Beta Readers To The Rescue

So, it’s been a week since I posted again, but I have a good excuse: I’ve been vegging. I already mentioned how hard it was for me to relax and get into my library books for my self-mandated week off before I started editing. Well, the past week hasn’t been nearly so difficult.

Why am I not working, you ask? It’s because my story has entered a very important stage: beta reading. Beta reading was a foreign concept to me when I first started trying to write years ago. It wasn’t until I had a working draft of Origins and began researching what to do next that I came across the term. In a nutshell, beta readers are an author’s testers. They’re typically the first ones to read a completed manuscript and offer constructive feedback to the author.

Many authors find it difficult to find good, reliable beta readers. I had this part easy. For anyone who knows my history, you’ll know about the fancy high school I attended. For anyone who doesn’t, it’s called the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, & Humanities, and it’s located on Ball State University’s campus. It’s a prestigious school, with incredibly high standards. I received a top-notch education there. So, when I needed beta readers, I knew exactly where to find them. I belong to the Academy’s alumni Facebook page, and that’s where I posted my request. I got more responses than I could handle. Two of them were from people I actually know, which was pretty awesome. I chose a handful of others based on their additional education, their interests, and how well I thought they could handle the project. They received the same education I did, so I knew they were up the challenge.

I started with 6, but ended up with only 4. During the process I lost 2, simply because they stopped responding to my messages and I never heard from them again. Their loss. My beta readers were everything I hoped for. They were perceptive, and concise, and found things in Origins I had no idea were there. I’m not going to lie. Receiving good feedback is tough. I read them all in one day, and spent the rest of the day crying and depressed. There were so many things I needed to fix. Plot holes, character behavior that made no sense, places of confusion that I understood but none of them did. I had read other authors’ accounts and thought I was prepared for how hard it would be, but I wasn’t.

Now it’s beta reading time again, this time for my young adult project. I hadn’t spoken to my beta readers in about 8 months, but when I sent out the emails, 3 out of 4 of them were eager to help me again. Those emails went out last friday, and they have a month to read my story and get their feedback to me. I’m nervous. As I’ve said, I’m not very good at editing myself. I’m counting on them to identify the problem areas that need to be ironed out before I begin approaching agents, which is a pretty tall order.

Until then, my time is my own. I’ve been finishing up the library books I had to renew and binging shows on Netflix, and it’s been really nice. There are a few small things I may work on between now and then, but I have a feeling I’ll have a hard time concentrating on anything new until the reading time is up.

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