Been awhile since I was caught up enough on my podcasts to be getting in reaction posts, but thankfully all caught up on Writing Excuses, so here’s Episode 13.38.
Alpha/Beta readers and how to use them. Having only really done one book through readers, my process isn’t very set yet. But for the most part, my process is similar to the podcasters. Alpha reader is one other friend who is a librarian/author who reads a lot in my chosen genres. I found her through NaNoWriMo, I think through the cabins that are done during Camp NaNo in April/July. We connected up and she has been a great champion and supporter who manages to balance good critiques with plenty of cheerleading. Beta readers include some family and local friends, and recently members of my writing group, though I think they will move forward into alpha read status in the future.
Finding them all felt like luck, but in line with what the podcast recommended – networking with other writers (in my case, through NaNoWriMo) and sending out invites to those close to me to see who would have the time and desire to do it. I’ve had lots of people accept enthusiastically, but who end up not reading it. Probably about 50% fall out rate in that sense. Those people I will ask again for the next novel just because they say they want to help, but I have a core that I trust who give me the right feedback.
As for getting back the answers I want, I’m very much in the same camp as Valynne – I know my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and I’m actively looking for people to call me out on my weaknesses. I know I do big picture premise well, along with story structure, narrative threads, and action scenes. I’m also pretty good with the logical inferences that come from extending a technology or creating a magic system. Where I struggle is making characters memorable and anything descriptive. So I ask my readers to look specifically at my characters and locations to make sure they’re striking enough. And I always ask about the emotional beats and about the things that already work to make sure I don’t loose those or that I haven’t blinded myself on a topic.
I also generally send an entire manuscript rather than chapters/scenes just because I’d like a one and done, but that might change more as I try to level up faster.
So far, it’s worked out well.
The homework challenge from the episode was to send something to alpha/beta readers that I’ve done recently. I do have a completed manuscript sitting, but I’d been calling it a trunk novel because I didn’t think the story worked. But then again, who knows? I’ll see if anyone one my writing crew wants to read it or if my library friend wants to take a crack at it. Maybe it’s better than I’m giving myself credit for. Or maybe it’s more salvageable than I realize.