In need of a Beta-reader for 1 chapter

High All!

A long, long time ago I wrote some fanfics *blushes. That's all long done now, since I have moved on to writing my own stuff. Now I am planning on posting some of my stories online, as a serial novel. However, there is one thing I miss from my fanfic period now I am about to start for my own. Beta-readers.

English is not my first language, and I have no idea if I make strong grammar mistakes or not. Before I start posting chapters like crazy I am thus in need of someone who would like to read 1 chapter to check on strong language mistakes. If there are plenty I would have to work on my English first before diving in the serial-novel adventure, since that will be a huge step on it's own.

The story itself is low-fantasy, and the first chapter is about 3000 words long.

If there are any volunteers I would be very grateful. I think I need critique on grammar and sentence-building most (In my first language we tend to write in long, long sentences...), but any other critique you feel like giving is appreciated, good or bad.

You can read the first chapter here, on my test-website.



Hi Janoda,

I had a quick look yesterday -- didn't read it all, but the parts I saw were mostly fine (biggest thing I remember: the synonym of "also" is "too", not "to").

You are using present tense, which is something I know a lot of readers have a problem with. I write Winter Rain in present tense, and a number of the reviews state something to the effect of "I usually hate present tense, but". I can't say for sure, but I suspect the way you are using it is the kind people have a problem with. The narrative is quite reflective, and reflection is, pretty much by definition, something you do *after* the fact. I suspect it's the juxtaposition of using the immediacy of present tense with so much reflection that bugs people. Anyway, my initial feeling -- regardless of whether or not that analysis is right -- is that you aren't using present tense for anything in particular, so I'm going to suggest you switch to past tense.

Other than that, I like how you just throw us into things. And the writing itself is good. It does feel a little slow, though, so you might want to pare it down a bit -- or put in more event or more dialogue, to keep it moving, and experiential.

Hope this helps. If you have any followup questions, you can post here or email me (my user name [at webfictionguide dot com]).


Hi Chris,

Thanks for the effort! I'm glad my English isn't a problem. As a non-native speaker and writer it can be a pain to see your own mistakes, simply because you don't have an ear for it.

As for my choice for the present tense, I've written this chapter a couple of times, as well as others, and tried out different tenses and perspectives. The problem I have with the past tense is that, especially in these first chapters, because they are so reflective, I have to throw in a lot of "I thought", and it just reads ugly. Any suggestions on how to solve this would be highly appreciated.

What I like about the present tense is that it's very good for showing impressions and sensations, and I personally have always liked to be in someone else's head. However, I have to admit that I'm not sure I'll be able to continue like this anyway, because it comes less naturally than writing in the past sense. In conclusion, I don't think I have found the right tense for me yet.

Thanks again for your advise and for taking the time to read it.

Kind Regards,


Hi Janoda,

You can change the tense without changing anything else about the narrative voice. The "I thinks" you mentioned have to do with the psychic distance of the narrator, not verb tense. As an example, I've rewritten your first two paragraphs into past tense:


Summers hadn't been summers in 6 years. It wasn't really cold, but every morning I woke up in Desdena, I wanted to dive deeper under the sheets. I knew the sun was shining, but I didn't really feel it -- it didn't burn my skin, it didn't boil my blood . . . it didn't drive me out of my bed so I could escape the heat by diving into the river. In Desdena, the sun shone, but nothing more than that.

I knew I had to get up, but the idea that I had to leave my lovely bed, to touch that floor with my bare feet? No thank you. I'd have given anything to be in my own room -- well, my other room -- again, and feel the promising heat of a bright day. But Threshral was a long way away. The unhappy thoughts drove me out of bed.

The floor was cold and the air felt cool on my warm skin, but it was bearable. I examined my dresses carefully. If I wanted to avoid going up North, I'd have to look overwhelming. Father wouldn't be convinced easily. I don't think he had ever been convinced, really, but, by the two moons, he wasn't going to send me up North! It freezes up there! I'd probably die, and the Swahlis would feast on my frozen corpse. How could he not see that?

The Threshralian gown wasn't really fit for the climate, but it always made me feel confident. I'd have worn it more, but the typical double split wasn't really fit for the prudish mentality of Desdena. But I did look glorious in it, and that's what I needed. I brushed my hair and braided it. If I couldn't convince Father, they'd cut it off. There was no way I was going -- they were not going to put me to sleep!


You'll note I changed very little, beyond the verb tense -- just relative locations and times, and did a little rephrasing of some of the commentary. The meaning is all the same, and I didn't credit any of the commentary at all. What you may notice, though, is that the past tense changes the feeling of the narrative. It feels choppier and reads faster than it did. That may be something you'll want to look at if you go with past tense.


Chris, I'm amazed (and utterly thankful) with all the effort you went through!

In the mean time I checked out your story (and bookmarked it) and I get what you mean with the difference between your use of the present tense and mine. And after reading your version, I am now leaning more to the past tense (even though that means I'll have to cope with all those English irregular verbs, *rolls eyes.

But grammar wise, if "It freezes up there!" is still present tense, shouldn't "In Desdena, the sun shone, but nothing more than that." also be present tense? Or am I misinterpreting the rule?

Thanks again!


"It freezes up there!" is pretty clearly from the viewpoint of the younger narrator, so I treated it as a quoted thought and just didn't credit it. As the narrator has no access to anyone else's thoughts, we don't get confused.

The simplest thing to do is ask yourself how you'd do it in third person. A narrator that stays close to a character's point of view will usually tell the story in past tense, but with uncredited thoughts from the POV character written out in present tense. Those specific thoughts are just like dialogue, in that respect -- they just aren't credited because, as long as the narrator only ever does it for the POV character, it is obvious who they came from.

Finally, when writing the narrative, use Simple Past (I went, I ate, I ran) as often as you can. In some case, it might not be perfectly grammatically correct to use it, but if it is clear, you can get away with it, and it makes the text easier to read. Use Past Perfect (I had gone, I had eaten, I had run) only when absolutely necessary to keep the order of events straight.

Not sure it will help, but I wrote Distance in a similar style. There's only one chapter up, at present (in four parts), but it will give you a chance to see how somebody else handled those multiple frames in the narrative. In my case, I blurred the lines a lot -- and probably used Past Perfect a little too much -- but if you want a look, it's there.


Chris, thanks again!

I'll be working on what I already have (and probably write some more) with all these insights you've given me in the back of my head. I'll probably be back here with new questions, but for now, I feel like I can handle writing in English. I'll probably get better at it by doing it anyway.