6 Lessons I Learned From The Beta Reading Process

6 Lessons I Learned From The Beta Reading Process

Sending my novel out for beta reading was potentially the most terrifying part of my writing career to date. As a Creative Writing graduate, I’m no stranger to critique; workshopping my writing with peers was basically all I did for four years.

But when it came to my novel, I always kept it close to my heart. I’ve shared little details about this 17-year journey of mine. A vague ‘ saving the world and stuff’ has always been my go-to answer when asked about the plot.

Sure, over the years I’ve sporadically shared excerpts with other writers for feedback and workshopped some potential ideas, but I have never given the manuscript to anyone in its entirety. That was just too scary.

Of course, some day I want this novel published. And I do want people to read it. So why the fear?

For me, there’s a vulnerability in sharing my writing , particularly with people who have seen my face, or who know who I am outside of the confines and safety of a writers’ community.

When I finished my latest draft (there have been five in total – send help), I knew it was time to take revisions to the next level. I needed some outside perspective to stop the cycle of write-delete-rewrite I was stuck in.

And, despite my apprehension, the beta read has been overwhelmingly beneficial. My once vigorously protected novel is all the better for it. I am all the better for it.

So, if you’re struggling to get started with the whole process, take a look at what I learned from the beta read of my first novel – and how it can help you. Lesson #1: Not Everyone Will Finish Your Book

When I announced I had finished my novel (again), I was inundated with requests from friends and family wishing to read it. Before getting started, I’d decided I only wanted a handful of readers – five at most.

I ended up with 11, some of whom I asked directly, the rest chosen from the multiple offers. I was conscious of who I selected, making sure I had a range of reading/writing backgrounds, genders, cultures and sexualities.

Everything was looking great. I was pumped. They were pumped. And then… nothing.

Despite the initial enthusiasm, there was little follow-through: over three months later, only four readers made it through to the end.

I was devastated. Aside from those who finished, another two made it halfway through the book, and the rest stagnated somewhere around Chapter Five.My anxiety was through the roof. Was the story too slow? Boring? Overly convoluted and just a downright chore to read ? After literal years of hard work, practically no one made it past the first four chapters! I was staring down the prospect of scrapping the ENTIRE novel and taking it back to the drawing board – again. But then I took a deep breath. Life happens. Considering my own pathological inability to complete library books before the return date, I can’t really berate my nearest and […]

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