Beta Reader’s Feedback

October 14, 2010

My beta reader got back to me. The manuscript is now safe and sound beside me, all ready for another go-through. Oddly enough, I’m rather looking forward to it. I feel like I still have one foot in the world, like I’m not quite ready to leave it. Since the purely creative part is over with, more editing doesn’t actually sound too bad.

So, what were her comments? She liked it. According to her, the beginning was good, but she really got into it a little bit later on. By page 25 or so, she “thought about it at work” and “needed to know what came next.” Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary, really. Because she didn’t mind that it took a little while to get off the ground, saying that without the background and set-up, she wouldn’t have cared/understood what was happening on p. 25. But then, how many people will give you 25 pages of grace? I’ll review the very beginning, and get some other people to look at it.

(Frankly, I knew the beginning was the weakest portion, since I wrote it start-to-finish… I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my world and characters at that point.)

Otherwise, my paradoxical, circular logic that governs the magic and religious systems worked well, keeping the reader hooked and offering something a little more than “just a good story.” Interestingly, the theme she picked out of it was one I was aware of, but not necessarily the one I was keeping close to my heart. Different perspective and reading? Me not being clear enough? Hard to say, I guess.

As for characters… she started off by saying that my characters will deepen as I mature. Which kind of stung, to be honest, but I see her point. But she loathed the villain to the point of calling me to tell me about her deep and abiding hatred, and she said she cared about the protagonists. All good. One interesting thing… apparently, the fallibility of one of the super-natural figures evoked a lot of sympathy. And that is awesome, because in the early planning stages, I’d made a note to myself that this character recognized that very fallibility, and feared it. So, at least that worked out.

As awkward as this particular discussion was, I’m glad of it. It’s still not completely and finally DONE, but now I know I’m at least on the right track.




  1. Sounds like you’re getting some great feedback. Some thoughts I had while reading your reaction to it:

    1) Revision does not necessarily mean the end of the creative process and the exit of the left brain. You will probably come up with some of your best ideas during this time and make some surprising changes/upgrades.

    2) It’s my belief that in SFF owning your readers in the “first five pages” is a little too much to ask. You’ve got a whole new world to expose, and readers in this genre will be patient with you as long as your opening is interesting and unique, giving the impressoin that bigger and better are on the way.

    3) You will find that readers will often be impressed or even blown away by a theme you barely gave thought to, and hardly notice something you poured your soul into. Go figure!

    Best of luck in your revision process.

  2. I agree with Michael – and would add that there is a way to cheat around the opening by starting with a gripping scene before delving in to backstory. I’m glad to hear that you had such a positive experience with your beta reader, keep up the good work.

  3. Often when I write a post, article, essay, short story, or novel, the first paragraph tends to be the weakest link in the piece.

    So, I delete it, or move it, or work it in later, or . . .

    And the piece grows stronger as a result of the modification.

    Take a good hard look at the first 25 pages:

    What can be deleted?
    What can be moved?
    What can be worked in later in the story?

    What’s the best way to hook your reader?

    But first, get excited that your Beta found herself wanting more . . .

    Good luck.

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