Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Fresh Set of Eyeballs?

It's time. I've stared at this thing long enough. Right now, I'm half-way through my 3rd draft and I find myself consistently doing more reading than actual editing. That's not to say that there's not a lot left in my novel that needs re-working, revising, etc. I think though that, after looking at all of these words, after re-reading them so many times over the past year, I'm not really seeing it all that well anymore.

Take my first chapter. I can tell you that there's a lot that still needs fixing. I just am not sure that, this far in, my vision remains clear enough to identify what that is. I've let it rest in between drafts. There have been long stretches where I've done a lot of reading, separate from my book. My brain has taken a vacation, more than once. And still, I'm starting to realize that there are only so many times that I can read my work-in-progress.

It's time to set it all before a fresh set of eyeballs.

All along, I've told myself that I wouldn't let any beta-readers at this until I thought my manuscript was perfect. At this point, though, I feel like the entire process could use a real jump-start. Here's what I've decided to do: I've asked my wife to look at it. Once I finish my 3rd draft, she's going to do a read-through. Mind you, she has no idea (other than knowing the genre) what my novel is about. I want her to let me know what's working, 'cause I can't tell anymore. I want her to tell me what dialogue feels un-realistic or robotic, 'cause I'm now deaf to it all. I want her to pick out all the straggling clich├ęs, cause, 'cause my hands are exhausted.

It tough, as a writer, to show your work to someone else when you know it's unfinished. In my case, it's especially difficult as this is my first novel and my wife hasn't really ever seen anything substantial written by me. To let her read what, in my mind, will only be a 3rd draft is tough.

Tough, but necessary.

I don't know if others would agree with me or decide on a completely different plan of action. Truth is, I don't really care. It is what, I believe, will work best for me. If I've learned anything throughout this process, it's that every author's process is his/her own.

So, what works for you?



  1. I just wrote a blog about this.
    Basically, you need Alphas before you go to Betas. Alphas are experienced writers who know how stories work. Betas (while they can be writers) are those that don't have to and read a more polished product.
    The same thing happens in programming and industry. A software designer will send a version to his Alpha Testers (people who know the inner workings of programs) to find ways to break it. Once he gets the problem reports back from them, he addresses those issues and then sends the Beta version out to a broader user base. The betas will comment on what's unclear because they only know intuitively when something is wrong or will stumble on something accidentally. They probably won't look down all the dark allies that the Alphas did. Those intuitive things can slip by because Betas see the work a different way than Alphas and even more differently than the creator.
    Basically, let some other writers at it!

  2. thanks, Jim. this sounds like great advice. clearly, I'm still learning. I definitely might try and put your plan to action.

    so, alphas huh? given me something new to ponder.

  3. I agree with Jim. Having an alpha reader is hugely helpful - catching things before you go too far off the rails and giving those great initial reactions. I only had one alpha reader for awhile (and still have her, she's awesome), but joined a critique writer's group about a year ago and have expanded. Those new alpha readers are also a great crit group overall for line editing and so forth. THEN, out to the beta readers. It's hard to do (I was going to say "at first", but that's not true- it's always hard), but hugely helpful.

  4. I'll jump in here to say I agree with Jim. If you can't find a critique group start one of your own. I meet 3 women every week. We all bring a chapter on whatever we are working on. We are all over the spectrum when it comes to individual work. And education levels--and publishing levels! It is immensely helpful every week.In fact Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (and others)met weekly in a pub in England for over 10 years. They called themselves The Inklings. Check out the history of the Eagle and the Child pub!

    1. awesome name, the Inklings. thanks!