View this email in your browser
Danielle Miceli

🌼 April 30th, 2020 🌼


What’s New?

Is there anything new?? I wouldn’t know; I’ve been so busy racing my beta readers to apply CP feedback before sending off each new set of chapters. Spoiler alert: this is something I did that I do not recommend, but more on that later! Suffice to say, April was a massive blur. I told a friend recently I’ve basically spent the entire month crying: happy tears, sad tears, grateful tears, frustrated tears, stressed tears, elated tears...but I’ve learned so much, about myself and the beta process. The next time I do this, I think I can drastically reduce the number of negative emotions, and better appreciate the many positives. And I hope, by the end of this newsletter, I can help set you up to do the same! 
  1. Beta Readers Reach the Halfway Point: First, a more personal update (feel free to scroll past it, of course). As stated above, this process consumed much more of my time than I intended, and it’s my own fault. 🙈 But it’s also been more than worth it already. My beta readers blow me away. I selected each of them for specific reasons, and they have NOT disappointed. They are keen, constructive, and kind, and I know my book is going to end up far better because of their assistance.

    And then there’s the other, equally important side of the coin--they are quick to point out everything they love, too. Remember those happy, elated tears I mentioned? They stem from a deep sense of validation on a scale I’ve never felt before. My betas challenge me every week to admit my WIP deserves to become a book.

    Writing a novel can be such a solitary occupation. You work alone, in your spare time, often at home, with absolutely no one but yourself to hold you accountable. For a long while, there’s no consequence outside of your own disappointment for shelving a project, and the urge to give up is a constant siren song. So to finally arrive at a point where other people are growing the slightest bit invested in seeing Aevelynne’s story become a real book is a feeling unlike any other. The stakes are higher than just me, now, and that’s a wonderful thing. Because as we all know, without stakes, there is no story.

    Sure, I still have plenty of doubts. Still so much fear that any week now, my good luck will run out, and people will stop enjoying my book. Maybe they’ll hate the ending so much it’ll ruin the rest of it for them. Or story won’t be the problem; maybe it’s me. What if I just can’t handle the process of creating a book? What if I’m too slow to keep up with my various publishing deadlines? What if I can’t fix everything I need to? What if I can’t endure the pressure and the inevitable poor reviews?

    My mind is exhausted. Each week is a new struggle to keep my head above water. I’ve never edited so fast before--it’s allowed me to catch a ton of sneakier errors, and also set me completely on edge. BUT. Every character aesthetic a beta reader makes for me, every time they’ve felt compelled to DM me just to squeal about what part of my book they’re up to or make predictions, every bit of praise and hilarious feedback they include in their questionnaires, the all-caps rants….those thing are keeping me afloat. They remind me why I want to be a published author so, so badly.

    Some days I shake my head and wonder how I got here. And for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to believe my book is truly worth publishing. Thank you to everyone who’s reading this, beta or not, for helping me forge that belief. I couldn’t have done it without you. 💖

Writing Update

I hope this goes without saying, but for the record: the following advice is only my personal take-away from my own experience; I’m not claiming to know the perfect best practices. My own strengths and weaknesses informed how I ran my beta process, as well as the types of advice I’ll be focusing on below. 

  1. Tips for writers BEFORE the Beta Process: TO BE CLEAR, I mean immediately before. There’s tons of work you should do to prepare your WIP before you ever consider sending it off to beta readers, but here, I’ll be discussing the set-up/recruiting phase, assuming you’ve readied your manuscript.
    1. Make an application for potential beta readers. I’m surprised how infrequently I’ve seen others do this! I get it; it’s hard enough to ask people to read your whole book, so sending them a survey can feel like an imposition. But the application isn’t just for your benefit--it helps potential readers, too. You want them to know exactly what they’re signing up for, so you can minimize the chance of someone dropping out later over unclear expectations. 

      Plus, if someone can’t be bothered to fill out a short survey, how dedicated will they be when they need to answer many in-depth questions about your book? You want to make sure you’re selecting the best fit for your book baby from a pool of people who are genuinely interested and taking it seriously.

      Here are some essentials to consider including in your application: 
      -A book blurb/pitch.
      -Your WIP’s genre and sub-genres.
      -Your WIP’s age category (e.g. YA, NA, Adult, Middle grade).
      -Any trigger/content warnings.
      -A straightforward and accurate breakdown of your timeline, how many chapters/words a week they’ll need to read, and how often they can expect to answer questions (Weekly? Only at the very end?).
      -Solicit their opinions on any aspect of your book you worry may be a deal-breaker for some readers.

      I also like to include questions about their demographic information (it’s useful for anticipating your target audience and framing their feedback later), reading preferences (tropes they love and hate, preferred genres), if they’ve had prior experience beta reading (and for who), and why they’d like to beta read for me/this story.

      I created my survey with Google Forms, which is free and extremely easy to use. If you’d like an example to play with or shape into your own application, I edited mine into a generic template! Just reply to this email or DM me if you’d like a copy. 🥰

    2. Don’t say yes to more than around 10 people at a time. I failed hard at this one. When far more people than I expected volunteered, I struggled to say no. My goal was to find 10 writers/readers from our online community, then add 2 offline friends, and one family member. Turns out, not only did more friends offer to help, but way more members of the writing community applied than I ever expected. Even though I ended up taking on about double the betas I intended 😶, I still had to turn away more than 10 people from this round, and it sucked. 

      If you find yourself in a similar situation, you might want to consider holding multiple beta rounds. I plan to run a less intensive second round of betas later this summer, and I reached out right away to the incredible applicants I wasn’t able to squeeze into my current round to see if they’d be willing to join round two. For me, it really helped take the edge off saying no, and gave me another metric for deciding who should be a part of which round. Since the vast majority of my applicants seemed like great fits, it often came down to scheduling. Did one person have availability later in the year, while another was only available now? Many people who could read for me later were delegated to the second group.

      I'll be frank--it’s also important not to saturate your first beta round with all your top picks, because you want to leave some of those readers for subsequent rounds (if you have them). There are so many benefits to having a second round of betas look at your work after you’ve implemented feedback from your first readers. It will be incredibly helpful to run my changes by a new audience, and confirm if I’ve solved any issues, or if the new readers still point out the same (or different) problem areas.

    3. Use Google Forms to collect feedback. My husband completely converted me to this method. You can build your questionnaires however you like--using multiple choice, sliding scales of 1 - 5, short and long responses, grids...pretty much any method for collecting data you can think of. But the best part about Forms is they make sifting through feedback so much easier. You can choose to view responses by individual person, by question, or see a summary that organizes all the answers to each question in one place (everyone’s favorite parts, everyone’s least favorite, all the inconsistencies, etc. already grouped together for you).

      This also helps grant perspective when you take in the feedback. It’s easy to feel bogged down by one person who wasn’t feeling a particular section of your book, because question after question on their form is lukewarm. However, if you’re reading through everyone’s answers to a given question, you’ll be able to better see if this is truly a section you should be concerned about (and that's okay if it is--at least now you know!), or if the mild reaction is the odd man out in a sea of people who loved it.

      For this reason, I recommend including at least one scale of 1 - 5 question in your forms, asking readers to rate their current enjoyment of the story. That way, as feedback rolls in, you can see what percentage of readers rated any given section a 3 vs. a 5, for example. You can even view it in a graph or a pie chart, if you prefer. This summary view helps temper my anxiety greatly, and forces me to notice when the majority of readers like something, rather than getting stuck on those who didn’t.

      I haven’t made a template out of my beta questionnaires as of yet--but would that be something you’d find useful? Let me know! 😉

    4. Ask the “throw-away” questions. Maybe you know imagery has always been your strong suit, and so you’re thinking you won’t consistently ask how easy it is for readers to envision your settings. After all, you don’t want your questionnaires to drag on for too long, so it seems like a reasonable thing to omit, right?

      Well--not really! I recommend you craft your questionnaires with as humble an attitude as possible, assuming you may be missing the mark on even your biggest strengths. Because sure, your imagery might be on point...but what if there’s not enough of it? What if you take for granted how easily descriptive language comes to you, and therefore didn't pay as much attention to incorporating all five senses when setting new scenes?

      I’m so glad I asked even the questions I felt confident in. It’s embarrassing when you realize you’ve left out something that comes naturally to you, but it’s also an easy fix, if someone points it out! And on the flip-side, there will definitely be questions you dread asking, convinced they will highlight huge weaknesses, that end up providing pleasantly surprising feedback!
    5. Finish your pre-beta edits before you start. If I could change one thing about my first foray into this process, it would 100% be this. I’d be enjoying this stage so much more if I didn’t have to scramble to apply edits last minute every week. That sort of anxiety encourages me to obsessively tweak EVERYTHING, and I spend all week in a craze of preparation that makes it impossible to simultaneously enjoy the excitement rolling in from last week’s set of chapters. But I’m stuck here, and I have to find balance in the tiny ways I can.

      So please, in the name of all that is holy and dear to you, DON’T DO THIS. If you need to delay your intended start date by a week or two to finish preparing your manuscript, no one is going to hate you. It’s worth it for you to be able to spend your time processing your story alongside betas, instead of constantly falling behind them. If you ignore every other bit of advice I give you, please trust me on this one. 💖

  2. Tips for writers DURING the Beta Process: I’m still in the thick of it myself, and the hardest part of this middle phase for me is processing feedback. I’ve learned that there are different ways to be bad at receiving constructive criticism. Typically, we imagine people who can’t take criticism are resistant to change anything, defensive, or downright belligerent. Those who refuse to see fault in their own work, and expect only validation when asking for critique. But there’s another, more innocuous way to be bad at it.

    I always thought, since I accept criticism graciously, value it highly, and never turn it away, I must be good at receiving it. But I’m not. I’m actually quite awful at it, because I’m prone to let it take over my own perception of my book. It's like I expect there to be something unworthy at the root of everything I create, and when someone makes a suggestion, however kind, my instinct is to log that as proof my book isn’t good enough. Proof I can’t write as well as I believe I can. Impostor syndrome sinks its teeth into me, and I cede all my power to my critics.

    The following advice helps me stay in control, and take constructive criticism at face value, without attaching it to my own self worth.
    1. Don’t read feedback as it comes in. Sound impossible? It almost is, especially at the beginning! So since I know you’re not going to listen to me on this one--do it. Do it for one full day. Give it two days. Three. How do you feel? If you just feel awesome, then you’ve either written a flawless masterpiece, your beta readers are holding back, OR, you’re a healthy, confident person with tough skin and solid self esteem, in which case, PLEASE TEACH ME YOUR WAYS (and you may not need this piece of advice).

      In all seriousness: most of my feedback has been very positive, and yet, I cried like a baby every couple of hours those first few days. I constantly refreshed my phone, and couldn’t focus on daily tasks. If something rolled in on the milder side of approval, it crushed my soul and ruined my mood. I hope your reactions won’t be as dramatic as mine. But even if they’re half as potent, it sucks. It sucks to live on a roller coaster of alternating elation and rejection, and I would’ve gone insane if I continued down that path.

      So instead, I came up with a routine. Every morning, over coffee, my husband and I read through whatever feedback I had together. Then I’d work through my feelings, lament my shortcomings, bounce new ideas off Nick and strategize improvement. He’d have to remind me to also celebrate the praise. Then, I’d go about the rest of my day, and NOT look at any new feedback until the following morning.

      That was better, but after the first week, I found it still wasn’t enough distance for me. I switched it to every other day. And now? I take in my feedback once at the end of each week. After I’ve sent new chapters off to my betas, I go and see what they thought of last week’s set. I do cheat on occasion, peeking to see who’s already read through everything, and to look at answers to “safe” or fun questions every now and then, but for the most part, I ignore the feedback until the weekend. Once I did this, I stopped having to put Baileys in my coffee. 🙃

      Your ideal pace will probably be different from mine. Maybe checking feedback once every day will work well for you! Or maybe you’ll resist looking at anything until the very end, but I personally could never wait that long. 😅 If you’re handling the constant influx of opinions on your book baby just fine, disregard this point. But if it’s getting to you, I sincerely recommend you control when and where you take in feedback, and limit it to no more than once a day. It really helps.

    2. Don’t. Skim. The good stuff. My perfectionist instinct is to regard positive comments, unless they’re glowing, with relief instead of joy. Like okay, whew, glad I didn’t screw that up. Early on, I became super preoccupied with the criticisms, because I wasn’t allowing myself time to absorb the praise. Again, I cannot recommend including scale of 1-5 questions in Google Forms enough. When I glanced at the percentages, I’d always be surprised by how highly the chapters ranked overall, given how much I’d fixated on every flaw. That zoomed out perspective helped immensely.

      I subconsciously converted “good” to “passable,” turning compliments into mere check marks of approval. Please don’t do this to yourself! Don’t underestimate the sincerity of your beta readers when they gush about how much they loved a character, a scene, your whole damn book. Slow down the same way you do when you’re reading their suggestions for improvement. Drink in the praise and love with the same serious intention. Acknowledging your strengths can help your book as much as acknowledging your weaknesses. 

    3. Do something else. Some ambitious folks prefer to incorporate beta feedback as they receive it, and if that’s your style, or you’re on a tight deadline, by all means, go for it! But I honestly think the feedback will have its fullest impact if you can wait until you have all of it at the end of the process. There may be things you want to change the moment someone points them out, but those changes  might not make as much sense by the end, when you (and your readers) consider the manuscript as a whole. Or, more likely, you may find a different, better way to go about fixing it, if you wait for the wider perspective before acting on early suggestions.

      Plus, I really believe the beta stage should be as enjoyable as possible. Refresh your creative well. Read and play video games and go for walks outside or whatever else recharges you. Chat with your betas over DM (this is my favorite 🥰). Plan out or dream up the next steps for your book’s journey and let ideas for edits rattle around in your head while you process incoming feedback. This is your opportunity for a small break before you go right back into potentially deep edits with a fervor. And I personally think edits always end up better if you give yourself some distance from your book, first.

      Because of my situation, this isn’t an option for me, and it’s my biggest regret regarding this process. I’d love the space to savor the good feedback and digest the harder stuff in a timely fashion, rather than always being many questionnaires behind my readers. I wish I had more time available to care for myself while this is going on, to rest, to engage with my betas on the fun stuff.  If you don’t have to, don’t rush this process. Your sanity, and ultimately, your book, will thank you for it. 💖
As for how to wrap up the beta process AFTER all your feedback comes in, well, I’m not there yet! But rest assured, once I am, I plan on including my survival tips for organizing and implementing beta feedback, as well as anything else that surprises me in the “after” stage, in a future newsletter. 💕

April Reads

Remember how last month, I said I’d make time to read IF I COULD RESIST THE URGE TO CONTINUE TO TWEAK EACH BATCH OF WEEKLY CHAPTERS BEFORE I SENT THEM TO BETA READERS? Well, assuming you read the above sections, you know how well that worked out. I’m more full-time hustle on this book than ever. Which is why I’m seriously (seriously) taking a short break from writing this June. I’ve been constantly editing my book for the past 2 years, and when I come back to it in July, I want to be ready to implement my beta feedback with a fresh perspective and renewed vigor!

I’ve only been able to (just barely) keep up with my two gorgeous CPs, who’ve been extremely patient with me. Thank you, Katie and Lina, for understanding. I can’t wait to give your worlds the attention they deserve come June! I also plan to wrap up some alpha reading responsibilities, beta read two new stories I’m dying to dive into, and buddy read indie novels. And I want to shamelessly play a lot of Animal Crossing. 😅

But as for will be more of this constant insanity and sparse free time. I only have ONE MORE MONTH of this insane pace. Looking forward to celebrating with all of you at the end of it!!


Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read this email. I know it was a giant one, but I sincerely hope you found it useful! I’m so endlessly grateful for all your love and support as I forge my own rocky, forked path toward publication. My inbox, DMs, P.O. box, etc. are always open to each of you!


Caleb tax:


Upcoming fantasy author, new mom, D&D addict, Gemini, Slytherclaw, lover of raw dough, wants to be your friend. 💕

Copyright © 2020 Danielle Miceli, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp