Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Importance of a Good Beta-Reader

From wiki commons, labeled for reuse
This week I'm sorting through feedback I got from three wonderful beta-readers. Betas are people who take my self-edited manuscript, read it, and respond with detailed notes about the current manuscript. I use a worksheet provided by my dear friend and fellow author Connie Jasperson, and it works wonders in eliciting honest opinions about my current work-in-progress.

Because that's what I need at this point: complete honesty. Glowing reviews are lovely, but in this creator's journey I desperately need signs and guideposts to help me to the next level as I develop this tangled mess that will, once day, be a somewhat polished book.

Luckily, I have those amazing betas to help. None of them held back in offering opinions, and it's an incredible thing to get inside their heads a bit while they detail what bored or turned them off as they read. All three are very intelligent, and they were quick to point out a huge section that has to be completely re-researched and rewritten.

Naturally, it would be great if the feedback was "Amazing! Ready to go to the publisher!" And of course, each time I open a beta's feedback form I'm secretly hoping for that. Instead, I always get a series of little reality checks to show me where I somehow lost my mind while I wrote. Characters 'appear' in rooms without explanation. Entire plot points make no sense. It's impossible to tell who's speaking in a scene. One character's ethnicity isn't described well enough. 
from flickr.com, labelled for reuse

It's as though I got the chance to go inside those readers' brains and look through their eyeholes, like a mad scientist. And what an amazing view it is! The feedback suggests entirely new journeys for my main character, for the antagonist, and I can't wait to get started.

I have an extremely tough job ahead of me, but it's going to be fascinating - like untangling a huge knot while simultaneously fighting a hydra and taming a pack of wolves. I really can't wait to get started.

As I do, I just want to say a huge thank you to my wonderful betas. You make writing my books possible. Cheers!
The beast SHALL be tamed. (wikipedia, labeled for reuse)


Catherine Stine said...

Yes, I don't want my betas to go too easy on my manuscripts either. What a great photo of Marilyn. Can't wait to hear more about your next novel.

karastewart said...

I just saw this. :)