The Editor and the Author-and What Your Beta Readers Didn’t Say

So you’ve had a story accepted for publication now what? The editing process could seem a little scary or exciting depending on who you are and how crazy you might be.  Well I am happy to be learning from this process, so for me, I go with exciting for now.Hit the Nail Head

Your first step towards officially being published is to meet your editor! What do you expect an editor to do?  Do expect them to look at your work day one and think you are a literary genius?  Well, that would be nice, but not realistic.  Why do I think that?  Well most likely the beta readers you had missed something.  Or what if you didn’t have beta readers?  You will defiantly missed something.  Being too close to your own work you will miss some crazy detail, but having beta readers isn’t always the 100% surefire answer either.

My first official request was to rewrite a few pieces of my manuscript and I have beta readers. None of them caught something the Editor did.  When I got her initial response , the first thought in my head was “where have you been my whole life.”  Of course I really mean for the writing part of my life of course. None of my readers told me that I had a character that actually made the story emotionally unsatisfying.  Let me clarify.  In a Romance almost always, all relationships are resolved in the end.  A romance by definition needs to have a happily ever after ending, but that doesn’t stop at Mr. Right.

Here is what she meant.  I had a supporting character that was crazy.  Not crazy like she had a millions cats, although I could see that happening, but she was the reason why my main character couldn’t allow herself to be with the man she dreamed of.  I had to step back for a moment and look at this supporting character. It dawned on me, I write romance and romance readers expect resolution for all parties in a positive manner – except in paranormal YA.  That’s another issue.  Anyway, in the end my main character has to move past her issues with the crazy supporting character and just ignore the problem.  Well, since the ‘crazy girl’ is supposed to be the main characters BFF it is emotionally unsettling to have this relationship left hanging.  I 100% agree.

So what do you do when looking for beta readers?

  • Find readers who know the genre you write.  If someone reads Romantic Suspense and you write Romantic Comedy the odds are you will only get half helpful feedback.
  • Find readers who know a little about the craft if possible.  Do they understand the basic parts of a book in your genre?
  • Is the reader a member of the target audience?

If you can say yes to one of the above you have a reliable source to start with. Your editor will still find holes and gaps, it’s what they are good at.  The difference is that you will start with a quality story that might have fewer issues than it might have had if you didn’t have a few outside pairs of eyes.

Be aware that Beta reading isn’t for the faint of heart and in the end you still need to trust your gut.  Also realize that family, although trustworthy, may not always be brutally honest.  The best gift a writer can get is some really harsh CONSTRUCTIVE criticism.  You aren’t perfect and therefore neither is your story.

What is your experience with beta reading or are you still working up the courage to branch out?  We’ve all been there!

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Rachel Gardner


7 thoughts on “The Editor and the Author-and What Your Beta Readers Didn’t Say

  1. Melissa Kinnel (@TizMellyMel) says:

    I had two writers critique a short piece I worked on with plans to enter a fiction contest. One said the story was great and only offered some grammar changes but the other told me where the holes were in my story. I was not happy at first but after much soul-searching I went with the latter critique and am working on a rewrite of the piece. I missed the contest deadline but there a few other ones out there that I may be able to catch once my story is polished.

    Basically, you don’t want a yes-man when it comes to a critique but you don’t want someone who tears you down either. You want positive feedback that is productive.

    • M. Ziegler says:

      Bad critiques can ruin you as a writer. I have had a lot of experience with people focusing on the wrong parts, or removing my voice for their own. I have learned to trust my gut. If my gut screams ‘hold on now’ i generally take it with a grain of salt. If you don’t have partners or readers that understand the difference between feedback and the way they would write it, you could end up with a mess. I hope your story is better for the rewrite and that you were confident in your readers opinions.

      • M. Ziegler says:

        Okay. That is constructive in my book. And they gave you a pretty specific issue opposed to ‘I dunno somethings just not right.” But something like that could have been maybe fixed with some better word choices or a few sentences. I am sorry you had to re-write 😦 Good luck. At lest you did get a good piece of information. Someone once told me “don’t force dialogue.” To this day I still don’t know what they meant and they never did tell me. That was frustrating. I’ll just wait for my editor to tell me if I have a dialogue issue.

  2. Kelly Hashway says:

    I love my beta readers. I couldn’t write without them.

    Michelle, I saw you came back to my blog and said you were interested in the blogfest but you aren’t showing on the linky list. Do you need help signing up? I could do it from my end. Shoot me an email and let me know. khashway(at)hotmail(dot)com.

    • M. Ziegler says:

      That is about where I am at again. I had two beta readers for my first short story, but after the feedback was useless I moved on – I went cross-eyed when someone asked what I meant and used a synonym for the word without knowing that they were the same thing. My one critique partner is a heck of a lot more useful. So here’s to finding one or two USEFUL beta readers!!

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