I talked about sending a manuscript to betas in a previous post and the madness that inspired. Now they’ve fed back and I wanted to share what the experience was like.
This is the first time I’ve reached this stage of the writing process. I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. Certainly this time round it made the experience thrilling!
Generally speaking my betas were ace. The feedback came in varying forms, ranging from phone/real life chats, to emails and more. One essentially line edited the manuscript, another wrote close to a book himself and one got back to me within seven days!
At first the length and depth of feedback was a little overwhelming as was the realisation of the amount of work I had to do. Even minor changes quickly rippled out through the manuscript to the point that I was writing new material as much as rewriting or refining.
I also made one major error: I jumped too soon.
To clarify, when I’d had some but not all of the feedback, I could see areas that needed work and I was itching to fix them, so I plunged in and started writing.
The work was purely focused on fixing problems rather than writing story and as a result I lost something important in the process.
A few deep breaths, and long chats with my wife later I calmed the <censored> down and waited for the last of the betas to get back to me.
Their opinions varied but I was surprised by the number of common issues they identified. Plot holes, weaker characters, issues with the protagonist; the same things each time. And sometimes they liked bits too!
All in all the experience was incredibly valuable though quite humbling. I’d known there was work to do but hadn’t appreciated how much. As a result the sense of having written a book has gone, replaced with the sense of having written a draft that will allow me to write a book in the future.
I think being a good beta reader is a real skill, not just in giving criticism but in giving it in a positive way. I really appreciated how sensitive and thoughtful my betas were in the way they approached me. Opinions were offered as opinions only, honesty was given and generally the spirit in which they approached the project was enthusiastic which was a real boost.
If there’s one thing that stands out it’s the level of engagement and energy they gave to my work.
That’s not to say it wasn’t hard at times. I was moaning recently to Em that at the start of the year I had two books (my other manuscript is going to betas shortly) and now it feels like I’ve got two partly written drafts. It’s like I’m going backwards not forwards. The reply was:
“It’s called writing, darling.”
As I work on the next draft I’m left wondering how best to thank these good folk. Any ideas welcome in the comments.