Test Reader Comments Back! Plenty to do, but no disasters

wpid-2015-01-01-22.41.23.jpg.jpegSo, my fantastic alpha reader (love you, mum) has just gotten back to me with her thoughts on the first sixteen chapters (about a quarter of the current length.

VERDICT:
1st 9 chapters = great!
The others = not so much…

Chapters consumed in quick succession, enjoyable relationship between Roger and Ed, liking where it’s going… had to put it down to go out, but found herself thinking about the story during the day. Looked forward to going back to it, to see where things were going.

Then chapter nine rolled around. I won’t blab the details, but basically these are the reasons the wheels started to fall off (just in case these are things that might need looking at in your fiction as well):

  • too many fight scenes that slowed down the plot and felt like off-shoots (left in from early drafts, because I love a good scrap).
  • not enough WHY to what’s going on (too much info left in my head, esp. about character motivations)
  • not enough plot information revealed early enough. I have trickled info in later on, but by the first 15,000 words the reader should have a basic inkling of what the central plot is, and where things are headed

So uh, I have a lot to do. I think it’s good that I’ve started on the synopsis, because I can really see what’s necessary and where I need to build up more information for the reader.

I’m glad I waited until the second draft before getting anyone’s thoughts, and for only showing off the chunk of it that I’ve fine-tooth-combed over. Apparently that’s the done thing…

How have your beta/alpha reader experiences been? Did you get a lot out of them, and did they create a lot of work for you?

In other news, HAPPY FLIPPING NEW YEAR! How quick did 2014 go?

Best regards,

D.R.Sylvester

P.S. – a note on mums as test readers: You might have a mum that tells you unreservedly how she loves your book. That’s sweet, but useless. What you need is a brutal little critic with a mind like a steel trap, so if mum can’t deliver I suggest finding another budding author (someone you can return the favour for), or perhaps a teacher (someone who is being paid to care, but not too much)

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About D.R.Sylvester

A Clinical Research Associate by day (google it), writer by night, D.R.Sylvester lives in Sydney, Australia with his patissiere wife and Siberian Wolf. His interests include travel, music (predominantly Metal), reading, & archery.
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9 Responses to Test Reader Comments Back! Plenty to do, but no disasters

  1. Hey, Happy New Year!
    Also, be careful with putting too many action scenes that don’t move the plot forward!
    I use my mother as one of my beta readers, but not as an alpha reader. Also, I agree that one should wait until at least the second draft before letting anyone else read it.
    Cheers!

    • Ahhh, but it’s killing me to cut these action scenes. There’s a crazy aerial fight that takes place in a plum tree, and another with a daring taxi chase… still, they do nothing for the overall plot 😦

      Happy new year, mate!

  2. I’m always excited and nervous to hear back from friends and/or readers. I have yet to hand a full novel to anyone though XD My fanfic one was done chapter by chapter and my short stories are about the length of a book chapter.

    I had some friends that were great writers (now I have only one) and they often gave me a lot of criticism. But the way they did it was constructive. Still, sometimes it was hard to hear that a certain section I loved sucked, but better to hear it before publication. I remember I worked particularly hard on the intro of one chapter, and I handed it off to my friend. She told me it did nothing for her. I cried, which is a bit of an overreaction, but I thanked her later for her honesty. With some of her other writer friends she wasn’t honest because she knew they didn’t want to hear it. I asked for her opinion because I needed it, not necessarily because I wanted to hear it XD That was a few years ago and I recently went back to read it. I understand her comment, but the only way to fix it would have been to rewrite it, and I wasn’t good enough at the time to do that.

    The people on Critique Circle have been really honest. I’m working on the final draft of my suicide story, and I don’t want to repost it on there because I don’t want more opinions on it XD I took a few months off from writing because of my new job, so editing is a good way to come back for me. I actually like editing more than writing XD

    I’m cutting out a good 1-2k from the story to make it more powerful. Also, it’s like the 9th draft of that short story, do I really want to spend the rest of my life rewriting it? XD I think you read the second draft and a lot has changed. Some for the better, but it’s moved away from what I wanted originally. That’s another reason I don’t want more outside input on it. . . With this final draft I’m trying to take it back to the original concept. I’ve heard you should revise it until it’s perfect, not good enough, but I don’t care at this point. The other thing is that I will keep improving as a writer, so if I can’t get it published in a literary magazine at this point in time, I’ll put it away and pull it out at a later date.

    I would go back through your story and reread it with your mom’s critique in mind. You might want to wait until hearing back from a few others. I don’t like action scenes in particular, so I know my critique would be biased against action scenes. Isn’t there some quote from Stephen King about the fact that if one person says something you can ignore it, but if several people mention the same thing take notice.

  3. Hey! What do you mean only ONE great writer is your friend? I’m your friend too! (in a digital bloggy kind of way). Then, I am sort of a budding writer. Sprouting writer. Festering writer? That has to count for something…

    Lame jokes and mock outrage aside, thanks for your thoughts. I definitely agree that reading back through with the critique in mind is the way to go. I’ve temporarily halted the consistency editing that I’d been doing on the book’s bulging midsection, and instead I’m writing a synopsis for the first sixteen chapters. I’m cutting anything that doesn’t work towards the main plot (whole scenes and zany fight sequences), and so far I can see why the first 9 chapters were stronger: I hardly had to cut anything away to get to the core storyline, where the following seven chapters meander all over the place.

    I think the secret is going to be in how I can keep the character development happening, without all the sideshows.

    Wish me luck, aye. Hope your things are doing well? Sounds like you could do with a fresh beginning! πŸ™‚

  4. My beta readers have been really helpful, especially on this current WIP where I have a lot of pacing issues and plot holes. Like you said, it helps to get someone who will look at your story critically. I usually only let fellow writers look at my work because they’re generally the most helpful.

  5. seleneymoon says:

    I haven’t been able to follow anyone’s blog lately but glad to see you’re still at it! Remember you are learning. Step back. You wrote a book! Yay! You have all/most of the ideas down. Yay! Now, you have to help them along a bit. All your characters are like actors on a stage and you are their director. They’re just waiting for their motivations and next lines.

    Oh, yes, the synopsis. It’ll help a great deal, and besides, when you go to sell your book (and you will), you’ll need to encapsulate your entire story into 5-6 pages, then 1 page, then one paragraph, then one sentence. Easy? Bah! It sucks, but that’s what you have to have ready when you pitch your book to an agent or an editor.

    Here’s a great blog that’ll give you some tips on plotting action: http://onelazyrobotblog.com

    Remember: don’t get too hung up on plot – characterization is equally important. If you don’t like your characters, the reader won’t either. Try to stay away from generic villains. Make them personable and find one or two things that people can relate to (think Tony Soprano – a gangster who goes to a shrink and has obnoxious teenage kids). Inject a bit of yourself in the main characters (it’s fun!). Heroes always have flaws, too, because it makes them equally relatable.

    One tip I learned from several published authors about beta readers: Let’s say you have three readers. If they all come back with different comments, then it’s almost safe to say it’s them. If they all come back with similar comments, then it’s you.

    Kill your darlings: it’s what Stephen King tells all writers, published or not. However, you might want to archive that darling (aerial fight in a plum tree) and save it for another day. It might not serve any purpose in this book, but it could inspire something in another.

    Lastly, don’t worry about word count in the first couple of drafts (expect to have at least five). Hash out the story first, even if it goes on forever. Then put it down and avoid the temptation to look at it, but certainly think about it. Then pick it up with renewed eyes. The places that need sprucing up will become much more visible.

    • Thank you! You’ve just confirmed a lot of what I’ve been thinking and planning. The King quote about killing your darlings is very, very true, and something I’ve been wrestling with a lot lately (I love me some over-the-top fight scenes!)

      Thanks again, I’ll go check out that link πŸ™‚

      • seleneymoon says:

        And if you haven’t read it already, do read Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Not only is it filled with his personal stories (not frightening like his books, but scary sometimes), he has some solid advice on how to put a story/book together, plus a test as the last chapter. Lots of tips on grammar (he HATES adverbs!) too. Most of all, it’s such an encouraging book that you just want to run up to him and give him a hug…if you could…: )

      • I’ve been meaning to check that one out! Will see if I can pick up a copy

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