The Beepocalypse, Book 2 in The Best Adventures series, will be out in the next couple of weeks! Wahoo!
I love many parts of the writing process (though not all!) and sending a fledging story off to a group of wonderful beta readers is definitely one of those parts. This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where things get real. It’s where dreams become reality. Up to this point, the story has been performed for an audience of one (me!). Okay, I’ve been reading it to my daughters and they love it, but you get my point.
And now, it goes out to ten readers who’ve expressed an affection for my work, but who also quite often have strong opinions about what is and is not working. And that’s exactly what a story needs because a writer can NEVER see all the flaws in his or her creation. Never. Sure, I can see an irregular birthmark here and a bad case of cradle cap there, but those are surface level things. And they’re adorable if you really get down to it, right?
Yeah. We see some little things, but we almost always totally miss some really big things. While I’ve been admiring the baby’s cute chubby cheeks, I’ve totally missed that the baby has twenty toes! Okay, the analogy breaks down here because that would be heartbreaking for a real baby and it’s readily fixable in a story.
The key is seeing the flaw in the first place. That’s my point. And being the writer creates a certain level of myopia that makes me miss some issues completely. The crux of the problem is that when I read my own story, I’m not just seeing the story on the page in my head. I’m seeing every thought I ever had about that scene. All the background, the deleted cuts, the offscreen characters doing this or that.
And that’s where a beta reader comes in. They tell me how good the translation was from my brain to the page. (And yes, I’m assuming my brain is telling a great story in the first place. It is. Trust me on this one.) An example of this happened on Sole Survivor, a recent book I published. I sent it off to the beta readers thinking it was sweeter than candied sugar. While they generally liked it, it quickly became evident that I had completely whiffed on telling Dr. Ganesh’s storyline. After getting all the comments, I went back and read through his chapters.
SMACK TO THE FOREHEAD! (literally)
It was so obvious. I’d completely left approximately half of his story in my head and not on the page. It was a huge miss and couldn’t have been more obvious… except that I couldn’t see it until several beta readers pointed out that his chapters weren’t quite working. So, I went back and fixed it. Bada boom bada bing and now the baby is as beautiful as can be and is ready to live a happy life.
Beta readers help a writer take a story to the next level. And that’s a big reason why I love this step in the process. I love taking something that I already think is good and making it even better. I also love it because it means I’m almost finished with a book and so can move on to the next shiny bauble that has captured my attention.
So, here’s to beta readers! I am so thankful for what they bring to a story’s development. Thank you, beta readers! You are the bee’s knees!