Beta-Review Blues(?)

Yesterday I came home to see a message from one of my beta-readers and a PDF of her notes. I felt at once excited and wary by what the notes would contain. Would she like it? Hate it? Tell me to jump off a cliff? It’s like opening a present when you don’t know if the contents will be something awesome or maybe something that will kill you.

“Look! A present!” Opens box and it explodes.
~The end~

I’ll admit that I had a hard time reading it. I was nervous but my doubts were quickly dispelled. She started off being complimentary, stating my book “has a real chance at a main-stream publisher and main-stream audience,”  before going in and giving me her impressions and suggestions. Some I agreed with, others I didn’t, but at no time did she come across as either cruel or condescending. My friend gave me her opinions, the reasons for stating them, and I felt that she truly wants to help me write a great book.

One of the main problems with my present draft, and it’s one that another reader addressed, is that I take too long to get my story started. My hook doesn’t come until chapter six and it needs to be moved a closer to the beginning. There are a few story-lines that need to be reduced or eliminated. Then there’s some behavioral issues that need to be fixed, ones that as a man I never would have thought of but a woman would question immediately. I guess that means I don’t know women as well as I thought! To all my female readers, please don’t roll your eyes at me. Don’t think I didn’t see that.

I also have some opportunities to fix stilted dialogue. I already knew that, by the way. It’s one of my weaknesses in that I can say everything I want to say, as expressively as I want, using language as it ought to be used, and how I have trouble using it in real life. Sometimes it comes out skewed; technically correct but not quite right. I’ll have to do a read-through or a hundred to fix it.

There are a few more suggested corrections, but I don’t want to bog this down by listing everything in the review. Besides, I don’t want to give away the ending. You’ll have to buy the book to see! Every one of her points will be considered and I’m sure I’ll make most, if not all, of the changes she thinks my book needs. I trust her judgment.

And now to the blues part of my review….

I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! Sorry for yelling, it’s just that I’m sorting out her suggestions, trying to work it out in my head, needing to find a way to implement the changes without destroying the integrity of the whole. I learned that a book is a lot like a tapestry and pulling at one thread can unravel the whole story if one is not careful.

What I’ll need to do is write an outline of what I have and then create an outline of what I want the finished product to be. I’ve never plotted, never outlined, never had an overarching plan of what I want from my story. I may have a general idea in mind, but I’ve been a pantser since I started. If I do this – and by if I mean I’m going to do it – it’ll be a new skill I’ll need to learn.

All that I need now is to decide on a time-frame to finish this. Tentatively, I’ll give myself the rest of the month to get this rewrite done, since I’ve never done this comprehensive a rewrite with suggestions in mind. It’s scary, which is to say exciting, and I can’t wait to start. I also can’t wait to finish it so that I can begin to look for someone to proofread the manuscript, then I can find a cover artist!

Now if only I could find a title!

One thought on “Beta-Review Blues(?)

  1. Aren’t you lucky to have such a friend who will give you honest suggestions – and appears to know what she’s talking about. One suggestion from me. Well. Maybe two. Look at where she agrees with that other one. That’s your biggest problem area. That’s the one you need to solve.Think hard about which aspects of it you truly agree with. As you say, you don’t agree with all of it. Sleep on it. Then go into your re-write only after you have a clear idea of how you want to handle the problem. There may be far less you need to change than you think. Maybe simply moving around some scenes will get you close to where you need to be. As for dialogue – that comes much more easily. Do you read i aloud so you can hear it yourself or get someone to read it to you. I have found that to be very helpful.

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