Yes, I did the dirty on my own beta reader team
Nothing shows trust in your own services more than using them yourself. And this month, that’s exactly what I did: I booked four of my own beta readers.
I booked four of my own beta readers
Recently, I finished the first full draft of my next novel. I had already workshopped it with my writing group and felt it was time to get some independent feedback.
What better way to get that feedback than subjecting myself to my own beta team?
The results were … interesting.
I booked four readers, then put aside my manuscript for a month until the feedback arrived.
As per my policy, I sent the manuscript anonymously, so the readers had no idea it was mine. I didn’t want them freaking out at rating the boss. The reactions afterwards, when I did the big reveal, were hilarious – some swearing was involved – but mostly relief they hadn’t torn shreds. (Hyperbole – my readers would never do that … at least, not in writing).
The first report
The first report came back, and I opened it with a little trepidation. Not because I can’t handle negative feedback – after years of writing and workshopping, my skin is too well developed for that – but the thought that I may need to do a lot of rewriting was daunting. I was honestly sick of looking at the manuscript, and had begun to feel it was a bit rubbish (not really – but you probably understand, since most writers get that way sometimes).
The report wasn’t as flattering as I’d hoped. The reader didn’t get the theme or subplots, didn’t think the setting was clear, didn’t like the dual narrative, didn’t understand a couple of the characters’ motivations, didn’t think the writing was that hot, but after all that, still enjoyed the read and thought there was potential. Okaaay. Ouch. Tough critic.
Well, I thought, writing and editing are two different animals, and I need to put more effort, more time, into this story. Disappointing, but that’s a writer’s life. We keep going till we get it right. Right?
The next reports
Then, one by one, the other three reports came back. And OMG. What a difference. They were glowing! They got it! They understood what I was trying to convey. They got the subtleties and thought the dual narrative was clever and the writing itself excellent.
Phew! I was back. Not such a failure.
More work to do
They did, however, all point out the same couple of plot and motivation issues the first reader had pointed out. Issues that, in my heart, I already knew needed fixing and wasn’t going to get away with. And that’s fine. Sometimes, we just need someone to point out the obvious to move us in the right direction.
Why it’s smart to book more than one reader
And that, my dear writers, is why I always say book more than one reader. Feedback is totally subjective, and if your one and only reader is someone who doesn’t get it, there’s nothing to counterbalance that opinion. An opinion that, in its own right, is legitimate. After all, once a book is published, authors don’t get to sit there explaining their work to readers, and there will always be someone your work doesn’t resonate with.
If I’d only booked the first reader, I might be sitting here thinking that all my years of study and toiling were yet to pay off. That’s not to say I don’t have confidence in my own writing – I do – but feedback like that can throw you – if only temporarily. A newbie writer, someone less sure of themselves, or more sensitive, may have even felt ruined.
Safety in numbers, I say.