One of the most important parts of preparing a draft for the querying stage is to get another opinion on your work. At a certain point in revising, an author loses sight of the flaws in their own work. When you’ve worked with a story for a long time, it becomes ingrained in your mind. You can’t see what’s clear or not clear.
This is the point where you need to pick a beta reader. An outside perspective that will let you know exactly at what stage your book is at. Whether you’re getting close to a polished draft to start querying on or whether you need some heavy revisions in certain sections. This person can really come from anywhere. It can be someone close to you, a family member or a friend who loves to read. It can be another writer that you’ve connected with through a writing group or social media. The possibilities are endless. You only have to make sure of two things.
Your beta reader is going to be able to be critical about your work without covering their opinion to assuage you.
Your beta reader is available to finish your book in a reasonable time frame.
Two weeks ago, I was ready for this stage of the writing process. For my first reader, I chose my boyfriend. I did this for several reasons. He’d been extremely motivational during the writing process. He’d been asking for weeks to be the first to read it. But most importantly, I knew that he was going to be able to be critical of my work and tell me exactly what needed to be done regardless of whether it hurt my feelings. He’s one of those people who loves to find loopholes in everything.
Spoiler: There were a lot of loopholes that need fixing.
One of the things about the writing process that I don’t think authors talk enough about is their mistakes during drafting. So I’d like to be candid about what the results of having a beta reader were for me:
1. Too much plot convenience in the beginning: Things happen a little too quickly without much explanation of how we got there. My main character, Grace’s strength doesn’t quite match her body type and needs to be adjusted. Speed and agility over strength.
2. Magic system: My boyfriend immediately pointed out to me that certain parts (okay, maybe more than a few) of my magic system were overpowered and needed some sort of system to work out exactly how much power each individual had. We sat down together and worked out a tiered level system that allows for both natural affinity and growth within those affinities without giving everyone a high level right away. As I’ve been working on it over the past couple days, I am finding it to work a lot better!
3. Economy: Can I say no comment here? Because… I just don’t do economics. I had no idea what I was doing. My boyfriend made that very clear. On the upside, we’re gonna work on that together later! (Thank God.)
4. Relationships: The relationship between Grace and Aiden needed to be explored further at a slower pace with more scenes added. See, I was afraid of writing too much, but it seems I wrote too little. Luckily for me, it’s easier to add than cut!
Extra: My boyfriend seemed to guess a lot of things before they happened. I’m pretty sure that’s a combination of the way he is and how well he knows me. I’ll need a second opinion on this.
Now, I get to move forward and revise yet again! But this time, with a much clearer picture of what needs to be done to improve my novel. Overall, an extremely favorable experience. <3