Your eyes suck.

No, not like they’re damaged or whatever. I mean maybe… If so… sorry about that. (Insert awkward staring at the floor here)

What I mean is that as a writer, you have a set of mental filters that actually keep you from seeing your writing for what it is. What it truly is.

Some writers, have the sparkle and shine filter that makes their work look as polished and ready for print as the fifteenth draft of some Cormac McCarthy novel. Most, have the broken and muddy filter that makes their work seem like it was scrawled on a cave by the idiot brother of the lady in charge of the good cave painting. Some carry both or even other, more rare filters fuelled by other, more rare neuroses.

Regardless, if your eyes are the only set that ever look at what you’ve written, than the truth about your work will always be obscured by whichever default filter(s) your brain possesses.

Thankfully, there is an easy-ish fix. Let other people read your work and listen to what they have to say.

Waitnothat’stooscarywhatiftheyhateit?Whatiftheyhateme?WhatifIlooklikeafool?Whatif…

Calm down, I said easy-ish. If you’ve never before let someone read your work, chances are some form of the above panic has crossed your mind. Handing over your word-child to be scrutinized by another can be a terrifying prospect. The thing is, in almost all situations, those worries aren’t justified.

You see, before others can actually read your work, they have to AGREE to read it. If you choose the people who critique your work carefully, then you’ll find that they’re almost always excited to read what you’ve written. So let them. Oh, and make sure you ask for feedback. Smiles and back slaps make for fuzzy feelings but notes and critique make for better writing.

“Notes and critique?” you ask.

Yup. Welcome to the land of alpha and beta readers. In part two and three I’ll talk about why they’re important to your writing and why being one for others is just as important. Stay tuned.

 

Click here to read more about my take on the importance and benefit of beta reading for others.

So, you’re deep into planning your nine book epic space fantasy focusing on twelve equally important families from different planets. What’s that you say? There are divorces and adoptions, and bastards? Oh My!

How are you going to keep all that straight? How much graph paper will you burn through trying to lay out this tangled web of genetics?

The answer could be “a lot” or “none.” I swear. Here, check this thing out.

I get jazzed about ancestry both in my books and real life. It’s like a scavenger/treasure/easter egg hunt all in one. I got deep into a search of my own heritage a few months ago and found a simple, streamlined family tree website called Family Echo. It’s easy to use and does a great job of organizing your info. I’ve managed to trace one of my family lines back to the 1500’s and the program handled the volume of data just fine. It would let me go on forever if I was able to do so.

The best part is, none of the people you add have to be real. Zorkblat born on Bleetnar Prime in 6743 P.C. can fit just as nicely as Bob Jones born in Akron, OH, in 1974 A.D. There are no restrictions to the data you enter and if you sign up (free, no spam) then you can save your progress and edit as you go. Here’s a quick mock-up to give you a taste of some of the features.

 

Family Echo Demo

 

If you’re a planner or more likely an over-planner, then you need to put this baby in your digital tool belt. Check it out, have fun, and you know, if you want to write me in as the grandparent of the mistress of the cousin of the main character, I’d be okay with that.