Writing: PACT (Alpha Readers)

So I'm writing another novel. Or, rather, four novels, because this is a planned 4-book series on teen pregnancy. And this is very different from my first novel because (a) it's not a fairy tale, (b) it's more YA focused, (c) it's not fantastical, and (d) it's a book about character growth without an kind of feminist "gotcha" at the end about how much patriarchy sucks. If anything, the series is meant to be overall fairly positive, even though it will take some time to get there. And while there are loose Freytag plots for each book, it's really about the journey with the characters, and not the destination. So that's very different for me, in an exciting-concernful sort of way.

I'm not done. I'm still in Book 1, with 9 chapters out of 20 written. We are not in beta territory. Beta territory does not happen until the writing is complete and a cover is done. (Which I have in my mind, but not on a screen.)

But I could use some alpha readers. People who are willing to be sent a "chapter bundle" every so often as I get them written and who could sound off any questions, concerns, happy thoughts, etc. A big help would be things like:

  1. How did the chapter make you feel? (Happy, sad, hopeful, triggered, etc.)
  2. How do you feel about the characters? 
  3. Is there anything that could be done to tighten up against the potential for Ism Fail? 

Etc. The goal here being to get some gentle feedback whilst in the Utterly Ridiculously Rough Draft phase, before any major fail sets in by accident. This is usually what writing partners are for, but right now I only have one dedicated writing partner and I feel bad sloughing off all the feedback responsibility on her, so I'm opening this up to volunteers, since at least a few of you were kind enough to tell me that you'd be willing to do this sometime. (And I don't want to ask anyone directly and put anyone on the spot. This way everyone can claim they didn't see the thread. I have no way of proving otherwise. *wink wink*)

I had planned on just posting chapters online as I went, but I'm not comfortable doing that now for a variety of reasons, most of them steeped in Rough Draft Shame. So if you're willing to go on an alpha reader mailing list, let me know via email and so it shall be done. Random thoughts:

  • I will not share your email with others. All emails will go out with the addresses set to BCC. 
  • All emails will contain Content Notes for triggering topics. (The content notes will be ROT13, in case you find them distracting/spoilery to the experience. I know some of you do.)
  • There is zero obligation to provide any feedback whatsoever and you can unsubscribe from the list anytime with a simple "stop" message. I'll just assume that life isn't leaving you with spoons right now. 
  • Seriously, if you just want to sign up to this for reading and have no intention of providing any feedback other than "sparkly!" that would still be very helpful for me.("Sparkly", of course, being the universal Twilight standard for all that is good.)

Demographically for this particular novel, I would especially be helped by alpha readers who identify as current-or-former (1) teenage girls, (2) pregnant persons, (3) secular Jewish atheists, (4) Chinese-Americans, (5) persons from oppressive conservative religious backgrounds, (6) Wiccans, (7) agnostics, (8) bisexuals, (9) African-Americans, (10) adopted children, (11) lawyers, (12) textbook editors, (13) persons who have administered or attended private Catholic schools, (14) software engineers, and probably a lot of other people I'm missing.

Send me an email about joining the Alpha Team if you're willing to read my rough scratchings and provide feedback as the mood takes you, and/or comment here in thread (I can view your email via Disqus). And thank you so very much in advance, as I imagine this is a bit of an unusual request.

Update: To clarify, anyone is welcome to join this group, regardless of demographics.


Ana Mardoll said...

Also, I'm logging off for bed for the night, so see ya'll in the morning. :) Thanks!

Brin Bellway said...


(In other words, sure thing.)

Charleen Merced said...

Doubly sparkly!

I'm an 11 and 13 and willing to help. I can do a few chapter bundles.

Reverie said...

I'm only a 1)...and pretty far out from a normal one at that, being socially awkward... but I'd like to sign up. :) Email link isn't working for me though...every time I click it my computer says something about not hving an internet connection?

Maartje said...

I'd love to, but I'm not any of your numbers.

Maartje said...

(Oh, except I was a teenage girl once. Not a particularly run-of-the-mill teenage girl, but I guess I qualify for one thing! :p)

Yamikuronue said...

i'll take a look, being a current or former 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 14 :)

BaseDeltaZero said...

I'd volunteer, though I don't really have any qualifications. Well, I went to Catholic high school once. And I'm sort of an agnostic, but not really, maybe. I'm not sure (hehe). Other than that though... well, I'd certainly try.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's okay! That's why I left the catch all about others I've forgotten. I'd like feedback from anyone, really. :)

JonathanPelikan said...

I really love this idea. I've often wished I could just rip random shreds from my Word documents and throw them at people without the expectation of it being a finished, polished Thing. "Look! Share in my experience!"

Loquat said...

Former teenage girl. Current secular agnostic. Always happy to read and discuss things.

Ana Mardoll said...

*happy dance* I have you all in an email group now and I'll send out a test email by the end of the week. THANK YOU. I'm utterly gobsmacked at how many emails I've received. Thank you. :)

Dezster said...

I'm in :)

chris the cynic said...

Maybe I should try this alpha reader thing at some point. Dig up the novel I tried to write in high school, have people read it with the instructions, "Most of this is crap, but not all, please tell me where the not crap parts are. And be aware, there's no ending, it just stops where I stalled out." Then again I don't know how many people I'd get when the request is, "Here, read ninety-thousand words of mostly crap."

As for the actual topic, I think you have a pretty good read on my mental state Ana, do you think it's safe for me? Because I'd certainly like to help if it would be, but if not I'll be sitting this one out too.

Ana Mardoll said...

Hard to say. It starts out with people in a shitty oppressive situation (well, okay, High School, but.) and gradually gets better and more manageable by the power of teamwork, so it might be alright? At least one of the characters struggles with depression but comes out on the other side happier and healthier. There's usually something light-hearted and positive in every chapter even if it's just "good person doing the right thing in a crap situation".

It's probably Firefly levels of optimism, if that works as a frame of reference, but with the Alliance being something you can grow out of and escape with the right help and good friends. It's definitely happier than Pulchritude, which was something I needed to move away from for awhile. I can only do Sad Awful for so long before I need a break. (Which I accomplish by writing people.... out of the Sad Awful. Hmm.)

Incidentally, I would totally read ninety thousand words of your writing, Chris. :D I liked your ghost story so much, I've been randomly remembering it all week. WE CAN'T JUST CALL THE VILLAIN 'BOB'! (I'm bad with names. That's not the right name, I know it's not the right name. I feel like the name started with a 'J' which means it will ultimately turn out to be something like 'Lyle'.)

chris the cynic said...

Sounds like something I could read if I were in a somewhat better place than I have been lately, but at the moment no. Which is too bad because I'd like to be able to help you.


I feel like the name started with a 'J' which means it will ultimately turn out to be something like 'Lyle'

As I recall, it was Jeff *checks* yup, it's Jeff. So it was indeed a J name.

Lyle, for those who have seen The Pretender, is a villainous name indeed. Assuming that I'm getting names right, which I often don't.


If you are actually interested I'm pretty sure that I could dig it up but:
a) It's from when I was in high school, which means that some topics I'm pretty good on now I probably got embarrassingly wrong then.
b) The treatment of both wicca and any modern religion dealing with Greek gods in it probably need to be worked over heavily.
c) It has no plot. It just goes on, and on, and on, without a plot. There's a beginning, there's an ending that exists only in my head, and in the space between it just goes on.
d) It's author self insert meets magical lover territory. It's my Twilight.

So while I would love to get back to it someday, and feel like there's potential there, and would very much like to have your input even if I fear what that input might be (haven't looked at in a long time, but as I recall some of it is very very bad) I'm not sure I should be inflicting it on others.

Still, if you really want to take a look, say so and I'll see what I can do.

And I've hijacked your thread.

Ana Mardoll said...

I understand! And oh, "my Twilight". I have a few of those as well. We just... don't speak of them.


Maybe you could send a piece of it? 90K could be a bit overwhelming, but 10K wouldn't be. :D

Will Wildman said...

Why do I love abrupt caps interjections so much? I don't know, but I do. Had to clap a hand over my mouth to keep from audibly guffawing.

I might be in one or two of your preferred demographics, and my current experience editing a friend's nanovel is teaching me that I can actually really enjoy this kind of work. You already have my email address, but should I click through anyway?

Ana Mardoll said...

Abrupt caps slay me, too, for reasons I can't articulate. I've got your email, so you've been added. THANKS!

chris the cynic said...

Well Thomas isn't me exactly, but when I started writing I didn't know where I was going or what I was doing and I hadn't figured out character at all, and it's written in first person, and the end result was that Thomas has my voice and a lot of my traits. And, honestly, it's easier to say, "Author self insert," than, "Character I didn't put a lot of thought into at the start ended up with a lot of me in him by default."

Pqw, who used to be Laiima said...

I would like to join up as well.

I was (1) many years ago, sort of (5) [does conservative Roman Catholics count?]. Attended Catholic schools from grade 2 - 12. Unwillingly. Am currently (7).

Beyond that, I need practice reading things where the author *wants* my feedback. :)

Pqw, who used to be Laiima said...

That was supposed to say I'm not Laiima anymore. Drat.

BaseDeltaZero said...

So do we need to email specifically, or just comment? Can people with black titles get a response? I just want to know if I get rejected.

As for the Sue discussion, I was guilty of that with my first little idea... it was a... mess. It's since evolved into something a little more redeemable, and the character in question has become an actual character rather than, well, me...

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, I'm sorry! I wasn't clear. Everyone who has commented here saying they'd like to be involved has been added to the list. Disqus shows me your email addresses, so it's easy to add people as they comment. So, yes, you're definitely in. :)

chris the cynic said...

If I should start to seem like I have no idea who you are at any point, it's because I'm horrible with name changes. Hopefully that won't happen, but if it does I promise you it's nothing personal.

(I'm assuming your name will not always have a ", who used to be Laiima" attached.)

Pqw, who used to be Laiima said...

Despite wanting emotional distance from Laiima, I find I'm not comfortable just posting as if I were a totally new commenter. Since I've known some of you online people for years.

But yes, once I come up with a 'real' name, I'll ditch the other part.

Spouse is awful with names even when they don't change, so I'm used to it. :)

atrophia said...

De-lurking to volunteer for this as a former 1, 5, 7 (these days I've been identifying more as an atheist), and 8 (I consider myself pansexual, but I used the term bisexual a lot while I was still figuring myself out, and was glad to have it as a reference point).

Asha said...

I would like to help? (small voice) I'm (kinda) five (former Southern Baptist), seven, one, and eight. I would love to read some of your stuff.

Ana Mardoll said...

The initial bundle slash test email has gone out. If you don't receive it, let me know by email and I'll check to make sure your name was on the list and wasn't eaten by email gremlins.

If you're not on the list, but would like to be, the offer will remain indefinitely open for the foreseeable future, so drop me a line. :)

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