Thank You!

I surrender to destiny my beta readers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The comments on the WiP are gold, and since they’re here on the blog, I can find them if and when I ever finish Liz. (I think I started her in 2008?) And having looked over all of them, I think you’re all absolutely right (except Lavender dies).

So much of early drafts like these is just getting stuff on the page, trying to cover everything you need to set-up the story while moving the story, two things that are antithetical to each other which is why there’s so much infodump and back story in first drafts of first acts and why so many authors resort to prologues (NO PROLOGUES). I think that even though these are not raw first drafts, that’s still where a lot of the problem in this draft comes in (example: Belinda). I also think it’s easy to assume things about your character that aren’t coming across at all (like Liz as a fixer). And sometimes you just shove the plot where you need it to go and forget it actually has to make sense on the page (nobody believing Liz wouldn’t leave is a big one here; I did not see that criticism coming, but it’s clearly a problem). This is why beta readers are so important.


The first time you read through beta comments, the urge to explain is overwhelming. “No, Lavender has to die because . . .” Explaining, however, is something you cannot do because it has to be on the page. So the other great thing about this kind of feedback is that you can see expectation. I wanted Liz to like Lavender, wanted her to feel a kinship with her, as a set-up for things that are going to happen later, so finding out that Lee didn’t want her to die was a good sign (sorry, Lee). I did want people to like Molly, Anemone, Jill, and Cash, and really like Vince, setting up that romance (if people start picking Cash, my romance plot is screwed). So while showing partial drafts to people is not a good thing in general, showing beta readers a first act can be a course correction; you really don’t want your mistakes set in stone.


All of which is to say, thank you. If I ever finish this, you’ll see changes made because of the comments you’ve given me.

You’ll also see the “RAM” post for PoI up, but only after I rewrite it because I got to the end and thought, “No, that’s not right.” So rewrites on that, too. Writing is rewriting, people. Sigh.

ETA: This is my placeholder for Liz . . .


36 thoughts on “Thank You!

  1. Haha, based on the title I thought this post would be you admitting that you’re actually writing The Devil in Nita Dodd. XD

  2. Cash dumped her three times. If anybody’s rootin’ for Cash then they must be thinkin’ Adele’s “Someone Like You” is a relationship tutorial.

    The song is an excellent example of pattern behaviour that people engage in.

    Most people would consider Liz almost TSTL if she went the Cash route.
    You’d lose our sympathy for Liz.

    I hope this gleeful gratitude means that The Girls start sending up related ideas.

    I’m probably one of the few Arghers (Lurker’s included) who are GLAD you’re not really writing a Nita Dodd book.

  3. I clearly have my own story to write, if I need to save Lavender that badly! Except I don’t write, so.

    I answered some of my desperate wish to see Lavender live in yesterday’s comments – too many deaths close to me right now to be comfortable, but that is not on you to fix, that’s mine to cope with.

    Carry on!

  4. Thank you for putting up the draft.

    For me the only thing Cash had going for him was his name ( I love the Man in Black) I’m sure your readership is too discerning to go for Cash.

    The thing with Liz reminded me of something in Librarians S2 E1 Eve says

    “Maybe we’re in emergency mode, just reacting instead of acting”

    1. He was great about ML, I thought. And he’s not jealous of Vince’s popularity. And he tries to get Liz to have lunch with Lavender so Lavender will feel better. He’s not flirting with Liz. That’s something, right?

      1. Plus, Liz still finds him attractive, physically. It was the listening that Cash did that made him attractive to me. Luckily, it appears Vince also listens and pays attention, so even score there. Vince not being engaged nor having dumped her gives him more points than Cash. Plus, you have me convinced that Lavender will be a perfect politition’s wife and that Liz would not. I’m completely on board with Cash and Lavender & Liz and Vince.

      2. All true, but I still want to hit him for dumping her before prom.

        Also in that scene he is asking his ex-girlfriend who he hurt many times and who just told him he was part of the reason she left town and knows him well enough to know he’s not even sorry, when he’s apologising, is can she have lunch with his fiancee. Never mind her pain.

  5. One thing I meant to put in the post and forgot:

    If and when I ever finish and publish this, I’ll put this back up on the website permanently so people can compare this early draft to the finished book. And you’ll all be able to see the huge impact you had (g).

  6. I got that you see Liz as a fixer. It is really clear in the text. She often thought how she isn’t going to fix X as it isn’t her problem or like she used to, until of course she starts fixing things, like her mom’s bears. And how everyone who liked her was happy to see her as they seemed to expect her to fix things to be the way they wanted
    – Patsy wants her to fix her brother’s life by stopping the wedding and then childishly tells Liz it’s all her fault that Cash made a stupid decision – from Patsy’s point of view – since Liz said no to breaking up the wedding;
    – ML wants Liz to fix Liz’s mom
    – Lavender wants Liz to fix her acceptance rating by being the maid of honor
    – Skye wants her to save Veronica and fix the problem of an unwanted dog
    – pretty much anyone who climbed into Liz’s car wanted her to fix something, even Anemone who is using her as a psychologist

    Also, Liz compares herself to Lavender while talking with Molly and it came up that they both fix things for all those around them.

    And that all pulls me in as I too am a fixer. Bonus, I’m pissed at all the people who need to fix it themselves instead of insisting someone else do it for them. Which is why I love Liz because even knowing she’s disappointing other people’s expectations of her, she is really helping them grow and taking the brunt of their judgement. She stands up for herself. I admire that.

  7. I found all the commentary really fascinating. So many different perspectives. I’m curious how many people here grew up in really small towns, say less than 5000 people? I had a friend in university who grew up on the eastern seaboard of the US and thought her town of 75,000 – 100,00 people was a small town. Yes, compared to New York City, but not really.

    One of the things that I found interesting was how people felt Liz’s reasons for staying were weak when I thought that they backed up the idea that Liz subconsciously wanted to be there in the first place. To me, if she hadn’t wanted to go to Burney she would have bought a bear on line and had it shipped to her mom and taken the other road to Chicago.

    Belinda worked for me because I knew her, except her name was Cynthia. Her appearance in the diner seemed to me to signal a reinforcement for Liz that people still considered her to be socially inferior (and the sheriff that she was a trouble maker and therefore A Bad Person) and that even though Belinda’s the one stuck in high school glory mode and Liz has moved on, she’s never going to shake that image of the high school loser.

    The sheriff scared me because a man his age still holding a grudge against a teenager is terrifying. Really, she can’t be the only person to make “penis” out of “Pens.” Granted school must have been hell for him so he’s probably a little sensitive. But still.

    Fixing things: To me, since I’m not Jenny nor can I read her mind, it seemed that Liz’s mere presence was supposed to fix some things. Cash was supposed to take one look at her, rip the ring off Lavender’s finger and marry Liz, according to Patsy. ML wants her to come home and sacrifice her life for her mother and be a Good Daughter and keep her mom from embarrassing ML any more than she already does.

    The one thread that ran through this for me, since I did grow up on a farm outside a very small town, was the idea that who you are in high school is who your home town will always see you as. Liz is still trying to reject her mother’s generation’s idea of what makes a respectable woman: Respectable Women stay home and look after their mothers (and take some of the heat off their aunts in ML’s view). Respectable Women wear makeup – but not too much or too flashy – and nice blouses because it is important for women to look nice. Nice, not cheap. They wear jeans and t-shirts (without logos or rips) when they work in the garden or deep clean the house (twice a year). Respectable Women know their place and stay in it (they don’t push their fancy aunt out of the honour of being the mother of the maid of honour at the society event of the season, er, rather they don’t push their cousin out of a maid of honour position even if she hasn’t been asked yet and may never be, they just step aside like they are supposed to). Respectable Women were Good Girls.

    Scares the bejeebers out of me, frankly.

    1. I grew up in a city with just under 15,000 total. My current city has around 4,000. Both have areas near them with greater and lesser populations. I think I’m in a small town now but the 15,000 was decent size – safe to ride a bike around but too big for everyone to know your business. For me, Burney is under 5,000 but more likely around 800-1,000 people.

    2. I grew up in a small town of 3000. I think it’s about 9000 today. Wapakoneta, Ohio.,_Ohio

      And then I lived in a little town in southern Ohio for about ten years, which Birney is VERY loosely based on. New Richmond, Ohio, about 3000 people.,_Ohio

      But any small town in my books is pretty much always Wapak. I spent seventeen years there before I left for college, and those were seventeen years I never want to live again. Small towns: *shudder*. They make for great fictional settings, though, because they’re so contained.

  8. I missed my chance to read this (too busy writing my own damned book, damn it). I can’t wait until you really write it so I can actually read it. This one has been on my “please, please, please” list for a long time.

  9. All the comments were so interesting. I do see (after reading all the comments) that the beginning needs to be cut, but one of my favorite parts is still when Liz is in the ditch and Vince reaches down to her – she looks at her hand and says “Mud” and he keeps his hand out. This is very defining of the character of each of them and I will believe a future relationship based solely on this interaction.

    Anemone is delightful and her interaction is delightful. This really makes the whole thing work, and is an amusing recurring thing.

    The thing that bugs me, which no one else comments on, is that I find Liz’s mom very hard to track with. I get she used to drink, and that her sister picks on her. I can fit that with her picking on Liz now and in the past. What doesn’t follow is her apparent relief about the bears, her resignation about whatever’s going on at work vs picking on Liz, and biggest is the “If it keeps Liz in town two days it’s worth anything” reaction at the end of this piece. Seems to me totally inconsistent, but again, seems like I am the only one, so whatever.

    I did see your comment about not sharing my “word document” version with anyone, and of course we wouldn’t, but not insulted to be reminded.

    1. No, I concur with you that so far the mom strikes me as being very super passive more than anything. I know what it’s like to have to roll over and show your belly in every confrontation myself–because lord knows I can’t beat anyone and I end up in the same position if I try to fight back or not. She can’t fight The Man at work, she can’t out bully her sister, and it’s just easier to keep all the damn bears if someone’s gifting them to you and may get offended if you get rid of them. (I’m guessing that’s why there’s so many AND she’s not bothered to get rid of a few hundred of ’em. Though I did suddenly want to mention that there is an organization that takes donated teddy bears to give to traumatized kids that would probably want 600+ bears…Good Bears of the World, I think? I did a high school project on it but that was a long time ago. )

      However, I suspect even passive moms can pick on their daughters if they want to. That’s the one area of life where she has the power to.

    2. Liz’s mom is actually two different people because I wrote her at two different times. The mom in the first scene with the tea is what I wanted her to be. The mom in the rest of the book is what she showed up as. So yep, there’s a rewrite waiting to happen.

  10. So the story and the comments have been churning in my mind and there are two things I really want to share, more because I am so enjoying being a part of this community and discussion than because I think they are super amazing and must be heard.

    Guys, about Lavender, I don’t see it. Yes, she seems to say the right things, and Liz is impressed with her and happy to see that she is not as others have named her, but I find that odd. I think Liz might be too quick to believe Lavender’s words because she is assuming that Lavender, too, is as misunderstood as she was. Burney got her all wrong, so what’s so big a stretch that they got Lavender wrong too? But it seems odd that they would get it SO wrong. I mean, the K brother of the Porters, who Liz seems to trust, tells her that Lavender has a public and private face. And her own sister fully believes her capable of killing a dog. I know that our family can be some of the people who can see us so incorrectly, but to think you capable of killing a dog? There’s something about that that just seems wrong. If Lavender was as cool as Liz thought, I just can’t help but think that Skye would be approaching her to help save the dog, not Liz.

    The second thing I kept thinking about was the fact that stuff in the beginning has to be cut, but it has such good scenes that so many of us were sad to see go, that I couldn’t help playing with them as puzzle pieces and offering this up (and omg please feel free to ignore cause I am not the author and this is so very presumptuous of me): keep the scene where Liz meets Vince cause it’s so good;
    her car still breaks down, but maybe instead of taking a day or two to fix, Willie tells her that sure, he can get that part and he can get it today, but really, she’s going to be on the road pretty late at night if she insists that he do it now (and she goes for it, cause leaving Burney the same day is enough of a win that she can suck up being there for a few hours);
    then we see those next few hours, ending with visiting her mom who she might as well see, and on her way back to the Porters to get her car, she gets attacked.
    I don’t even know if that’s possible cause the pacing seems like it would have to be so fast, but the attack coming immediately more realistically strands her.

    1. I think the appeal of Lavender–to some of us and to Liz–is that she seems rather sensible in a world of crazy. Now yeah, she may have a dark side and we’ll probably find that out in a murder mystery, but I can get being all “hey, this person actually seems sane and nice in a world of nuts and flakes, this is GREAT.” Though being maid of honor for someone you’ve barely met is kinda much. Heck, asking a near stranger at the last minute to be your MoH is really nuts.

      1. What I see Lavender doing is: coping with rehoming a dog she didn’t want, keeping her drunk sister-in-law from driving her niece anywhere, absorbing some level of abuse from her mother, and keeping tabs on a disaffected sister. She is working her way towards being a political spouse, which has to be the most thankless task ever. The rest seems to be rumor and fear-mongering. I (personally) place a high value on competence and intellect, and she seems to have those in abundance.

        Part of my (Sorry Jenny) ongoing campaign to save Lavender is that she is so glossy and controlled now, some banging up without killing her could go a long way towards humanizing her.

        Hell – kill Cash, and let Lavender run for office. I’d vote for her in a heartbeat.

        1. I agree, what we see of Lavender is a woman handling the chaos surrounded by people actively wanting to stab her in the back and the front.

          Her mother, her sister, her future sister in law, if I had to choose a maid of honour and all she had as options were the people in that house, I’d have chosen the complete stranger too.

          At least Liz seemed sincere when she said she didn’t want to stop the wedding and she tried to stop a potential DUI and put Faye in her place.

          After all you want a maid of honour who will try to get you to the wedding, even if it’s only because she’s a decent person, rather then a friend.

    2. You know, you can’t save stuff just because you like it. I’ve cut scenes I loved because they didn’t move the story, and there have been times that I’ve saved scenes that I looked at later and thought, “And why is that there?” Because I liked it, which is not the same as “the story needed it.”

      You have to be ruthless in rewrite. But first I have to finish the whole book, which I’m not doing any time soon.

      I do have more of this somewhere though. Wonder where that got to.

      1. I guess if books came with “bonus features” the way DVDs do, that’s where those scenes would go

  11. Off topic:

    I was over at SmartBitches and notice that one of the sale books was a Crusie – Charlie All Night is on sale for $1.99 for the ebook and so is Getting Rid of Bradley, at least on Amazon.

    Looking for other books I came across “Chaos auf High Heels” which is apparently a German translation of one of Jenny’s books, but I don’t know which one (My guess is “What the Lady Wants” or is Christina Dodd’s Trouble in High Heels which is the translation.) anyway, if anyone knows, we should put it in the comments on Amazon for the two people who bought it not realizing it was in German and are looking for it in English.

      1. Oops, I see you already found it and let the two people know. That’s good. If they notice it was from you and are big fans, you may have made their day. ?

  12. Just had to comment to ask is that Lucy Punch as your stand-in for Liz? That’s perfect! She cracks me up; she’s always so willing to just go for it in her films.

  13. I’m going to try to read the chapters before Sunday. Today is polish the synopsis day and get the darn submission in, which is a day or two overdue. Plus prepare for my travel to Australia next week. Oh, and show the house to a potential buyer. This is her third visit. Need a closer, desperately. But, I hope I can Beta read as I love this story.

  14. I really like what you’re doing with the book so far. I really can’t wait til you write more. I was sad all day that I couldn’t go home and read more of the story. Also, I’ve been thinking about the book every since you posted the pages with the rock a year or so ago. So you obviously have something special here.
    But, I do feel like there is a lot of telling not showing happening in the first two chapters. Because of this, I didn’t buy Liz as a fixer. She reads as a runner. She ran away from the town when she was 18 (which is a big deal–she didn’t go off to college and not look back, she ran without telling the adults in her life) and now she’s 33 with no romantic attachments, seeming to live out of her car, writing other people’s stories. Those actions don’t read fixer, but she keeps telling the reader that she’s a fixer. It read as an excuse to not help people more than reality. I liked when the story started showing her solving problems. The other is that everyone is telling Liz that Lavender is a problem, but Lavender doesn’t read as home town girl (even though she must be because of the family connections) so I just think they are prejudiced against her. Liz doesn’t have any bad feelings, or recognize something off.
    The 15 year gap is really throwing me off too. That’s a long time that she hasn’t had face time with anyone except her mom and Molly. Relationships get awkward and strained in that time. Plus it seems weird that they would think the girl Cash broke up with just before prom night 15 years ago would be the one he would leave his current fiance over–Cash has big plans and the perfect wife. So I’m having trouble with motivations. But I think you have Liz’s reaction to Cash EXACTLY right.
    Also, on a complete side note, the bears seem sinister to me. Like someone is trying to gaslight Liz’s mom. I can’t wait to see if something is up with them.


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