Counterfeit! Update: The Benefit of Beta Readers
Month 2 of my half year project to launch Counterfeit! saw the manuscript pushed out into a tiny part of the big wide world for the first time. My wonderful team of beta readers read, digested and reported back, some briefly, others in great detail, but every single reaction was critical.
When I was writing my debut novel, a process that took seven years in total, I spent months getting feedback from other writers: my tutors on the MA course; members of my two, very different, writing groups; a group of former MA colleagues; friends and fellow Swanwickers. And unsurprisingly, I got to the stage where the advice and suggestions were no longer useful. There were too many differing opinions; too much technical jargon. I was very grateful for all the helpful I’d received, but I faced the fact that I had to stop shilly-shallying and get it out there for some readers to see. I found a small team willing to take a look and comment primarily on the plot: whether it worked, where there were gaps, and what would make it better for them. This worked wonderfully and Gorgito’s Ice Rink was completed and published within a few months.
When a new drug is being developed, it goes through a number of human clinical trial stages. The first is to try it out on healthy subjects, to make sure there are no toxicological or other issues. I equate this with working with other writers. The second stage is to try it out on a small number of patients to see whether it has the desired effect. This is where my beta readers come in. And the final stage is to roll it out to large numbers of patients on general release, a process I equate to publication.
With this second novel, my plan is to reduce seven years to less than two years and it looks like I am on target for that. Several of my original beta readers came back for a second go: this time there were eight in total, seven of whom are non-writers. I included my husband – always my harshest critic and strongest supporter – plus two sisters and five friends and acquaintances, all avid readers and none known for pulling their punches.
Now, at the beginning of month three, I have pages of detailed, colour-coded feedback which is remarkably consistent. There are a number of plot holes to be filled; a couple of characters to flesh out and one or two who may well be deleted. I have a busy month ahead of me. But without my willing and generous beta readers, it would be much harder and, I believe, less successful.
Next month: time to share an excerpt of Counterfeit!