Tag Archives: editing

Who would like an Advance Review Copy of The Big Smoke?

Exciting times! I’ve now gone through all of the line edits from my copy editor for The Big Smoke, and I’m thrilled with his recommendations. I feel like he really ‘gets’ the novel and its characters, and his feedback has helped to iron out any minor issues and given me ideas where I can take scenes that little bit further. The writing is also more concise now, with almost 10,000 words culled from the total word count.

Thankfully, it seems he’s enjoyed the process as well, judging by the feedback I received from him:

I’ve edited and reviewed writing by many well-known Australian authors, and have also mentored a large number of emerging writers as they’ve worked toward publication. Working with you on The Big Smoke has certainly been among the most enjoyable of all these experiences.

What you achieve in this novel is significant. With authentic characters you take the reader through those momentous transitions young people make, from school to tertiary study and from country to city. Ceara and Seb are truly brought to life, each at the centre of a network of friends and family – and there’s just enough overlap in those networks to ensure that readers can keep their bearings with ease.

It’s a rare first novel that runs beyond 100,000 words and sustains interest throughout. That this is achieved reflects the strength of the central characters, and the immediacy they are given in your first person narrative strands. Capturing the ebb and flow of relationships is no easy thing, and you do this very well indeed through the skilful depiction of a whole spectrum of friends and acquaintances. You have a great ear for dialogue, and your evocation of an emotional landscape will resonate with many readers.  The Big Smoke is a polished and memorable piece of writing.

Isn’t that awesome? Warm fuzzies!

By the end of this weekend, the content of The Big Smoke will be finished. Done. Like I said, exciting times!! This means that I’ll soon be able to give people Advanced Review Copies in e-book format. So, who’s keen to read a contemporary realistic novel of the new adult variety? You’re under no obligation to give the book a positive review (or any review at all) if you don’t enjoy it. If you do enjoy it, feel free to post a review on your blog, on Amazon, on Good Reads, on a billboard… 😉

In case you’ve forgotten/don’t know what the book’s about, here’s the blurb:

Ceara’s desperate for love; Seb’s desperate to get laid. Ceara adores reading novels; Seb hasn’t finished a book in years. Two strangers, both moving from small country towns to Brisbane – the big smoke. As they prepare to attend the same university, their paths seem set to collide, but they keep missing each other. Maybe fate is keeping them apart, or maybe it’s just chance.

When the semester starts, things get complicated. Ceara’s best friend withdraws from her, Seb’s closest mate turns into a sleazebag, and the relentless demands of university make their stress levels soar. Before their first semester is over, both Seb and Ceara will be forced to question who they are and what they want from their lives. Will they have the courage to find the answers, or will they crumble under the pressure? And when they finally meet, will it be love at first sight or a collision of headstrong personalities?

The book will be available as an ARC in MOBI, Kindle and PDF formats, which means it will be readable on all e-reader devices (I think. Correct me if I’m wrong!).

So, what do you reckon? 

Fancy giving The Big Smoke a bash? You can read the first two chapters if you’d like to get a taste of the book before deciding. If you’d like an ARC, leave a comment or drop me an email at callyjackson at gmail dot com. Feel free to spread the word…



Filed under Editing, New Adult fiction, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

Bring on beta reader round two!

You may have noticed that it’s been ages a little while since I’ve blogged about my progress on my WiP, The Big Smoke. That’s because, well… there hasn’t been much progress – until recently. Don’t get me wrong, I was doing a lot of thinking about my book and the feedback from my first group of beta readers, I just wasn’t making many hard and fast decisions about what changes to make. I guess I just needed some time for the ideas to percolate.

And percolate they did. Last week, I finally got my butt back in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard and made the hard decisions. And you know what? I’m really happy with how it’s come together. My beta readers helped me to see my work through different eyes and gave me some awesome ideas about where I could push things just that little bit further to really ramp up the tension.

So now that the changes are done, the manuscript is off to beta reader group two! My original plan was to get it to this group in December last year – hah! What high hopes I had. 😉 The last group received The Big Smoke in three chunks, whereas the new group will get it in one hit, so I’m looking forward to their feedback in terms of overall consistency and repetition that may not have been apparent to the first group (plus their opinions on anything else, of course).

I’ve asked the second group to give me their feedback within six to eight weeks, and while I’m waiting, I’ll be doing a lot more research into the Australian self publishing market (more on this soon) and starting to plot my next book. YAH!! How exciting is that?! I’ve been working on The Big Smoke (previously Tangled, previously Entwined…) for SO long, I can’t wait to create some new characters. My next book will still be young adult, but it’s going to have some historical and science fiction-y elements too. Can’t wait!

Your turn

How’s your writing going? Hit any major milestones recently? Or, avoiding making any hard decisions? 🙂


Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Writing

The beauty of subjectivity

Last week, I posted about my lack of motivation to make changes to my work-in-progress The Big Smoke based on my beta readers’ feedback. I’m pleased to report that I spent quite a number of hours on the weekend reading through all of the feedback and deciding what to take on board.

I received feedback from seven beta readers and overall the comments were amazingly positive and encouraging. But one of the most fascinating things about the feedback was the huge variance in readers’ opinions. Each person enjoyed a different aspect of the plot, preferred different characters, and took something different from the story overall.

Here’s some of the feedback to show what you mean.

About Ceara’s story line

“There’s a lot going on in her story but you’ve set it all up well so it’s very believable and not at all difficult to follow.”

“Right now there are a lot of underlying plot threads, and I’m not sure how they contribute to the overall character arc.”

About Seb

“It seemed like you took a little while to settle comfortably into Seb. His first scene at the dam felt a little clunky and forced.”

“I really enjoyed the scene with Seb and his dad at the dam because it was so well described and well written. The reader gets a really good understanding of their relationship. Love it.”

“I enjoyed EVERY MOMENT of Seb’s narration. You did an amazing job narrating as Seb. He was witty, and very realistic.”

Who is your favourite character so far and why?

“I love Seb. He just seems so… tortured. Trying to be adult, but kind of sucking at it.”

“I like Ceara because I can relate to her.”

“Seb. He’s a bit of alright and I’m female so I should like the hero. He is a bit of an underdog and I’ll always barrack for an underdog.”

“This might surprise you, but Ceara by far.”

About a passage comparing two girls

“Wow, this is really good. Such an imaginatively descriptive passage.”

“Love this comparison.”

“I would cut this, it’s a little too insulting.”

Is there anything you would cut from what you’ve read so far?

“Not at all”


“No, keep it all as it is.”

“I feel like some subplots need to be cut, and others expanded.”


As you can see, there’s a LOT of varying opinions there. Originally, I found this really confusing. I mean, how was I supposed to know what changes to make if all of the feedback I got was conflicting? GAH!

But then I realized something: I was looking at it entirely the wrong way. The fact that everybody took something different from my story demonstrates that it’s complex and multi-layered (which I want it to be), and also shows that each person brought their individual perspective to the reading experience. And really, isn’t that one of the coolest parts about reading? i.e. finishing a book then discussing it – maybe even arguing about it – with friends who’ve read it too? That’s the beauty of the reading experience: the beauty of subjectivity. If everyone had the same taste and opinions, there wouldn’t be such an amazing variety of genres and plot lines out there for us to choose from. So really, if I only wanted one opinion, I should’ve only asked one person, and that wouldn’t have been nearly as enlightening in the long run.

And on another note, as I sifted through the feedback, I realised there was very little about the story that more than one reader didn’t like. Meaning, while most readers provided feedback about parts of the novel that didn’t totally blow them away, their criticisms didn’t overlap much (with one notable exception – corresponding dreams, anyone? ;)). So, looking at that from a positive angle, I think it means there’s very little about the story that completely doesn’t work – and that’s got to be a good thing, right?

While my beta readers may not have provided me with definitive solutions about what changes I need to make, they’ve definitely helped me see the novel in new ways and given me a multitude of suggestions to mull over.

So how will I decide what to take on board? Good old fashioned instinct. I’m going back to what I set out to achieve with this novel – if a suggestion helps me take it in that direction, then I’ll adopt it. If not, I’ll respectfully put the suggestion aside. I know I won’t please everyone with my final version, but what book does? And, really, as if we’d want that. Because that would take away the beauty of the individual reading experience: the beauty of subjectivity.

Your turn

Have you received contradictory feedback from beta readers? Or, have you read a book and had a completely different take on it than a friend? Please, regale me with your experiences! 🙂


Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Writing

WiP Part 1: off to beta readers!

Before I get onto the subject of tonight’s post, I just wanted to say a big HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my wonderful husband, Mark. Seven years ago today, we promised to spend the rest of our lives together and I’m so glad we did. I was a month shy of 21 when we tied the knot, and Mark was 24. We may have been young, but we knew what we were doing. Here’s some photos from our special day:

The wedding party

Cally on her wedding day

Wedding: sitting among the flowers

Oh the memories! 🙂

Okay, enough reminiscing. On to tonight’s topic! I sent the first part of Tangled, my novel-in-progress, off to my Beta Reader Group One peeps tonight. It’s quite an exciting and scary feeling. Mostly exciting though. I’ve been working on this novel for so long, I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts about it.

I thought you might be interested to hear how I’ve approached this stage of my beta reading, so I’ll give you a look at the email I’ve sent my beta readers, which includes a link to my purpose-built reader survey.

Hi there

Thanks again for offering to beta read Tangled. I really appreciate the time and energy it takes to provide considered feedback. Tangled Part 1 (about 45K) is attached! This is coming to you a week earlier than I originally indicated, however if you can still have your feedback to me by 17 October, that would be great. Feel free to get it to me as soon as you like though. 🙂

You can go about providing feedback however you feel most comfortable. I’d really appreciate it if you could fill in this survey I’ve created, but if you find surveys stifling, please feel free to ignore it. At the least, it will provide you with a guide about the type of feedback I’m looking for.


In addition to the survey, I’d appreciate more nitty-gritty feedback marked on the manuscript (either in tracked changes in Word or scribbled on a hard copy – I’m happy to pay for postage). Please mark any spelling or grammar errors, passages that read awkwardly, and passages that make you smile or cringe (either because of what’s going on or because of the quality of the writing!). I’m just as interested in the passages you like as the ones you don’t, because it’s always good to know what’s actually working!

Please remember, I’m after your honest opinion, so don’t be afraid to tell me what you really think. If you have any concerns about anything I’ve said here, please just let me know.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


Your turn

What do you think of the survey? Too much? Too little? How are you going with your own writing? Please share. 🙂


Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Progress update, Revising, Tangled, Writing, YA fiction