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In the hands of beta readers

September 29, 2010

This news is a few days old, but that’s all right. What are a few time lapses between friends?

I met my self-appointed deadline, and so did not spontaneously keel over once it passed. While I am certain that Project W is not yet absolutely, completely, 100% done, I recognize that there is nothing more I can bring to it at this point in time. The big, obvious fixes have been made. Right now I need some time and space to emotionally distance myself from it, and I need a reader who doesn’t share my brain (ever  find that you forget to include vital information because you know what’s going on?).

All of which to say that the MS is now in the hands of a trusted friend, and I have a few more lined up. I sent it out Monday morning… I don’t even want to imagine how far into it they are.

It’s a very weird experience, having someone else read your fiction. I’ve had plays produced in the past. That was different. I was always in the audience- I could see people’s reactions right then and there. With novels, I can’t know which part they’re reading,  and I can’t know how they’re reacting to that experience as it happens.

And, because I tend to assume the worst, I’m basically strangling myself with anxiety. Are they bored? Is my foreshadowing too obvious? Was that scene I hesitated over too violent, and now they think I’m a twisted psychopath?

It shames me to admit this, but I very nearly included a little preface when I sent the MS out. You know , the “all events, people, and places are entirely the product of the author’s imagination” kind. Not for any legal reason. But so that I could say, “Look- those horrible things that character’s doing, I wouldn’t do them. That’s not me. That’s the character. And the up-close and personal description of a dead body? Also not me. I don’t take pleasure in those kinds of details.” It’s similar to writers who are reluctant to include sex scenes, because they fear people assuming they’re describing their own sex lives.

But then I figured, if I were to sell a book, I couldn’t very well bob along behind each and every reader, explaining things as they read. The work has to stand on its own. Besides, when I read, I don’t automatically ascribe the author’s personal life to the plot and characters. Works like Plath’s The Bell Jar notwithstanding, life events and personal feelings are mostly hidden so deeply and disguised so well, they offer depth while escaping detection. 

There is some of me in Project W. I wrote it- I think it would be impossible for that not to be the case. I’m sure some (most) of it’s subconscious, no more obvious to me than to the reader. As for the elements that I can consciously pick out…  they are hidden, altered, and masked. This is me, but it’s not my autobiography.

All I can do is pace the room and hope that my wonderful readers finish soon. Okay, I suppose I could also start on some other projects. I was thinking of trying my hand at short stories- it’s been a while since my last attempt.

But, oh… if you’ve ever placed your work in another’s hands, I sympathize.

Fully.

Cheers,

Arvik

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2 comments

  1. Be Brave!


  2. I feel exactly the same way. I know that one day my family is going to get their hands on my manuscript and I dread what they might think of me after reading it. I let them read one of my pieces of flash and my mother in law hasn’t looked at me the same since.

    Best of luck and speedy reading!



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