Hooray for Betas

Recently I put my Big Girl Pants on and sent my new book off to beta readers.

And now there is feedback. Is there anything more terrifying, though? You’ve spent countless hours getting everything down and semi coherent, and now it’s got to the point where you need someone else to read it. More the just one someone else, if possible. What you really want is a number of different ideas. I like to see if any align.

I sent mine off at peace with the fact that this was not it. Because first drafts are exactly that. A first draft. A vague idea of plots. A rudimentary outline of a story. Find me a book that was perfect at its first draft. I’ll wait.

You won’t.

Because the issue with The Songs We Listened To was that I knew something didn’t sit right with it, but when you spend those countless hours looking at the same words over and over and working with your characters you begin to lose sight of where it needs improvement. You can’t really see the wood for the trees anymore. It takes a village and all that jazz. I knew it wasn’t even close to being perfect, but I couldn’t see where it needed work.

I sent The Songs We Listened To off, and I’ve had some feedback and suddenly I’m really really excited about it again. Not that I wasn’t, and we all know I have a giant crush on Jesse (Be still my heart. This can’t be healthy.) but now it feels like the book has a purpose again. That his story could be something really quite cool. It needs a mammoth rewrite. A complete overhaul. A drastic restructure. But that’s not as daunting as it sounds. A lot of it is written. Bits just need oomphing up. Sections need jiggling around. Chapters need expanding on. One in particular needs to be split up into little interludes and scattered throughout the entire book. It’s work alright, but it’s exciting. Where will this book go? Who knows? Not me, and I’m writing the damn thing.

Like I said, getting feedback is terrifying. There will be bits of your manuscript that you love but that other people will think kind of suck. Likewise there will be bits you weren’t convinced about but someone else might suggest that with a tweak, would sing. You’ll think you got something across, but maybe it wasn’t really as obvious as you thought. After all, you’ve lived and breathed this story for ages. Everything is obvious to you. You might need to think a bit bigger, chuck in some hyperbole, make it funnier, sexier, darker, more thrilling, whatever. It’s your universe. Make it explode. Don’t be mediocre.

This was the third book I have sent to betas, so I’m still relatively new to this, but by no means a manuscript virgin. Let me just say it doesn’t get any easier. There are a few things it would behove you to remember when reading through your feedback.

Betas are there to help you make things better. Think of a beta as a beacon of light when you’re stuck in that forest of story and you can’t see the wood for the trees anymore. They want your story to be the best it can be. Feedback might seem harsh, but perhaps sleep on it. Put it away for a day or so and then revisit. Drink a glass of wine (hell, I got through at least a bottle editing Jetplanes, and between you and me, it’s now my favourite. Initial feedback was, shall we say, constructive. I may have cried.) Take a deep breath. Remember, it’s not a personal attack on you.

Everything awesome needs crafting.

But mainly:

You got this.