After writing, rewriting, and reading through and rewriting again, my draft was ready to be read by someone other than me. I’ve been Scott’s first/alpha reader for all of his books so far, so of course he was mine.
For both of us, we like to read the book in Word. It isn’t as convenient or hand-held as a copy on Kindle, but we both like Word’s commenting and markup features. On Scott’s two most recent books, my number of comments passed the 100 mark.
We made minor changes to each other’s manuscripts: putting in a missing quotation mark here, fixing a misspelled word there. But most of the notes were calling out any one of a number of issues, from confusion (anytime you have to read back and ask yourself, what just happened here?) to echoes (words or phrases that repeat in a sentence, paragraph, or throughout the book) to pacing and plot holes.
(We are both also careful to make notes when things delight us, or make us laugh out loud. There’s nothing worse than a huge scoop of criticism with no praise sprinkled on top.)
The worst part, of course, is getting back a marked-up manuscript with someone’s notes all over it. And then reading through it and thinking Seriously? How can that NOT be clear enough? (Although Scott and I are usually on the same page about things. It also helps that since we’re in the same house, we can get more clarity about the comments.
After taking in Scott’s notes and thinking about them, I proceeded to revise the book again.
Then, it was time for some beta readers who didn’t live in my house. We actually didn’t have too much overlap between our groups of readers─I think only one person has given feedback on every book that the House of Meyer has produced. I opted to send my book out to a half-dozen friends in various fields, and hoped that at least half of them would read it and send feedback. (Which is almost exactly the response rate. I don’t harbor any ill will toward those who didn’t get back to me; life gets in the way, and I realize that it’s a big ask.)
The responses were interesting, to say the least. Things one person had a huge problem with, the others didn’t mention at all. There were actually very few things that all readers agreed on. And on receiving each response, there was always that feeling of Really? Seriously? No way I’m making that change!
And then a couple of days would pass, and I’d think about the changes and suggestions over that couple of days, and I’d end up either adding in some detail or adjusting things. Or, in one case, rewriting two chapters from scratch with a totally different angle. I also changed a couple of names and stripped out even more echoed words and phrases.
There were, of course, a few notes that didn’t inspire any changes. One reader wanted some steamy sex, which wasn’t what I was going for. (Scott and I both write for adults, but our stuff could absolutely be read by teens.) But others helped out enormously─one of my readers was a woman who worked in software, and she cleared up some glaring problems in my understanding of the industry.
Bottom line, every one of the early readers had something to contribute that made my novel better. I think it’s just as essential as having a professional editor.
Next up: the professional editing experience!
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