Writing: choosing a sample

As I mentioned before, I am getting ready to get to beta with my fantasy story. There’s some more editing and fluff removal to be done. What I’m thinking about these moments is something I’d use as a sample people could freely have a look at and decide whether my story is something they should give a try.

It’s quite a difficult decision.

Well, apart from one thing: the prologue. Being the set-up of the story I am trying to tell, it’s the only part that does not require me to write additional lines with context – because that’s what the prologue says.

As things start happening and characters react to them, there’s more and more in the background that affects the scenes unfolding on the pages (even if ‘page’ is quite a virtual thing for me now) and as I learned through the last drafts, events can be referenced even several chapters later (which makes cutting a pain).

My current idea would be to use the prologue (possibly in full length as it’s probably around 1000 words unlike the average chapter at 3500-4000) and maybe two or three snippets that would be somewhere in the 500-1000 words range.

Of course, that is if I manage to find enough of such moments that can show something from the story under several (and often quite harsh) conditions, like:

  • No spoilers
  • Little to no need for explaining the context
  • Not being put out of context (to avoid setting false expectations)
  • Short scenes so the sample is not abruptly cut (so no large-scale combat)

For example, the second point means that I can’t use a scene that sees a character use a special power he or she only learns as a part of a longer journey – partially because the sample would make it either a confusing piece (how/why can he/she do it) or a spoiler (you’d know what the character is going to learn the moment the actual books mentions he’s trying to learn something).

Likewise, I could try to show an action scene so the potential reader sees how I approach those – only to risk several problems as well. Spoilers are a recurring risk. Being too long for a sample is another. Then lack of context: a short sample won’t give many chances to see why the combatants are fighting each other and/or what they are fighting over.

At this point, apart from the prologue, I have one potential candidate scene for a sample – and will see if I can find more. I’d like to try for some diversity but with all the conditions mentioned before in mind, it’ll be tough. I might easily end up with just a single scene to use this way if even that.

I’d like to have at least one scene selected soon and use it as something I’d show potential beta readers should they be on the edge with the decision about doing a beta read for me or not. In the future, it could work as something to help the same decision for the potential readers (I believe Amazon allows the use of free samples with some limitations – something I’ll need to have a look at before release). Again, I think that realizing this and facing that decision now will mean the final release preparations are at least partially spread over longer time and the release will be less hectic.

Of course, how it’ll go down is something I can’t predict, something I’ll need to see when it happens. For now, I keep trying to find what seems like the best way.

That’s it from me for today. Comments welcome, personal experience of writers even more.

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