Posts Tagged ‘Beta Readers’


Before I start sending out query letters to those agents I’ve carefully researched, selected and spreadsheeted, I need to get my actual manuscript spiffed up and ready to send out a moment’s notice. Because when those requests for the full manuscript start pouring in I do not want to be caught cramming.

I still have not received all of the Beta Reader responses I am expecting, so I am waiting to make any changes to my story they call for. However one especially thoughtful Beta Reader (Thank you, Sandra!) went waaaaay above and beyond, and actually gave me about 20 pages of grammar and punctuation notes. And I am so very grateful, because I would have had to pay quite a lot of money to a professional editor to do that for me.

However, in my noobie brilliance, I provided my manuscript to my Beta Readers in a non-standard format so that it would be a) easier to read, and b) take way fewer pages to print it out. Then I slapped on a placeholder cover, some questions for my Betas and a table of contents, and converted the whole thing to a PDF for easy distribution. The thing is, all of Sandra’s beautiful notes are page-specific – that is page specific to the PDF. So it is much easier for me to make those corrections before I convert it to proper manuscript format, and completely change all of the page numbers forever.

But what, precisely, is “proper manuscript format”? Opinions vary. And that concerns me, because it shouldn’t be based on an opinion. I think it stems from the very real fact that different agents and publishers have different standards, or at least offer different definitions. After a lot of researching I have finally settled on the following definition (reprinted from The Editor’s Blog;


font:  Twelve point, Times New Roman (or Courier New, if you insist), black

margins:  One-inch marginson all four sides

indent:  Half-inch paragraph indentations (this tab is pre-set in MS Word) for the first line of each paragraph (even the first paragraph of a chapter)

space:  Double space; no extra line spaces between paragraphs

align:  Align left (not justified). The right edges will not be uniform or even.

page numbering:  Number pages beginning with the actual story (don’t count or put page numbers on the title page)

scene breaks:  Indicate scene breaks by inserting a blank line and centering the number sign # in the center of the line

page header:  Include your last name, your title (or keywords from the title), and the page number in the page header of every page except for the title page. Align the header to the right, so the information doesn’t interfere with the text of the manuscript. (Jones/Taming the Monster/1)

chapters:  Begin chapters on new pages (insert a page break or format using styles). Center the chapter title, even if it’s only Chapter One (or Chapter 1), about 1/3 of the way down the page. Skip a couple of spaces and begin the text of the chapter.

end:  Center a number sign # on an otherwise blank line one double-spaced line down from the final line of text of the final chapter or epilogue at the end of the manuscript. Or simply write The End. You want agents and editors to know they’ve reached the end.

italics:  Use italics for italicized words. (A former practice was to underline to show italicized words, but that’s no longer necessary unless an agent or publisher requests underlining.)

character spacing:  Use a single character space only, not two spaces, between sentences. If you forget this one, nobody’s going to turn down your manuscript because of it. It’s just a good habit to get into, especially for those of us who learned on typewriters and always added two spaces between sentences.

Include a title page—

contact info:  Aligned left and single spaced, near the top of the page, include contact information: Your real/legal name, address, phone number, e-mail address. Follow with the word count. Alternatively, you can set word count apart by listing it at the top of the right side of the title page.

title and author:  About 1/2 the way down the page, centered, enter the full manuscript title (all caps or mixed caps); on the next double-spaced line, type byor a novel by or a story by; on the next double-spaced line, add your pen name or your real name plus your pen name—Alexis Chesterfield writing as Billie Thomas

agent:  If you have an agent, include the agent’s contact name and information beneath your name (yes, skip a line)

page header:  Header information is not included on the title page. The title page is not included in page numbering.

sub-genre:  For some genres, including romance and sci-fi, you can include the sub-genre, such as suspense or Regency. Include this information either above or below the word count.

So this means I’m going to have to remove a lot of spaces, both character spaces and line spaces. I lay out magazines professionally for a living, and so I am formatting text for easy reading in a printed publication, often according to the particular style of the given publication. These are trade publications, with articles that are usually only of interest to members of a certain field or niche, such as defense lawyers, or dry cleaners, or ambulance drivers. To anyone else, in-depth articles about the fine points of new law, for example, would be quite dry. Sometimes these articles are very long a wordy. To make these long articles more readable, I always use two spaces between sentences and an extra space between every paragraph. And don’t indent paragraphs, since they are already visually separated. This is pretty standard for many magazines.

When I wrote my novel and prepared the manuscript for my Beta Readers, I naturally used these same methods. Now I’m going to have to find and remove all of the extra spaces and add indents. I’m hoping I can accomplish most of this using Find and Replace.

Now, I just have to finish fixing all of the mistakes Sandra pointed out. Then it’s off to Proper Manuscript Format Land!


Yeah, me either. And that’s a problem, because in the sequel to The Last Princess, I’m sending Cat Brökkenwier back there.

Book Two of the series* is tentatively called The Last Faerie Godmother.


Last FG Cover


The premise I’m building on is that a botched wish sends Cat back 500 years to the rein of the previous princess of the fae, where Cat must take her place. In this time, the fae are still mostly pure, although their numbers are dwindling, and so much of the story will take place in the wilds where the fae dwell.

But I also anticipate that there will be a great deal of interaction and mixing with the local humans, including kings and sheep farmers, and so forth. I’d like to incorporate a traditional Irish fairy tale into the plot, and have Cat get mixed up in that, as well.

What I’m missing is a feeling for what life was like in the late 1400s and early 1500 in Ireland. How did people live? What were their homes like? Are we talking Brave, or something else entirely? What was your daily routine if you weren’t living in the king’s castle? What did people believe?

I’ve been reading Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, and it has been quite instructive, but it gives very little detail about daily life and what things looked like and so forth. If you can recommend some resources I would be most grateful.

I also need to understand the politics and economy and so forth. I understand that Henry the VIII declared himself ruler around 1530, and everything changed. Before that I understand there were lots of local kings who were more like clan chiefs (again, think of Brave), and that’s the period I’m looking for.

Oh … who’s the last faerie godmother, you ask? The picture on the cover mock-up I’ve created is meant to be Cat’s elderly dryad mentor when she was young, coincidentally at the time to which Cat is sent back. But as Mrs. Dalyrimple tells Cat: “A fearie’s about the worst choice for a godmother you could possibly pick.” And in The Last Faerie Godmother you’ll find out exactly why. Think of Cinderella with political intrigue thrown in, and a faerie bent on revenge who meddles in the affairs of kings. And their daughters. Specifically a beautiful young girl named Trembling….**

I will be sending out copies of The Last Princess to those of you who have signed up to be Beta Readers later this week. So if you’re interested there’s still time to sign up! In the meantime, all of your Irish historians out there, your comments and suggestions are most welcome!




* I don’t have a name for the series, yet. I’m aiming for probably 5 books total. Perhaps the “Cat Brökkenwier Series” or the “Fae-Born Series.”

** There’s an Irish version of Cinderalla called Fair, Brown and Trembling, which could very well be the original version from which all later versions evolved.

Last Princess Cover 3


The time has (finally) come. We have finished and polished a complete and cohesive first draft of The Last Princess, and it comes out to just over 65,000 words. This is slightly long for typical middle grade books, but allowances are usually made for fantasy books.

In case you’re not familiar with my daughter’s and my WIP, here is a brief description:

Cat Brökkenwier has a secret — the ability to see that the descendents of faeries and elves and ogres still walk among us.  With the help of an ancient diary she learns she may be the last princess of all the fae.  Now Cat must learn all there is to know about the secret world of the fae-born and earn the crown before another, more sinister candidate beats her to it.  Or worse, before her mother finds out.

But before we start sending this out to agents, we need feedback from readers like you. Obviously we want this to be the best book it can be, and to make this happen we need to know what people who read think of it.

When you sign up below (or above via the Beta Reader Sign Up tab) we will send you the complete manuscript plus a few questions. These are easy questions; we certainly don’t expect you to write an in-depth page-by-page analysis. We just want to know if there are any major issue or rough spots that need to be smoothed. Of course, we also want to know what you particularly liked. So you know what you’re signing up for, here are the questions we’re asking:

1) Did you enjoy The Last Princess? Would you buy the sequel if there was one?

2) Was the language easy to follow and enjoyable to read? Did you have difficulty with characters’ accents?

4) Were you able to identify with the characters and did you find them interesting? In what way?

3) Were you able to “see” the locations? Did you feel they were overdescribed? Underdescribed?

4) Did the story make sense? Was there any point when you were confused? Please explain.

5) Was any part of the story boring? Was there any point or any characters that you did not like? Why?

6) Were you satisfied with the ending? Were you surprised? Were you expecting something different?

7) Were there any loose ends that we did not tie up for you?  (Obviously, some things were left up in the air for a possible sequel).

8) Do you have any questions for us?

If this book appeals to you and these questions don’t seem too daunting, we’d be delighted to share our manuscript with you. Please provide your contact information, your real name (in case we wish to acknowledge you in print), the kinds of books you typically read, and when you think you will be able to get back to us with your answers. Then get ready for an adventure (we hope!)

Thank you in advance!