The alpha readers are being drip-fed edits every 5 chapters or so and have been waiting a long time for chapters 25-30 due to the amount of editing that’s been needed.
I had chance to sit down one of them this morning over breakfast and discuss at some length their impressions of the first half of the book.
Now let’s not be under any illusion that they thought it perfect. They didn’t and listed a large number of things that bothered them: whether I’m sometimes internalising to the point of making the reader bored, whether a secondary character is derivative, whether a major character doesn’t question enough something that happens?
But overall, they seem to be enjoying it.
Their points get filed away. I’ve got to do a further pass on some of the chapters of concern so I’ll be thinking about their points when I come to them.
I think that’s the trick. It’s not to take everything my readers say for granted, but to try and look at things through their eyes, and agree and disagree as I see fit. As Bruce Holland Rogers once told me, it’s not that one person thinks a chapter is too short or that another thinks it too long, it’s that both think it the wrong length.
It’s impossible to please everyone. Think of your favourite books and how there are passages you dislike or criticisms you’d make. This alpha reader’s points have been noted and compared to my own worries. They’ll be noted against the other alpha reader’s points when they come in.
What’s most important is that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed (in most instances by adding or deleting a few sentences). That’s kinda surprising and also kinda scary. Everyone who’s read it seems to like it, seems to think it’s a good book, and I can’t help but worry that subconsciously my hopes are being raised ahead of a mighty fall.
But that’s just the pessimist in me. As I’ve said, I don’t handle success well. The important thing is that I’m happy with it. It’s the book I’ve always wanted it to be, even if some chapters have taken a world record number of drafts.
What’s most surprising is that there is one scene in the book I really worried about (and no I’m not going to say what it is) yet no-one who has read it has raised even a slight concern about its inclusion.
It’s a good start to the New Year. There’s still a lot of work to do. I know I drive friends nuts with my need to endlessly revise but I know what standard I want this book to be (and that standard has never changed). It’s almost there but that’s no reason to slack off now.
I just hope the effort will be worth it