Saturday, November 9, 2013
Me And My Beta Reader Friends
I have written over 1 million words in published, or about to be published, novels. That's a fairly large number, and one I'm proud to be able to say. Little did I think as I slaved over my first 130,000 word novel, that took nearly three years to get to market, that I would ever get to this point. Writing, re-reading, and editing your own novels is not for the faint-hearted. The editing part is not even recommended. Of course, as authors, we all believe we can edit our own books. Let me tell you now. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO EDIT YOUR OWN BOOK WELL! Did you get the message?
So, what do I do? Of course, I write the book and then let it sit for a bit. I call this 'letting it cook.' After this, I do a first edit. I go through the manuscript and make all the adjustments I can. And then I call in the professionals. In my case, I don't actually pay these people (although I do reward them with grateful thanks and a copy of the paperback), but they are, nonetheless, professionals. These are people who will go through my manuscript on a line-by-line basis and give me feedback. I hate these people! I say that with tongue in cheek, as I really, really appreciate what they do. I just wish they didn't have to find so many things. Every single time! Even though I'm sure I do a better job of editing my current novel, compared to my previous one, the feedback from these people is huge. It literally takes me a good week to go through it all. Of course, the end result is a better book, but the process is a killer.
If you don't have any beta readers - get some. And get ones that understand editing and feedback. And preferably get ones that aren't your closest friends and are happy to be brutal in their feedback. Trust me, you need to hear what they say. However, which parts of their feedback you choose to use, is up to you. Just because one of your beta readers doesn't like you killed off character X, doesn't mean you have to change it. That decision is yours. But if they say, 'you use the word X twenty times in that paragraph,' you'd better take note. Does beta reader feedback lead to rewrites? Sometimes. Let me give you an example. In my last book, two of my beta readers didn't know who was the subject of my prologue. A big mistake on my part. To me it was obvious. After all, I wrote the book. But to them, they had no idea. I had to make a few subtle changes before the release.
So, there you have it. Invest in beta readers. Entice them with your everlasting gratitude, then let them do their job. Your book will be a hundred times better for it.