Working with 1st Round of Betas

Last week I had a Skype chat with a close-friend. It was a chat I was both dreading and anticipating.

Why? At the beginning of January I sent my novel to the first round of beta-readers. Sonya and Liz are close-friends of mine that I’ve worked with in the past, Liz edited my essays in University (that is, when I finished them ahead of schedule) and Sonya was my right-hand lady during the last NaNo. They know my quirks and my faults. Having them take the first glance at the completed draft was like putting the iron fist in a velvet glove – it would hurt, but I knew they’d try to soften the blow. 

Pressing the send button on that email  was probably one of the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. My fiction writing hasn’t seen the light of day since my grade-school short stories (I mean beyond the fanfiction that’s published in the bowels of the internet).

I spent December cleaning up as much grammar and spelling as I could. I added in some extra scenes and tried to look at the piece critically. I polished as much as I could, knowing that once the document was sent, it was out of my hands.

I asked both Sonya and Liz to primarily  focus on substantive and structural editing. Although I know the genre and I know the necessary beats to hit, I’m fairly biased when reading my own work. Having outsiders look at the progression of both the plot and characters was a huge boon. 

Sonya sent an email outlining the various scenes and character development that she had concerns with. Letting me know what elements worked and what needed more tweaking. Liz talked it out informally over Skype, focusing on the thematic and the overall structure. I loved having both of those interactions, I was able to sit down and address the problems formally with Sonya and hash-out my structure problems with Liz. 

It was interesting that they both had very similar critiques and both had the same suggestions for the potential follow-up. Which I hope bodes well for my novel.  Beyond the occasional plot/character slip-up (such as forgetting my main character had nephews not nieces), I need to develop the relationships a little more and finesse some descriptions. I’m drafting out new scenes to add and working on embellishing them before heading out to the next round of beta-reading/editing. They’ve agreed to do stylistic editing next to help me with some word choice and spelling errors that slipped by.

Once it’s sent off for the second round of editing, I’ll be focusing on prepping my work for my two biggest challenges, the two editors that my writing lies in fear of. The first is my mother, who doesn’t know the genre but knows mythology and grammar like the back of her hand. The second is another another close-friend who not only knows the urban fantasy genre but has probably read every urban fantasy novel there is. Both of them aren’t afraid to give the tough advice. My theory is, if my work can pass muster with those two, I’ll be able to handle any outside critique that comes my way. 

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