I’d met Andrew and Heather in college. Andrew and I sat at the same table in our astronomy class; Heather sat next to me in our Plato class. They are both two of the smartest and most interesting people I know., and they saved my life as a writer.
After getting hammered by a constant string of rejections, my confidence waned and I began to question my skill as a writer. After countless affirmations that I was at lest a decent writer, I knew something was wrong with the manuscript. I just couldn’t see what it was. I was getting tired of reading the same thing over and over again. I needed a change, so I sent out a call on Facebook in search of a few valiant souls, brave enough to venture through my manuscript. Of course a few of my friends reached out, and I got some great feedback. But it wasn’t until Heather and Andrew took the task that I figured out what was missing.
Lisa had helped establish my roots in writing. She taught me the fundamentals, the aspects of writing that are the skeleton and foundation of the craft; that which is essential for good writing in every genre. But there was an aspect that each of us were missing as we critique each other’s work—genre flavor.
I wrote about genre flavor in a previous blog, which you can find here. Basically, each genre has its unique flavor and sense of flair. In fantasy, there is no shortage of abstract names, proper nouns, and crazy creatures. Moreover, in a high fantasy world the many novelties and unique milieu are explained as the story progresses, without sounding like an info dump. Antagonists in adult books tend to be complex and relatable; antagonists in genres for younger kids might be pure evil, like Tolkien’s Saruman.
So, when Andrew read about the main antagonist in the book, and expressed in his notes that he would have thrown the book across the room if it wasn’t on his computer, I instantly knew what Age of Darkness needed—genre beta readers. Meanwhile, Heather had been devouring short stories with editorial passion, and looked at my manuscript with new eyes.