I need your help. I’ll tell you why and how in a minute.

Three months ago I announced that I’d typed the words THE END at (of course) the end of the Mason of New Orleans manuscript. It was a huge milestone, but, as I mentioned at the time, it didn’t mean I had a complete novel. There were holes to be filled in: scenes I’d skipped because I didn’t quite know how to handle them (or they were giving me trouble and I didn’t want them to bog me down). Scenes I didn’t know I needed until much later. Places where I couldn’t find the right turn of phrase, so I left myself a note to come back to it. Subplots that materialized in mid-subplot, without being properly set up. Characters whose motivations weren’t sufficiently explained. Stuff that prevented an almost-complete story from being a complete story.

I began the novel sometime in September of last year (you first heard of it, if you were paying attention, in almost a year ago to the day—October 4th, to be precise), so, approaching the end of the summer and not having finished off these bits, I set a goal of wrapping up a complete draft by the end of September. That would let me imagine that it hadn’t taken more than a year to write this novel. I made that goal—by all of 23 minutes—finishing up at 11:37 Friday night.

So what now? That’s where you come in.

Before publication, The Mason of New Orleans (remember, that’s a working title) will go to a professional editor. Before it does, I’ll reread and tweak it, so that what my editor receives is as close to perfection as I can make it without his input. And I hope you’ll give it a read, too, and let me know in what manner it can be improved. (Note: “Throw it in the rubbish bin and never, ever touch a keyboard again” may prove to be a valid comment, but try to think of helpful alternatives as I’m determined to move forward.)

Sounds great! you’re  thinking. Can’t wait to get started! Awesome, and I can’t wait to hear from you. But there are a few things you should know:

  • This is an ebook. I can send you a file for iBooks or for your Kindle. Or as a PDF.
  • Time is of the essence. I need all comments within one week. So you really need the time and commitment to read a 473-page novel over the next seven days. To put it in context: I’m an average (I think) reader, and it would take me 8 to 10 hours to read this book.
  • I’ll need concrete, actionable comments. Everything from typos to continuity gaffes to “this chapter is sooo booooring” is fine, but “I liked it” or “it’s not very good” isn’t really all that helpful.
  • Obviously, I’d be trusting you not to pass the file on to anyone else. I’m not going to require an NDA or anything, but I do ask that you not share the file or your thoughts on it at this point. (OK, if you want to tell everyone it’s incredibly awesome and they should run out and buy it the very minute it goes on sale, that would be all right.)

I’m only going to choose a limited number of alpha-readers. If you’ve helped out over the past year (maybe contributing ideas or input when I’ve asked for it on this blog), there’s a good chance I’ll include you if you like. I’ll probably also pick a handful of readers at random from the other requests I get, so please don’t be shy about asking. Either way, though, please keep the above points in mind. If you don’t think you’re up to it, please let me choose someone else.

If this interests you, please go to my Facebook page and let me know in the comments of the post there about alpha readers. I hope you like it!

Writers live and die by the feedback they get from their readers, so I’d love your comments—there’s a little link just down below to the right. Also:

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