Friday, September 5, 2014

Back from the Beta-Reader

     My regular readers know (from my post earlier this week) that I was getting ready to send my secret project to a beta-reader.  Well, I sent it and now I have it back.

When I worked at McDonald's all through high school and college, I used to correct all the messages and memos that our managers put on the bulletin board. They hated me.
Red letter corrections
via Pinterest

     There was less red than I expected.  When my beta-reader handed my story back to me, I was sure I would find an endless stream of criticisms, filling the margins with his red pen.  Instead, I thumbed through several pages that had no corrections at all.  He found a few places that were confusing to him, he thought the fight scene needed to be longer, and he seriously called into question one of my side characters.

     Now comes the part where I assimilate his work.  Everything he says has to be taken seriously.  He reacted negatively to the way I described a certain character -- do I want that reaction out of my readers?  He was confused about a detail, even though I thought I had explained it -- will other readers miss my explanation, too?  He wants a longer fight scene -- do I have room to create it?  He thought a bit of symbolism to be a useless detail -- should I delete it or should I deepen it to greater importance?

     I sat down in front of my computer to delve into corrections and found that words simply did not come.  They aren't ready yet.  My thoughts are not even coherent.  Instead, I find myself brooding like a hen over her eggs.  I know the story is inside of me; I can feel it stirring.  And I know if I just wait and let it come up when it is ready, my story will be the better for it.
     It's kind of like making a stew.  Whenever you throw a new ingredient in (such as my beta-reader's input), it has to simmer together before it is ready to serve.  The new input will change, taking on the flavor of the story.  And the story will change, absorbing the fine qualities of the new ingredient.

     It will be ready later...tonight or maybe tomorrow...and I will sit down with Microsoft Word again.  Until then, I will brood and think and write blog posts.  :)


  1. I like your stew analogy. But yes, beta readers are important. Sometimes I think I magnify their importance to the point that when I get conflicting reviews I tear my hair wondering how in the world I can please everyone. It's wonderful, though, that you had such a good reviewer for your first one. Have fun with the writing!

  2. Thank you, Kathryn!
    I haven't had 2 beta-readers at the same time yet (my community of trusted and willing readers is too small, I guess). Sometimes I think it would be easier because I could pick my favorite edits from each. If I and my one beta-reader disagree on something, the vote is a tie, so-to-speak. But if I have multiple betas, then maybe I have a more well-rounded pool of opinion. Someday...