Last week, I finished the fifth round edits on Becoming a Man (BAM). I was pushing to finish it because I wanted to submit it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. That wasn't the original plan for the novel, but it happened to be at the right time for BAM's lifecycle.
This also marks the point when I think the story is as solid as I can make it. It is nicely short (70k words) but complete. To move forward, I would love to have some opinions. In effect, I'm looking for beta readers.
Now, I've asked some good literary friends to beta read in the future, but since I don't want to ask more than twice, I thought I would just make a general request to see if anyone wants to read it for me.
Below is a bit about the book and why I wrote it.
This is the first novel where I've actually tried to limit the chapter lengths to keep within a "reasonable" word count. The novel came out to 70k words in 30 chapters. This means just over 2k words per chapter instead of the 6k average from Flight of the Scions (FOTS).
BAM is set in the same universe as FOTS. Originally, it was to help develop the desert clans for FOTS along with some of the culture and constructed languages. It also expanded into something a bit deeper after reading The Language Construction Kit since I realized it could add a lot more depth to the world as a whole.
The setting is actually purely in the desert. The world is based on a super-continent, but the center is mostly desert and tundra. This gave me a chance to have fun with mostly sand verses rocky plains, more so since there are speedster (magically fast runners) in the novel.
Mainly, I didn't want forests since most fantasy novels seem to happen in forests or mountains.
I love stories that aren't about the Chosen One or the one who answers all the problem. Instead, I want stories where people make terrible mistakes and manage not to save the world. Yes, FOTS kind of breaks that but Kanéko is neither the first nor the most powerful of her type. She is special and heroic, but she won't be saving the world any time soon.
On the other hand, I wanted to write a story about someone who wanted to be the best, but wasn't. And, just to make life difficult for them, two of the characters in the novel are close to the legendary characters stories are written about. Just not the main character.
Even though there are no large chunks of it, the novel does explore Miwāfu, a constructed language I started with FOTS. There are a couple of words that aren't critical to the plot, but the main part was to explore the names in that language. Just as French or Japanese names are uncomfortable for most English speakers (as I observed), I wanted to use the Miwāfu as a naming language to see if it "felt comfortable" to me.
The writing group struggled a bit in the first chapter with the main character's name, Rutejìmo, but I found that as long as I didn't introduce more than 2-3 names per chapter, they seemed to grow comfortable with the names. Though, no one really tried to say their names and instead used his nickname (Jimo).
When I was in Boy Scouts, I remember reading over the survival section of the book endlessly, both terrified that I would encounter a broken bone in the wilderness or having to find food in the sand, but also wondering what it would be like. Guess what? I consider this story gritty because there are broken bones (actually a compound fracture) and a bunch of teenagers trying to figure out how to survive with such an injury.
Rites of Passage
I'm guilty of writing two novels about growing up. I love stories about teenagers growing up, but I don't write fluffy young adult novels. There is stabbing, kidnapping, and rather… violent reactions to high stress in here. Why? Because as much as I love reading Harry Potter, I love the Grimm Brothers more. Also, there are a lot of lovely coming-of-age stories that are what I would call fluffy and I love reading them. But, there aren't that many that talk about hard lives in hard worlds.-
(Actually, the beginning of the first chapter.)
Rutejìmo's heart pounded in his chest as he held himself still. The cool desert wind blew across his face, teasing his short, dark hair. In the darkness of night, his brown skin was lost to the shadows, but he was exposed if anyone shone a lantern toward the top of the small building. Fortunately, the shrine house was at the southern end of the Shimusògo Valley, his ancestral home, and very few of the clan went there except for meetings and prayers.
He held his breath as he tested the brick tile on the shrine house roof. It shifted underneath his bare toe and he stepped back. Braced on both hands and one foot, he tested the second brick. It held and he eased his weight onto it before lifting his other foot. He was light and thin, slightly over five stones, and thankful of that as he shifted his balance. He glanced up to his destination, an opening in the roof to let out smoke and incense. It was only a few links beyond his fingers, but he didn't dare jump for it.
Shifting his weight to his forward foot, he walked his hands along the tiles until he found two more stable footholds. Inching forward, he stretched his foot and tested the next tile. It was solid and he shifted to it.
The tile suddenly shifted. A crack snapped through the air and he felt the tile jerked underneath his weight.
Rutejìmo winced at the sound.
Inside, the guard pulled out a knife. Rutejìmo bit his lip as he strained to identify whoever was inside. If it was Gemènyo, he would just be sent back to his home. But, if Hyonèku was on duty, then he would be suffering for days. His stomach knotted in fear and he listened for the tell-tale blast of air of the clan's magic, speed, or the whisper of bare feet on stone.
A sand fly landed on his neck, its little legs pricking his skin. He tensed as he fought back a whimper. Sand flies bit when disturbed. He tried to lean forward, avoiding the tile, to encourage it to fly off but it just crawled up to his earlobe.
Another fly landed on his shoulder. He caught sight of it in the corner of his eye from the dim light from the shrine. It fluttered its wings as it crawled along, looking for some delicate spot to bite.
He forgot about the first fly until it bit down. The sharp pain broke his concentration and he let out a yelp. He clapped his ear but missed the fly.
The cracked tile shifted again, spreading apart. His foot, resting along the crack, twisted as the tile shattered and he lost his balance.
"Sands!" he screamed as he slipped down the sloped roof. His back crushed another tile before he rolled off and plummeted toward the hard rock beneath. He tumbled in the air and saw the earth rushing up to him. Closing his eyes, he threw his hands in front of his face to protect himself.
There was a bang of the shrine door and a blast of wind. Rutejìmo fell into a pair of muscular arms. From the smell of a flowery perfume and the scrape of scaled leather, it was Hyonèku that caught him.
"Sands," muttered Rutejìmo as he looked up into the face of his rescuer.
If you're interested, I'd love to have opinions from someone who doesn't talk to me every day (e.g., friends and family that I interact every day). Just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm not looking for copy editing, but mostly opinions of the characters, flow, and "big picture" stuff for the novel.