As I am writing this, a completed second draft of the prelude and first chapter of my novel is sitting, completed, on my hard drive. I didn’t do a comparison on the prelude, but I will say that Chapter 1 grew by over 1000 words. I am fairly pleased with it, actually.
This is by no means even close to meaning novel completion, but I have decided that I should start thinking about beta readers now, rather than later. It’s going to take some time to get a workable batch together, and besides, they may find big problems that I have overlooked that should be corrected for ASAP.
What, I hear some of you asking, is a beta reader? Essentially, a beta reader is a test reader. A volunteer who willingly subjects themselves to my writing and commits to offering their feedback.
But what am I looking for? So glad you asked.
1. General readers. I do need some of you to just be plain old reading folk. Preferrably ones who enjoy fantasy, as this is a fantasy novel, and if you hate fantasy, you’re not going to like this. That would sort of skew your feedback.
2. Sensitivity readers. I’m going to need some of these. A sensitivity reader is a reader from a group that might have issues with this book due to poor or hurtful portrayals of that group in the past. I would love sensitivity readers that can cover LGBTQ issues, mental illness, people of size and people of colour. Now, not all of these issues are central themes, but they all pop up at some point. I qualify, myself, for at least one of these, but I can’t be my own sensitivity reader.
3. Readers who loved the whole “magic child goes to another world and has adventures” style of books. This is not a children’s or YA book, but it does deal with that theme. I’m thinking of Narnia, Oz, Neverland, Wonderland and that ilk. Did you love those? I’d love to get feedback from you.
You do not need to fall into all of these categories. I mean, you can, and that is cool, but you don’t need to.
What am I really, really, REALLY not looking for? Also glad you asked.
1. Proof readers. This is not a finished manuscript. You are going to notice some errors. Please do not point them out. Yes, I’ve done my best to self-edit, but that is not my number one priority at this stage of writing, and that is not what I need from you.
2. People who love me too much. Mom and Dad, I’m looking at you here. If you are emotionally inclined to automatically think anything I do is brilliant, you are probably not right for this. I love you and appreciate your continued, unconditional support. That is a very important part of my foundation as a writer. But it isn’t what I need for this.
3. Inability to criticise. This is akin to the prior point, but also a little different. If you love what you are reading, please do tell me. But also tell me why. Tell me what you loved. But if something isn’t working for you, I really need you to be able to convey that, too, and hopefully why it isn’t working. Sometimes, that isn’t possible. Sometimes, you just plain don’t like a thing, period, but if you can articulate it, please do.
4. Brutal honesty. This is the flip side of the above. I do want honesty, but if you are the sort of person who struggles to couch honest critique in kind terms, you are not for me. Not for this. I respect you, I applaud your honesty, I hope you will one day read a finished version of this brain child of mine, but at this stage of my writing? I know myself well enough to know that this is not a good mix. If you don’t like a thing, as I mentionned above, do tell me. But please be kind. This is my first novel.
So. What will you be signing up for if you agree to this? It’s a fair question. I will ask you to read one to two chapters per week. Most weeks, it will be one, but if it is a super short chapter, I may send out two, such as with the prologue and Chapter 1. That prologue is terribly short. I’ll send some questions for you to answer along with the chapter. Some will be the same from week to week, and sometimes I may have a specific question. Think along the lines of “What did you like most?” “What did you dislike most?” “Did something confuse you?” I’m sure I’ll also toss in a general comment invitation too. Yes/no answers aren’t as helpful as detailed ones, but I understand that sometimes that’s all you’ve got.
What do you get out of this? My undying gratitude. Plus, I suppose, a chance to read a thing before other people… not so exciting when it is for an unpublished author, I suppose. The chance to help shape a work of fiction. That may mean a lot more for sensitivity readers. Honestly, I’m the one reaping the reward here, so mostly it is a bunch of gratitude from me.
Interested? Let me know. Comments on here are a bit funky, so you can always head over to http://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog and send me a DM. I will need your email for this to work, and why you want to be a beta reader. If you’re one of the sensitivity readers, this is a good time to let me know that, and which group(s) you fall into.
And if this seems like too much of a time commitment for you, that is entirely cool and I quite understand.
As a final note, the opinions of all beta readers will be taken into consideration, but I may not follow every piece of advice that I am given. After all, if I have ten readers, and nine of them absolutely love one aspect but one person hates it, I’m likely not going to take in the advice to change that thing. Occasionally, I may even ignore a majority of people arguing against a thing if I feel that thing is important to the overall work, so if you sign up for this, please be understanding if your advice isn’t taken.