Beta Reader Findings

Reader in train Erre via Compfight

The best way to find the big picture flaws of your novel is to let people read it. Not everyone, but a small, subset of everyone. Try and find folks who are not familiar with your work and are not afraid to tell you when they find things they didn’t understand. Some of them should be writers and some of them should be just regular readers. Among them should be at least one person who is not a fan of your genre.

This small sampling of readers, should then be debriefed after they have read your manuscript. Sometimes this is in the form of a lengthy conversation – in which you take good notes. More frequently, you have them fill out a questionnaire. You can find some decent questionnaires out there on the web and then tailor them to your own needs.

After you have your feedback, it’s a pretty simple matter to compare and contrast the answers. When three or more readers tell you that your hero was not who you thought it was, you definitely have a problem that should be addressed. For my latest WIP, Starveyors, that is what has happened.

The problem arose while I was writing the novel. I realized halfway through it that the hero was not who I thought it was. That’s okay. I just plowed on through it and didn’t attempt to rethink what I had already written, because otherwise the first draft would have stalled. The end result is that my current draft bounces around between two possible protagonists and never really settles on making it clear which person actually is the protagonist. So the Beta Readers were split on who it actually was.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to fix this problem, but I’m sure it will involve some POV changes and possibly a few new scenes. If I hadn’t let a variety of readers read the manuscript, I might not have found this error before it got to my editor. That would have wasted her time in having to tell me to go back to the drawing board.

So that’s where I am with Starveyors. I still expect to get this novel to the e-presses in late November if not by December.

Weekly Writing Update

Reading in a Cafe - BangkokRonn aka “Blue” Aldaman via Compfight

This week I’ve started sending out copies of my second draft of Starforgers to Beta Readers. Beta Readers are an important part of the writing process for me. Not only do they catch some of the little errors in a manuscript, they also point out where I lose the reader and whether the story is any good at all. If their feedback is good, it makes my Editor’s job that much easier.

I usually pick a mix of different folks to be my Beta Readers, from fellow writers to ordinary readers. Sometimes I even get readers who don’t ordinarily read SF to get an idea how much of the story stands apart from the conventions of the genre. I always get at least one fan to read the manuscript, because they are familiar enough with my novels to spot where I stray from established canon.

I’ve also started hacking on the first draft of The Rising, book two in what will become the Starforgers Trilogy. The Rising takes place a few years after Starforgers and deals with the Silicant uprising. If you loved Starforgers, this book will carry on with some of your favorite characters, both human and Silicant.

For the writer nerds out there, The Rising is my sixth book and the first to be written in the new writer program that I’m testing called Plume Creator.