Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thoughts From a Beta-Reader

Last night, my manuscript was handed back to me (by my first beta-reader) with a ton of revision suggestions. Most everything was scribbled into the margins, but there was also an extra page handed to me with some overall thoughts and comments. We had an opportunity to sit down and talk through her notes, questions, concerns, etc. Here's what I learned:

  • Some of my characters are just written better than others. This was a little surprising to me, but I completely understood what my beta was saying. She felt that she just knew some of these folks super well and that others needed to be fleshed out more. Some of her most directed comments were about my protagonist. Eek. Sure, she's driving the plot and clearly central to the story... but, it was some of her supporting cast members that were the most vivid characters.
  • Some characters sounded too similar. This was extremely helpful. I didn't necessarily pick up on this while I was writing. It is super important for each character to have an entirely unique voice.
  • Word choice. There were some words/phrases that I used a bit too much. One in particular stood out to my beta: plopped. She commented that she saw it a few times and that she didn't think it really had a place in my novel... even once. Funny thing: I don't remember ever even using it.
  • Plot holes. She definitely dug some up and now it's my job to fill them back in. Fortunately, the two of us were able to chat about how I might do that. I already have a ton of great ideas.
  • Realistic injuries/healing time. She reminded me that my characters aren't Jack Bauer and that this isn't an episode of 24. She said that I need to make sure that injuries inflicted on my characters are given a realistic amount of healing time. She's right.
  • Consistency with a new alien language. The example given to me was Tolkien's use of language in LOTR/The Hobbit. She emphasized that when I allow a new species to speak in their own language that I must know exactly what they are saying at all times. There's needs to be consistency. If an alien character is saying "hello" in his/her own language, then he/she needs to say "hello" the same way each time. If I'm inconsistent, my readers will certainly notice.
There's more, of course, but this should give you an idea of some of the comments I received. I plan to spend today working on these revisions. I'm also giving myself a deadline of a week to make all of these fixes. I don't want it to sit too long before I hand it off to my next reader.

This is my process. As I always say, different authors won't necessarily do it this way, nor should they. Find your own process and make it work for you.

Keep checking back. Things are moving fast right now!



  1. Excellent advice. I plan to follow it myself. I write a lot of poetry. Have seen two manuscripts become Pushcart nomintaed books, but fiction is a different animal. It's scary. Still, with my novel, I press on, we press on. Good luck. I'll return to see how your novel is maturing. All the best.

  2. Sorry - found a typo in my last post to your blog. I hate typos!!

  3. I have been told that my supporting characters need their own books, which is both a compliment and a worry because even though they should be authentic, shouldn't my protagonist be the most interesting? It's something I'm starting to think on - and is especially important with my latest manuscript. Anyway, I found it interesting that a little of this came up in your beta reader's comments.

    Enjoy plopping yourself down to edits this week! (Couldn't resist - and we ALL have those kind of words. I have some like that, and then I also flood my manuscripts with the words "just" and "that". Always. Imagine how I must sound when talking with others. Hm.)

  4. Hi.
    Though I'm not willing to introduce myself, I found your blog (and have learned of your efforts) through twitter, where you favorited a tweet of mine.

    I'm not sure if that's part of your writing process, going through the world wide feed via keywords - hey maybe it's probably up the YA alley, whatever, that's your thing.
    However, I'd still really like to say; GOOD LUCK, and if you're ever willing to release the Kraken that is going to be your creation someday, after the Betas and Omegas and whatnot... I'd probably fit in your demographic. Just leaving this there.
    Happy Easter.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for the support. Twitter is kind of a weird thing (place?), but I'm trying to use it to meet others like me... writers, readers, bookophiles. The advice and encouragement I'm receiving from complete strangers is awesome. I wish everything in our world was this friendly/supportive.

      Thanks for stopping by!