A series of happy accidents led me to find a former copy editing colleague on Facebook. After a few hellos and comments about life then and now, she suggested I friend an author she has known for years who is enjoying success in getting published. One conversation leads to the author advising me to ask my friend the copy editor to serve as a beta reader.
I don’t know about you, but asking friends/coworkers/loved ones/significant others is NOT the way to get good, solid, reliable feedback, useful critiques, or helpful suggestions. Knowing a beta reader was just what I needed, I took her advice. And my friend the copy editor is now my No. 1 beta reader.
After reading the first 50 pages of my detective novel she wrote “So first the positives: I was invested in the characters, so yes I want to read more. The plot was intriguing. I liked the little twists that kept me wondering who did it and why. Overall, it caught my interest with the character development and the plot. ”
Then she wrote: ” … the biggest flaw I see – is that you don’t use your biggest selling point – the location. You have a tremendous opportunity because of your background to make X a major “character” in this book. I think that could be what would make this book stand out among all the hundred or so mystery books released each month. There was no flavor of the setting. Except for the names of the towns and areas, this book could have been set in Cleveland. I wanted more description. I wanted to see it, to taste it, to smell it. I wanted to know that I was in X, and I didn’t. I’m sure once the reader gets further into the book, there will be more description that will satisfy that longing, but in the first 46 pages, it wasn’t there. ”
And she’s right. I wrote most of the scenes as if EVERYONE will know what I’m talking about when I talk about X. They don’t. My beta reader has never been to that country. She knows zero. Whatever I am writing about is the first time she’s hearing about it.
Along with typos, missing words and other embarrassing things, she absolutely hit the nail on the head about what I needed to do with my manuscript before sending it out to agents and publishers.
So listen up: If you are a writer and you don’t have a beta reader, a wordsmith, someone you trust to tell what’s wrong as well as what’s right about your story, get one. Now. And be a big enough person to take their advice, and get back to work. Because in the end, it’s your work. Why wouldn’t you want to make it better if you have a chance?
Tell me about your beta reader in the comments section.
And: see ya next week!