Whoo Hoo! I have received the last of my beta readers’ feedback for the second Daisy Arthur novel, Sliced Vegetarian. Now its on to another rewrite. This is where some of the more detailed work begins in developing a novel.
What are “beta readers” and how do you go about “rewriting” a novel? Good questions!
While I’ve read a ton of books on writing, there are few out there that go through the entire writing-to-publishing-to-selling process. I suspect this is because writing is an art form, and for some reason, either artists were excused the day they taught Documentation-of-Process at school, or artists are subversive rebels who strive so much for unique vision that nobody wants to hurt their feelings by saying there is a standard way of completing this kind of work. Art and efficiency seem to be diametrically opposed. Hmm. More on that another time.
For now, let’s explore the beta reader.
I chose my three readers with care. I chose three because of the ancient custom that says three is a perfect number (I am not too proud to go by a little who-do-voo-do occasionally).
Anyway, my first reader is a sister of mine, Winnie. She’d read Faith on the Rocks, and noticed some challenges with word choice and character development, and let me know. When someone reads your published work with such care, how can you pass the opportunity to tap them on the shoulder before you go to print again? Winnie reads in the mystery genre, although she likes more of the soft-boiled or even harsher mysteries, rather than cozy. Her comments on Sliced Veggie (my nickname for the next book) were insightful and detailed. I will have some fun going through rewrites from her notes.
My second reader, Melissa, gave back great detailed work and helped tremendously with the sensitive areas self-esteem. Did I tell you that Sliced Veggie is a tale of too much? Feelings can get trampled in such a story. Melissa helped keep me on track with a focus on maintaining Daisy’s friendly voice and sensitivity to others. As a software testing and documentation expert, you know that Melissa caught several of my typos as well.
Then Kathy, my third reader, gave me a birds’ eye view of the story from a reader’s perspective. She let me know where the storyline was weak, and how the mystery part of it needs a bit of shoring up. Kathy reads in my genre, and is herself an aspiring cozy mystery novelist.
There isn’t a way to thank my beta readers enough. They may not be professional editors, but their comments from a reader’s perspective are like gold to a writer who is interested in improving her skills. Thank goodness Thanksgiving is next week, because I have a mountain of gratitude to talk about when thinking of Winnie, Melissa, and Kathy. If you’re reading this, my friends, thank you, thank you!
Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and dig in once more. This will be the second rewrite of my novel. So how does the process work?
First, I’ll re-read comments from my betas, and make note of their over-arching concerns. Then I’ll do a quick read through of the story and change the biggest issues. There’s one chapter, for example, that takes place in a restaurant–well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Anyway, I’ll hit the most troubling chapters and make the biggest changes there.
Next comes a detailed look at each chapter. I may go from chapter one straight through to the end, or I may jump around (you never know how the creative Muse will strike). Usually, to make sure I touch every chapter, I’ll write the chapter numbers on my white board and X them out when I feel the work is once again, complete. For me, this is one of the few ways I truly “see” progress, and putting those Xs up is a real motivator. This is why I hate the electronic to-do lists that come on computers. One click and you’re done crossing off. No flair or joie-de-vivre there!
When I’ve polished every chapter once more, I’ll set the project aside for a day or two (not weeks on end), read the book through once more, and send my project out to the editor who’s expecting it. From there, it’s cross-my-fingers time for a few months while the gods of the publishing industry decide the book’s fate. While I’m waiting on that, it will be time to outline novel number three. But that, my friend, is a tale for another time.
Are you an author or aspiring writer? Do you have tips on rewriting your work? Please share here.