The Journal: Moving, and The First Reader

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Moving to MailerLite
* Topic: The First Reader
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“Binance executive Patrick Hillmann alleges hackers successfully used an AI-generated hologram to impersonate him on video calls with cryptocurrency firms….” Techjuice (Science fiction ideas, anyone?)

“No passion in the world, no love or hate, is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” H. G. Wells

Moving to MailerLite

Hello everyone. This post will come to you twice today if everything works as planned.

You will receive this one at 10 a.m. from MailChimp, but you should receive a second, identical one at 11 a.m. from MailerLite. (I’ll receive them both as well, so no need to report-in. [grin])

Then, if all goes as planned, beginning tomorrow you’ll receive new posts from the Journal at 11 a.m. from MailerLite and I’ll close down that other mess.

I’ll also be working to put a new sign-up form on the website in case anyone else wants to subscribe. So I’m taking the Subscribe link off the Journal site today.

Note: I believe I transferred all subscribers. If you receive this at 10 but NOT at 11, please let me know (email and I’ll add you to the list at MailerLite.

Topic: The First Reader

As a followup to yesterday’s post on copyediting, I thought I’d explain what I do instead of copyediting my own work or hiring a copyeditor.

After my manuscript is finished and I’ve cycled through the last bit, I routinely conduct a couple of find and replace operations.

First, I search for two or more consecutive spaces and replace them with a single space. Then I search for the paragraph mark with a space following it (^p ) and replace that with a paragraph mark followed by nothing.

On both searches, I click Replace All until the little message reads “All done. We made 0 replacements.” The whole operation takes maybe 10 seconds.

After that, I run the Microsoft Word contextual spell checker. (In Microsoft Word, click File, then Options, then look for a reference to contextual spell checking. In the latest version of Word, there is no box to check. The spell checker automatically checks for context too.) That spell check takes maybe five minutes, and when it’s finished, I save the file, then save it as PDF, and send the PDF file, usually right then, to my first reader.

My first reader isn’t a writer at all, so he isn’t tempted to “improve” my work (see the second Quote of the Day). But he’s an avid reader, and he seems to really enjoy my stories. He reads them for pleasure, like I do when I’m cycling. If something pops out at him (wrong word, inconsistency), he makes a note of it and keeps reading.

He never says a word about how he would have written it, or recommends any plot twists or “improvements,” or any of that. Just “Hey, you dropped the ‘ed’ off a past-tense word here” (I do that a lot) or “You used a 0 (zero) instead of an o in this guy’s name” or “Mary Lou was wearing a brown jacket early in the scene and a blue jacket a few minutes later” (inconsistency).

When he sends his notes back to me, I make the changes that I agree with. Then I work up a promo doc; title, author name, genre, a brief teaser that does NOT talk about any plot points, suggested search terms, and the URLs of where the book can be found. I fill those in after I publish it. And I’m done.

A word on “beta readers” — I’ve never had a beta reader, but I often hear writers talking about how valuable their beta reader’s critical input was. Usually they mention their beta reader found a “plot hole” or suggested a new plot twist or some other story-content issue.

If you want to invite others to critique and second-guess your characters, that’s your business. Doesn’t affect my bottom line, so I don’t care. But don’t confuse that “beta reader” (critic) with a first reader. Not the same thing At All.

So what makes a good first reader? 

1. Don’t read critically. In other words, don’t “look for” anything. Be lost in the story and just read for pleasure. This is extremely important.

2. No need to reference page numbers. Page numbers change depending on your computer screen, magnification, etc. so any reference to them is basically useless.

3. If something pops out at you (wrong words, typos, inconsistencies) as you read, make a quick note of it, then go back to reading. There are two good ways to do that:

a. You can highlight the offending section on the screen (please use a green or blue highlight so I can see it more easily). If you know how to add a comment off to the side (available in both Word and PDF) you can do that too, but it isn’t necessary. Or

b. You can open a Notepad or other document, then copy/paste a few exact words from the offending section (so I can find it more easily with a search).

4. Likewise, if you encounter something that really confuses you or knocks you out of the story, tell me about that too. I hope that won’t happen, but don’t spare my feelings. I’m trusting you for the truth. If you aren’t sure of the problem, just let me know where in the novel it happened. Maybe quote the nearest sentence so I can find it more easily.

5. When you’ve finished reading the novel, send back either the highlighted (marked up) Word or PDF document or send the Notepad document (or both if you want) via email attachment.

That’s it. Easy peasy, really. Again, you’re only reading for pleasure. The only difference is that this time you have direct input to the author to tell him what you think. (grin)

What I don’t need and probably will ignore:

▪ Even if you’re a writer, don’t tell me how you would have written it. It isn’t relevant. That’s why I don’t do critique groups.

▪ Don’t worry about my “style” of writing. Again, it isn’t relevant.

▪ Please don’t offer me any writing advice or advice on story content unless you’ve written and published at least a few dozen novels.

Finally, does a first reader “replace” a copyeditor?

No. If you don’t have a really solid grounding in grammar, syntax and punctuation plus a hyper-sensitivity to the nuances of the language, chances are you need a copyeditor. For more on that, see yesterday’s post.

Talk with you later.

Of Interest

See “Radio Dreams Fulfilled” at

See “8 Essential and Creative Recommendations …” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1080 words

Writing of (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for August……… 13935
Total fiction words for the year………… 66431
Total nonfiction words for August… 16760
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 123000
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 189431

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: Along with discussing various aspects of the writing craft, I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. WITD is “the only way” to write, but it is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun.