Thursday 8th February 2018
Today I met up with Kate to discuss her beta read of book 2.
I spent the morning going over her detailed notes and making notes of my own.
When reading feedback from a beta reader, there’s a filter you have to put over it. Just because one reader might have hated one character doesn’t mean they need to be removed. Everything comes bundled with a personal bias.
And so the real challenge to reading feedback is trying to understand what is just that reader’s personal taste and what is a general issue.
It’s easy to make a mistake, to discount a comment (particularly if it is uncomfortable) as being “just them”. It’s a smaller version of those writers who scoff at anyone who dares make comment on their genius.
But likewise, it’s sometimes easy to take a reader’s interpretation too literally and feel you need to make changes to sate them.
A good beta reader will already have a good sense of what is their personal taste and what is broken on a more fundamental level… but those readers are few and far between. More often than not you’ll get a reader who wants to tell you how they’d write the story.
So how do you become a good beta reader? By demonstrating why your comments are valid. That character you hate as a reader? Show they have no agency, or that the choice they make is different to how the character was portrayed earlier in the novel.
Don’t be afraid of your biases. Nothing wrong with saying that something isn’t right for you. If it isn’t right for you, it might be that it’s not right for a lot of readers. But as the writer, feel free to ignore it.
And so, as you read comments, you pick and choose. You try and be as open and honest with yourself about the issues and consider each of them in turn. Can you see the beta reader’s point of view? Is the emotion they’re feeling the one you wanted to convey?
This is the stage where you have to be super-honest with yourself. You are neither the world’s greatest writer, nor the worst. Your ego has to take a back seat while you help the novel be as strong as it can. Nothing is sacred. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
Speaking to Kate, the issues seem to be with the start of the novel. One subplot has limited options due to its first person narrative. That means I have to put my hero in those scenes to witness the events. But the result of that means it feels too much like a different series rather than the second novel. Kate can see why I’ve done what I’ve done on a technical level…but it doesn’t work too well.
So the task is going to be to rip out that subplot… leave the plot threads that weave into the other subplot there, and just construct something new that will connect in a very similar way.
It’s certainly daunting, the main challenge being trying to find a way to place the hero in all the scenes that are going to be needed in a better way to before.
But I don’t think it’s impossible… I just need to think about it.
So my plan is to let it perculate in the background, whilst I build the plot for book 3. I’m not even going to attempted a first draft of book 3 until I revise Book 2, by which time I can make adjustments to the plot of book 3 as needed.
I’m hoping that, as I become more accustom to rewriting, the process becomes quicker. I’m ahead of myself I keep reminding myself. With any luck I can get the revisions to book 2, a first draft of book 3 and whatever I need to do for book 1 all done before the end of this year. That would put me massively ahead.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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