Second Collection: Title Announcement, Betas Wanted

As most readers of this blog surely know by now, back in 2014 I published a collection of my poetry, both in paperback and on Kindle. Some of you may also be aware that I’m currently working on a second collection. I have one item of news about this project, and there is one part of it with which I would like the help of some of my readers. Continue reading

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Help wanted

Most of you know by now that I have several major long-term projects that I’m working on. I call them my “magna opera“, “great works” in the sense of “really big works.” And while I have accepted them as my tasks, there are a few points on which I could use, and would like, your help. (For future reference, I try to keep this page up to date with my currently-relevant requests-for-comment, pleas for assistance, and other help-wanted type posts.)

Most generally, I would like your thoughts—comments, questions, criticism, suggestions, or just about anything else—on any or every part of my work (posted here or elsewhere). Nothing is so polished that it cannnot be improved. (Quite the contrary!) But these are some more specific items.

The first project that comes to hand is my poetry. After posting a poem a week for the last year and a half, I’ve accumulated a rather substantial archive, so I’d like to create a collection of my best work. But I need your help deciding which poems are my best.

My second major project is the Shine Cycle, my planned fantasy series, which is mostly still in the preparation stages. There are several ways you can help me here:

And the last major project is Strategic Primer, a strategy game that I’m designing. The current campaign still needs players, or, if jumping into the middle of an existing campaign doesn’t interest you, if enough players show interest I can start another campaign. If you don’t feel like playing, I can use a consultant for balance and design issues. And there are a few specific questions I’ve asked for your help on. For example, I’ve asked for ideas for a list of possible orders and for help brainstorming what features a suite of “assistive programs” should have.

Do any of these look like something you’d like to do? And how can I help you?

First readers wanted!

Most of you know that I’m an aspiring author of fiction and an occasional poet; background essays on the characters and world of my planned fantasy series appear in this space on Mondays, and my poems on Fridays.

Over a year ago I wrote a post explaining why I want feedback from my readers: I am my own worst critic. Since then I’ve had quite a bit of helpful encouragement from a few readers, and after requesting help preparing for WEbook’s PageToFame contest I’ve received some very helpful criticism.

But if my writing is to become any good, or in any case to improve, I need more than a little criticism, no matter how excellent, here and there. And anything that I want to get published shouldn’t be posted here, so it’s rather unlikely to get any criticism at present.

This is why I’m looking for a “first reader,” known in some circles as a “beta.” Someone I can send my work to and get back something more substantial than “I like it” from. (And preferably more than one.)

If you’re a writer (particularly of Christian or otherwise mythopoeic speculative fiction or fantasy) or poet yourself, I would most likely be delighted to be one of your first readers too.

(And if you’d be willing or interested but are worried you wouldn’t be any good, that can be remedied: there are various resources available to help improve critique. For instance, Patricia Wrede (of the worldbuilding questions, which I’ve been working my way through off and on for a couple of years now) recently had a few posts on her blog about critique, and I also finally found the list of questions for a “revising conference” from tenth grade, which I’ve been looking for to critique my own work for a while now.)

If you think you might be willing to become one of my “first readers,” please contact me. Thank you!

Why feedback is valuable, &c.

Every poem I’ve posted on my blog has, in the accompanying text (along with links to the other places I post the poems), included a plea for “feedback” of any kind. While this hasn’t yet borne much fruit, I’d like to explain why I add this to every poem.

I am my own worst critic. Given a space of time between the composition of a piece and a reread, with very few exceptions I will think it is in drastic need of revision. (Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I have even less skill in revising poetry than I do in writing it.) This decline in my opinion of a piece may or may not have any relationship to its real faults; the trouble is that I don’t know.

But I am not writing to please myself. Other than the few poems that I write on self-commission (for birthdays, one wedding so far, etc.), I generally write poems as they come to me, but if this is a good gift (since “every good gift comes from above”) it was given for a purpose, including at least delight and edification, and I am certain that my work is intended for a wider audience. At present, that wider audience is you.

I first got started writing (way back in fourth grade) with what would now be called fan-fiction set in the wider world of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. But I am afraid that of the bad qualities that peculiarly beset writers, I combine those of the other two major Inklings: I have Tolkien’s unwillingness to publish anything (prose-wise) that isn’t Just Right, and Charles Williams’ unpleasant tendency toward impenetrable allusion (etc.). The former can be resisted by setting deadlines for myself; the latter cannot be detected without the help of readers, since any allusion I make will almost certainly be one I can comprehend.

If I post something you like, say so. Clicking the Facebook “Like” button is a small encouragement, but not very informative, because it doesn’t tell me whether you liked that piece better than something else I posted last week, and in particular it tells me nothing about *why* you liked the piece. A comment saying why you liked it would be more helpful. If you didn’t like a piece for some reason, say so. Similarly, if you didn’t understand something, it’s possible that I might be able to improve it so you can understand it, or at minimum post add a note to the attached text. And even if you thought you understood something, it’s possible you didn’t get what I intended. (If you have time and effort to spare, it would be particularly helpful if you wrote a more substantive critique and posted it on your blog or in a Facebook Note and linked to my piece from it, or merely posted it is a lengthy comment.)

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll continue posting my backlog of poetry. If I’m calculating correctly, I expect to have on the order of sixty poems posted when I run out. This is nearing enough to fill a book. If and when I ever submit them to a publisher or use some print-on-demand service like Lulu, I want to have a book be my best work–and I have very little aptitude at recognizing my own best work. Your comments–and there are a few of my friends whose advice I particularly trust–will help me determine which of my poems are the best.

And one more thing. Poems are generally individual pieces that stand by themselves and do not relate to each other very much, and so I can just post them in a random order. But prose is different. It’s highly sequential, with subsequent chapters depending heavily on what’s come before. And it’s very much the fruit of my labor more than something that “comes to me,” but it’s even harder for me to revise properly without waiting several months than poetry. So I would very much like to have someone, or a group of people, to whom I could send prose for them to check it over before I post it, looking for obvious or less-obvious errors, mistakes, or other flaws and helping me to revise. (Any volunteers?)

So … comments?