17 July 2015

Don't Look at My Book!

Usually the ultimate goal with any piece of writing is to get other people to read it. You've got a story in your head and you want to get it onto paper and share it with everyone else. But it takes a while to get to that point where you think your piece is good enough for someone else to read. You may have to go through several rounds of editing and rewrites before you let anyone else look at it, and even after that there may be more editing to do. But how do you know when it's ready? What if you need fresh eyes but you still have a lot that needs to be fixed?

It can take a while before you feel like your writing is ready for other people to read it. Until then, you probably won't let it see the light of day. You'll hold onto it for dear life, pull the shades down, turn off the lights, and hiss like a cat at anyone who tries to touch it. Ok, figuratively speaking, of course. But when someone offers to read it, you may feel like running in the other direction.

On the other hand, what do you do when you really could use a fresh set of eyes? What if you can't figure things out and just being able to talk to someone else about it could help? But what if you're too scared to let anyone read it?

I feel like I'm in some sort of paradox when it comes to having beta readers. I know I probably should have more, but at the same time, I already know a lot of things I want to fix in my book. I think letting someone else read it as is before I make those changes would be pointless. But it would also be nice to have more people to bounce ideas off of. But I also just really don't want anyone else to read it the way it is right now. See? It's a vicious cycle.

This is how it's gone so far: my fiance read the first draft (AGH NO NOT THE FIRST DRAFT! BURN IT!), which is great from a supportive standpoint but he couldn't really offer any critiques. For the second draft, I had one actual beta reader, and then a bunch of people who showed interest in reading it but then never actually did. Horrible mistake on my part. I thought they were serious about wanting to read it, and I was totally fine with getting no real critiques from these people. I thought I would at least get some sort of reader-based reaction, like "Oh, I loved this part!" or "Why did that have to happen???" But no. I got nothing. No responses at all. I'm not even sure if anyone actually read it. So I'm a little jaded when it comes to letting people read it.

So I have literally had only one person who read the whole thing and gave me feedback (and who I keep bothering with my editing ideas...). That's probably not enough, right? But I have so much I want to change for this third draft that I don't want to bother letting anyone else read the second one. And by the time I do finish the third, I want to be querying it. So I don't know if I should bother trying to find more beta readers. But querying will take a while so would it make sense to also have people beta reading in case there are other things I should change? I DON'T KNOW.

So I really have no idea what I should do. For now I'll probably just keep hoarding my book so no one else can read it...


  1. I was having some issues with my current WIP, and even though it's the dreaded first draft and there's a myriad of issues to be fixed, I eventually caved and asked one of my betas to take a look at it because I really just needed some feedback. Which he provided, and now as an added bonus whenever I have something I need/want to bounce off someone (hey, would be it weird and/or out of character if so-and-so did this?), I don't have to speak in abstracts and generalities.

    It is hard to find trusted betas. It's a leap of faith, and doesn't always pay off. It took me a while—and there were a lot that didn't pan out—but I found a couple.that are keepers.

    (But if you decide you do want someone new to look at it (and you can wait until August), I'd be happy to read whatever you'd care to send. I always respond because I know how crappy it is when your betas don't.)

  2. I had beta readers fall through on me too for Snapshots. 5 people offered and one got back to me. It was so frustrating and disappointing. It's tricking finding people sometimes.

    Have you thought about sending the draft out with a note talking about the things you want to change? That way they know about it and can consider it when they reach the parts. I just sent out a WIP that had a few notes left in to ask their opinion.

  3. What is your book about? I proof read for a few people but only the kind of books I am interesting in reading in the first place.

  4. I can't find ANYONE to help with my poetry, so I understand. I can't even find people who want to participate in my giveaway...
    Not an empty offer: If you decide you need more readers, you can contact me with it. I only write short fiction and poetry but read novels like an obsessive fiend.

  5. The first time I gave a family member a first draft and asked her to read it, I dropped it off at her home in a brown envelope. Weeks later the envelope was in the same place I put it down. Deciding she was too busy to read it, I picked it up and took it home. She told me she wanted to read it but didn't have time. Fast forward three years. "I did read it. But it was so boring I didn't know what to say." I told her it would have been better to tell me that instead of making me think she didn't care enough to read it. So maybe they did read it but are afraid to tell you what they thought??? By the way, mine was boring :)

  6. Oh, I know that feeling. Family members can be supportive but if they don't write, they might not understand the agony of waiting for feedback - any kind of feedback.

  7. I've been both on the receiving and the giving end when it comes to beta reading. I did it recently for a FB friend and I almost missed the deadline that I gave. Fortunately for me, in addition to being a fast reader, my comprehension skills are pretty good, so I was able to get the job done for him (eventually posted a review for him and he used a snippet for pimping his latest).

    I do agree that having beta readers is a good thing. With my latest, even though I had someone else read part of it (they are skittish about violence, which is why half was read) I found someone else who offered to read it, and she was good enough to give me a few suggestions that I was able to incorporate.

    Father Nature's Corner

  8. Sorry you've had a bad experience with beta readers, I hope you find some good ones because I've found the experience to be invaluable in terms of knowing what needs fixed. I think you should definitely do that before querying, even if you think you know what needs changed. You don't know what other people see. Also, a good handful of readers rather than just one is good. If a few of them are saying the same thing on a certain issue, then it would probably be something you should consider. I'd be open to having a look at it in a few weeks - shoot me a line.

  9. I can totally relate to this. I'm a book hoarder too! I've gotten some better but it's still really hard to have others read my writing, I get so paranoid.