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Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Value of Multiple Beta Readers

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
The editing of Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp is in full swing. I asked four people to beta-read the manuscript. Two are men and two women. Two had read the previous Anastasia Raven books, and two had not.

My hope was that this would give me a good variety of feedback, and that the readers who hadn't read the earlier stories would catch flaws related to providing enough background so that the book could stand on its own. I think it worked really well!

I've now processed the notes from all four readers. I have to admit that I'm quite impressed at the quality of their comments and honesty where things were confusing. Places where multiple people found a passage difficult were better than red flags. These sent up rockets of warning that I needed to fix something. Things that seem crystal clear when I wrote them may look muddy to someone whose brain works differently from mine.

Most of their suggestions I've taken to heart and tried to provide clarification without wandering down bunny trails.

It amazed me that each of the four people caught small errors and typos that the others didn't. It's SO easy to read right over mistakes like that. Having many eyes on a manuscript can help reduce the number of those kinds of goofs. We all make them, and it seems nearly impossible to get them all out. Yet, we should all strive for a professional final product.

Of course, the final decisions concerning how much to add or take out are mine, for better or worse. For example, I'm not on board with the current trend to take out almost every instance of the word "that." I've cut a lot of them, but personally, I think some sentences just sound stupid without it. OK- that's my little hissy fit for the day.

Seriously, if you are writing a book or a story, don't let yourself get bent out of shape over the idea of constructive criticism. Welcome it, listen to what people tell you, and think carefully about each of their suggestions.

Tomorrow, I'll start reading Paddy through once more, for any final changes I want to make.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Please hurry up with your final edits, Joan. I can't wait to get my hands on this.