18 June 2014

Ode to Beta Readers

I sent the sequel of New Sight out to my beta readers a few weeks ago.

For those of you who don’t know…
An author, say me, writes a book. Then rewrites it, tosses that iteration and starts again.
Eventually I come to a point where I think the story is solid, but it’s not perfect. Instead of me trying to fix it—because I’ve been staring at it for months—I send it out to my beta readers.
At this point the plot should be okay and most things in the story should make sense.

This was my plea for help.

Hey writer, editor and reader friends,
I've just finished a decent draft of New Sight 2 (Yes, the title is astounding, isn't it?) I need beta readers!!!

I'd like feedback in the following areas:
Pacing-too fast, too slow or just right?
Characters-enough depth, not enough depth, too many, too little...do you hate them?
Plot-Does it actually work. Poke around for holes. Don't be shy.
Glaring issues-bring it on.

I don't need line by line edits. This isn't a final, final draft, so it's not perfect.
I've already got a few changes that I want to make, but I figured I'd get some outside feedback before I went into the breach one last time.

A few awesome friends agreed to help me out. Yay for them!

Anyway, I now have a handful of people who have given me their comments. I’m going to share some of them.

First off, the story lacks infodump from the first book. I thought I’d put enough in for people to pick up what was important. Maybe not. Here are a few of the comments. The first one didn’t set off any alarms in my head, the other two did. With all of them, I feel I have a problem that needs to be fixed.

“1/4 of the way through yours. Its kind of fun trying to guess what the original is like. Now I will have to read it.

“I didn't realize that "the New" were the technology people. Maybe clarify that at the very beginning when you first mention them

“You might want to add an info dump about her magic use here for new readers.”

“Need to explain all this for new readers.  Although I’ll go hunt down a first book, some people actually start in the middle and don’t care.  Why are they killing everyone?  What happened at Druid arch? That sort of stuff.”

I’ve got the gang in a swamp in Louisiana at the beginning of the story. Apparently I didn’t check on the local wildlife. Which is funny, by the way, because I spent at least 10 minutes looking for an appropriate owl for the scene after this one. Oops.

“Are you implying a crocodile is an amphibian? Because it’s a reptile”

“The first thing I noticed that bothered me was that you had crocodiles in the swamps in the USA.  We don't have crocodiles here, we have alligators

Last but not least, the characters. I feel like my characters could use some depth, so I’m focusing on that aspect of my writing. I knew these characters needed some help, but wasn’t exactly sure where I’d gone wrong. Here are a handful of comments.

“the characters were all consistent and the depth was good. I didn't hate any characters

From one of my nice beta readers. However, don’t fret, she had plenty of other awesome things to say, she simply didn’t find any big issues with the characters.

“Cindy and I were talking about it and she thought that Lys seemed a little whanny at times (but not as bad as Bella in Twilight), but I thought she was just trying to get a grip on her magic
First off, send something to a set of twins and of course they’re going to chat about it. Anyway, this comment set off an alarm. I hated that second Twilight book, mostly because Bella was awful.
Check out the next two…

“I hate Lys for more than half of the book.  The other half I kind of like her, but then she goes back into her stupid, self-absorbed twit behavior and I hate her again.

“Confused.  She’s heading into a fight, so she makes herself crash?  Running is difficult with all her sight, sure, but why not just limit it a little instead of making herself crash at an important moment?  Or have her friends guide her?  Or stay behind and be the backup?  The idiocy of this move made me so angry at her I quit reading for a day J

I love that the reader tried to soften the blow with the smiley face.

So seriously, I must have a character problem. Maybe a rather large one. What I thought was showing weakness in the character has come off as self-absorbed and her hesitations as being idiotic.

This is good to know.

Really, at one point in my writing career I maybe would have cried at these sorts of comments, but not now. Now I know what  I need to fix and I’m thinking through how to do it.

Whatever you’re doing in life, if you want to be good at it, gird your proverbial loins and put your stuff out there for people to see. They may throw eggs at it, but figure out why they felt that violence was the only answer and fix it.

Tune in next time for how one of my beta readers blew my mind!

1 comment:

Emily said...

I like that you are taking the feedback so well. It is an essential skill for any creative profession. By the way, Florida has both crocodiles and alligators.