people to my website. They're getting a good story in return. And yeah, it's a huge load off of my mind.
I'm nearing the end of the creative process with this project. What remains is nothing but tweaks and revisions. All told, I think I'm ahead of schedule here...if I ever had a schedule in the first place. I'm shooting for a release date sometime in November. After that, my focus will be on the Frankie Falawell saga.
Anyhow, that's all for now.