Thoughts on beta readers (after)
Back in November I sent away draft 7 of Visions of Ravens to my beta readers. It was terrifying. And at the time, I was naive and confident enough in my writing that I didn't really think I needed beta readers. You can read about my thoughts here. I knew Visions of Ravens was not as good as it could have been, but at the time, it was my best piece of work. I didn't know what else I could do to improve at that stage. Which is the point of getting beta feedback after all - to find out what others think you could improve on.
Just over a month ago, at the end of January, I started receiving beta feedback for Visions of Ravens. I met up with my beta reading group and we had a meeting where we went through an agenda, or points that everyone had prepared feedback for. As the author, I was not allowed to speak (and defend my work, lol) but I remained quiet and took notes of what the others discussed.
After the meeting, I needed time to process. I was definitely excited by some new ideas, but I also felt very beaten down by the whole process. I came to realise I was far from done.
It may be worth mentioning that I was going through a very tough time at uni as well. It was sucking the life out of me. But two weeks later, when an awful exam was out of the way, I started reading the written beta feedback I’d received.
And new ideas and solutions made themselves known to me throughout the process. Some people gave very constructive feedback with very good suggestions. Others did not make suggestions for changes, but just having them point out what wasn’t working gave me ideas on how to fix issues in the plot and characterisations.
Writing down all my ideas in a notebook I brought them to my weekly meet up with Jasmin and Lizzie and presented them. Some things I simply knew I had to change or emphasise/clarify throughout the book. Other ideas I wanted a sort of “green light” on. And some issues I was actually completely stuck with and needed to brainstorm and explore with them. Jasmin and Lizzie both beta read my WIP and so were the ideal people to talk to. This was so much fun (slightly frustrating at times - that’s all part of the writing process) and motivated me to keep going.
I still need to make more of a concrete plan for my revisions, but it doesn’t feel like all is lost. I think I need to reread my book now. I don’t think I’ve looked at it since September 2022. I will read it and take note of additional changes with the beta feedback in mind. Then I will type up a revision plan (like I did for my last revisions) based on the inside outline and scene and sequel structure. This will be a sort of action plan for me so I can tackle each chapter/scene at a time. I’m wondering if maybe I’ll be able to do revisions as a CampNaNo project this year if I do all the prep work before April. It’s tempting. I’ll write more about it in another blog post.
In hindsight, I am so happy that I took the opportunity to have a group of beta readers look at it. I think I gave it to ten people, excluding my parents (who didn’t actually give any beta feedback as such). I didn’t intend to give it to that many people, but I had writer friends that offered/wanted to read it and I was more than happy to give it to them. It was a very hard process, but I think I came out feeling motivated and excited about how much better my book can and will be. It also makes me incredibly grateful that I had the chance to run it by beta readers, and that I was given the opportunity to improve before I querying. It’s definitely not ready to be queried and I’m happy I haven’t attempted it yet for I want to query something stronger than I have at the moment.
Such a lengthy and challenging process, but totally worth it!