Beta Readers – Seriously… High Five

Earlier this week I was handed a printed hardcopy of my novel. The manuscript was all marked up with fantastic notes and comments, each hand-written by the first of my responding beta readers. I cherish every scribble and each has already drastically improved the quality of Cravings.

It’s hard to appropriately express gratitude for something like that.

I was nervous when I finally resolved to stop fussing over the manuscript and expose it for critique. It’s not like the book is autobiographical or anything. It’s a completely fictional tale. Still, and as is the case for so many projects, there is always the desire to include just a few more little tweaks or changes. There is a drive to capture some small bit that I want to work into the dialogue or whatever it may be.

Right now I need comments on the story as a whole, and therein lies the tension. I can’t afford to have mistakes pull a reader out of the story. I don’t want to squander the one shot that I get with a trusted critic. I want the manuscript to be perfect. That’s the part that was making me nervous.

You get somewhere between 0.0 and 1.0 reads from a committed beta reader. It’s like the opposite of when the doctor asks you how much alcohol you drink.

Contemplative Patient says, “Oh… three to four drinks a week. Maybe a couple more if we have a BBQ on the weekend.”

Translation: Four beers and half a bottle of rum a night.

From what I’ve seen and read, most readers will tell you that they are farther along than they actually are. I’m fine with that. It’s a huge commitment of time to read and comment on an entire novel. Like I said, it’s hard to express how grateful I am to those who have taken their own time to read and thoughtfully comment.

Now that I have one response back, the nervous butterflies are gone. Now, I’m just anxious for more feedback. My first response revealed a continuity error and showed me some places where I’m being a little heavy-handed with a theme. It’s also given me a window into what parts of the book make an emotional connection. I’m now better armed for what readers will want to see more of in future works.

I’m fired up. I’m jazzed. And, I’m really excited to get more feedback.

Thank you, beta readers!

PS: Here is a great blog post on alpha-reading by Laura Christensen. I believe Mary Robinette Kowal ( @MaryRobinette ) pointed me toward that post, so thanks for that. It’s about alpha rather than beta-reading, but is still a very useful insight into what is valuable to the process.

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