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The Treasure Trove... Alpha Reader Gaetan Clement

Posted: November 29, 2023

This is the third in a series of special posts related to my new book: The Stranger of Ul Darak.

Today, I'd love to introduce you to my best friend and alpha reader, Gaetan Clement. In case you are wondering, an alpha reader is someone the author trusts who reads the rough and early drafts of a story, and then provides honest feedback on areas of improvement and areas that work. In a way, it is an evaluation of the story, concentrating on setting, characters, and story line.

Gaetan has been there by my side since the first day I started writing. He reads everything I write, several times over, and provides honest and constructive feedback about how to improve my stories. As alpha reader, he reads the stories early in the process, sometimes when they are drafts, and he concentrates on His ongoing help and support is something I wish for every author.

What were the challenges your encountered while providing feedback for The Stranger of Ul Darak?

Gaetan: This being one of your longest and more complex stories, alpha reading this story was harder for sure. More parts have to follow and fit together, I had to go back to read earlier passages of the story more often, to make sure I remembered specific details etc.… I also had older versions of the story in my mind (having read earlier versions of it), and that can pose a certain challenge. Especially if I see something that is not quite right… the fixes I propose can’t push the story back to an earlier state (hopefully).

Gaetan Clement Do you usually read a story more than once when providing feedback?

Gaetan: I read the story only once, which is what I usually do unless it’s a very short story. But even then, I’ll usually just read it once. I like to share my initial thoughts, my first impressions. I’ll think about the story before sending my comments or thoughts but I find that if I re-read the story (right away, before sending my comments), I start to doubt myself, not sure if the comments I wrote are ok, etc.

There’s also the fact that I usually read many versions of the same story. I’ll read a version, send you my thoughts… then read the next version a few months later, etc. Because of that, I prefer to read the story only once each round.

How many times or versions of the same story do I read before you publish? As many as it takes. :)

Question from a Red Dragon Insider Reader:
How long have you been an alpha reader for S. C. Eston?

Gaetan: Since day one.

I’m honestly not sure how long I’ve been doing it officially. But I know I’ve been one of your first readers since you first started writing all those years ago. Must be what, 25-30 years ago? At first, we didn’t put any official title on it, I just liked to read your stories and comment on them. So, the transition to becoming your official Alpha reader was natural.

Question from a Red Dragon Insider Reader:
What is your working/reviewing routine like as an alpha reader?

Gaetan: My routine is pretty simple. I always do the same thing. I’ll start by putting on some music. Usually, a movie or a game soundtrack, nothing with lyrics (so I can focus on the written words). Once in a while, if I know what you were listening while writing the story, I might listen to the same thing.

I open up the document in Words, and I’ll just read and add comments as they come to me. I ask questions if something is not clear. I try not to pay attention to anything an editor would catch (typos, etc..), that’s not my job. Unless I notice a typo that changes the meaning of the sentence / story, or makes it unclear to me. I usually have Google open on my second screen, ready to search for synonyms or even definition of words I might not understand.

I like to take my time; I try not to do more than a couple of chapters in one sitting. But I also don’t want to take too much time to finish the story. So, I try to do that when I know I’ll have some free time for a couple of days in a row (depending on the length of the story).

On especially long or complex stories, I might wait a day or two and come back and read my comments again before sending them, to make sure they’re still pertinent.

Gaetan Clement and S. C. Eston Question from a Red Dragon Insider Reader:
What do you find the most challenging when providing feedback for a book as an alpha reader?

Gaetan: I can think of a couple of challenges.

I think one of the main things is to respect your time and schedule. When you send me a story, I’ll do my best to get on it right away, or as soon as possible. Not only because I know you enjoy getting the feedback on it, but sometimes things are aligned; after I’m done, you need to make corrections (or write the whole thing again), then send to editor, beta readers, etc… it’s not that big of a deal for me, since I like to read your stories, but it’s still something I keep in mind.

Another challenge for an Alpha reader, I think, is to respect the author’s ideas. It’s easy to fall into a trap where I’ll see something that’s not really working, or that could “be better” and try to offer ideas of my own. But what I have to do, what I try to do, is help you come out with the best version or YOUR ideas. It’s a small distinction, and maybe I’m not explaining it right, but it’s constantly on my mind when I’m alpha reading your stories. It’s your stories, your ideas.

Tell us what brought you to be an alpha reader.

Gaetan: It’s a combination of many things. First, we’ve been very good friends since we were kids. We both were writing stories and we’d be the only reader for each other’s stories. I guess it grew from there. When you started to take writing more seriously, it was a natural fit for me. I’ve always enjoyed reading your stories, and if I could help you in any way, that was fun for me.

It definitely helps that you write stories that I enjoy reading!

It’s also very interesting to see the different versions of the stories at they evolve, following my rounds of comments or thoughts.

Finally, even though you do most of the work, it’s still great to see the final result and know that I helped a little bit.

The Stranger of Ul Darak by S.C. EstonAbout The Stranger of Ul Darak

Sometimes saving a world means rebelling against it.

In an age long forgotten, nineteen hundred and eighty-three Seals were forged—magical disks placed around the world to repel the cosmic chaos beyond.

In the centuries that followed, the Sentinels were tasked with protecting those Seals. For countless generations, they succeeded.

Until now.

At six years old, Shéana is recruited to the order of the Sentinels. A decade later, she displays powers unlike anything any Sentinel has shown before. When she feels the world stirring in pain, she knows the shield surrounding Tyronia has been breached. The great chain is broken. And the order of the Sentinels lies in discord.

In the isolated village of Valdur, young Arth struggles to belong. Spurned by the other children, he ventures south to the endless mountains, and the strange barrier marking the edge of existence. The Final Horizon. Here he witnesses the impossible: a man emerging from beyond the veil—where nothing can possibly exist. A man Arth knows he must protect.

Now the fate of two worlds rests on a knife’s edge. Only the courage of a village boy and the power of a fledgling Sentinel can save them.

But to save their worlds, they must reject all they’ve been taught, leaving behind everyone and everything they’ve ever known.

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Keywords:  The Treasure Trove , Tyronia , Writing


Also in the Series: The Treasure Trove

  1. The Treasure Trove... Author A. W. Davidson (August 9, 2022)
  2. The Treasure Trove... Author Casie Aufenthie (October 17, 2022)
  3. The Treasure Trove... Author Frasier Armitage (January 10, 2023)
  4. The Treasure Trove... Author S. Z. Attwell (June 18, 2023)
  5. The Treasure Trove... Author Paul Jameson (October 22, 2023)
  6. The Treasure Trove... Editor Kira Rubenthaler (November 16, 2023)
  7. The Treasure Trove... Artist Tom Edwards (November 18, 2023)
  8. The Treasure Trove... Alpha Reader Gaetan Clement (November 29, 2023)
  9. The Treasure Trove... Artist Sarah Obtinalla (December 8, 2023)
  10. The Treasure Trove... Author Hannah D. State (February 23, 2024)

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