Beta Reader Conclusions and Next Steps

I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so I’m going to keep this entry as short as possible.

 

It took nearly a year, but I’ve managed to secure five beta readers for my story and reflect on their feedback.  I’m happy to say that most of the readers enjoyed my story, flaws and all.  Based on their feedback, if I were to sum it all up in one thing I’ve learned, it’s this:

Many things that are apparent to the author, while writing, are not apparent to the reader, causing the reader to lose track of important events and designs.

While there were plenty more criticisms in my story, mostly subjective to the individual beta reader, this is the lesson that stood out on its own throughout the entire process.  I do somewhat wonder if it’s something that all new authors go through, so I’ve decided to expand a little on what I mean by this based on feedback from the beta readers.

When I write, I tend to have everything planned out – in fact, I write best and achieve my best word counts in a day when I have a solid chunk of story to focus on.  I write, I leave it, I edit, I re-write, edit, etc. through the entire process…but because I’m writing from the point of view that knows everything, I forget to consider writing from a reader’s point of view, the point of view that knows nothing until reading that part in the novel.

Also, I can easily visualize my characters, settings, and ubiquitous meaning behind vague conversations.  This leaves me to focus on the more prominent aspects of the story, namely the plot, conflict, and flow.  Because of this, I forget that my readers don’t always remember what a specific race looks like, where a certain event took place, or why I might write only a short conversation about an otherwise important event.  It’s easy for me, the omnipresent author, to see eventually where each facet of the story leads – and because it’s easy for me, it could be difficult for the reader.

This is why I’m so grateful for beta readers – while they are responsible for critiquing and pointing out flaws in the writing and story, they also point out flaws in the way the author writes the story.  The author writes from the perspective of knowing every character, every event, and every place the story will go.  An author does not need to be thinking about how characters look or what monument stands out in a particular city because they already know this.  To re-write these aspects every chapter isn’t a conscious part of story-telling, but is necessary for the reader to visualize what is happening.

This was something I didn’t even really consider when writing.  When reading, I often get annoyed at repetitive key visuals of characters or objects, thus could be a reason I strayed from re-telling what characters looked like or why certain events were critical to the plot or the world outside the plot.  In doing so, I forgot that readers cannot ‘see’ everything as I can see, and need to be reminded of the who/what/where/whys/hows of the story.  It is a critical part of writing, one I overlooked being caught up in the ‘moments’ of writing, and am glad for learning one more thing about writing.

As for next steps, well, the obvious one is to make the final changes to the story and then get it professionally edited.  However, due to financial restrictions, I likely won’t be able to do this until June/July.  My car payment is a necessity, but I hope to finish it off between April and June.  However, I also have several big/expensive trips coming up for work in May and June, and because I have to pay these off before I get reimbursed, I need to set aside money for these as well.

But the good news is I strongly believe that I should achieve a thorough, professional editing job this year.  Until then, I plan on finishing my Nanowrimo novel and starting to use what I learned from my beta readers and apply it to the other two novels I already have in the pipeline to be beta read possibly by the end of the year.

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