Validation

A couple of months ago, I was scrolling through the WordPress reader and a blog caught my eye.

As they do.

The title of the post was something like “Finished, time to publish” and I clicked to check it out. The upshot of the post was they had just finished the draft of their book, corrected a couple of commas and they were publishing it a couple of days later.

A couple of DAYS.

This was a first draft. They commented on it being a first draft and that there were probably loads of mistakes and yet they were slapping on a cover and selling it on Amazon.

WTF?!?

I appreciate that there comes a time when you have to let your work stand (or fall) on its own, but come on. This is where self-publishing gets a bad name. We all need to validate our work. To make sure it IS the best it can be and for that you need more than your own eyes reading the words.

I’m reassured when I read writing bloggers comment that their manuscript is with their editor, or with their proofreader. Another set of eyes to validate the writing, check for errors, make sure it IS the best it can be.

Another comforting post to read is when you send your manuscript to a beta reader. Until I started blogging, I’d never heard this term before. I love the idea of your book, your story being read by someone during the latter stages of development. A chance to test your ideas with actual readers to give you a chance to consider their views and opinions as you finalise your manuscript.

I’m heading towards finishing the third draft of I Can See You and I have a couple of beta readers lined up. I know them both, but I know they will give me honest feedback. From their reactions to my manuscript, I’ll know what work I need to do before my book is ready to release out into the world. My final piece of validation.

What is your experience working with beta readers?

How did you pick who to offer first read of your work?

*

A2Z-2013-BADGE

This is my V post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. A list of all my A to Z Blogging Challenge posts are to be found here.

The photographs today are from Venice, Verona and a night-time shot of Vegas from 1990.

Venice

Venice

Verona - Juliet's balcony

Juliet’s balcony in Verona

Vegas

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About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
This entry was posted in A to Z Blogging Challenge, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Validation

  1. Julie says:

    I honestly don’t know why ANYONE believes they have any business publishing their first draft, but it’s even worse if they’ve acknowledged there are problems with it. Talk about disrespectful to readers!

    To me, the hardest parts about having beta readers is deciding what parts of the feedback you’re going to use and understanding that you’re not going to please everyone.

    For the first, I think some of it is the need to trust yourself and keep your original vision in mind as you go through the comments. The second… That’s hard, to accept that some people won’t like all or part of your novel, and sometimes it’ll be the same parts others love. You get contradictory feedback sometimes, and this is partly where we lead back to the need to trust yourself about what’s useful and what isn’t. That they don’t agree doesn’t make the feedback less valid, as it’s their experience, but it may not work for your story or your story might not be to their taste. I mean, that’s why we have so many kinds of stories, for all the different tastes.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Julie.

      I could not believe it. The more of the post I read, the more I disbelieved it. I couldn’t bring myself to comment and left their blog shaking my head. Safe to say I didn’t buy their book!

    • mamabeanablog says:

      Great blog!!! I agree with you totally! I am finding more books that have so many editing mistakes and it really takes away from the story.

  2. elwoodcock says:

    My first beta reader for Darklands was my sister. She likes the same kinds of books as me, so knows the kind of thing I was aiming for. She’s an English teacher, so knows a thing or two about language. But most importantly, I knew that if there were problems with my manuscript she would tell me.
    She came back with one or two suggestions for subtle changes in the final chapters of the book – just slightly altering the mood. I agreed with her analysis, and added them in.
    I would like to find another one or two beta readers for Kikimora, so that I get a range of opinions, but not quite sure yet who to ask. It’s a delicate balance of requirements: they must be honest, even if it’s difficult to be so, but also supportive; and they must be able to articulate what the problems or issues are, if they find some. It’s no good just giving the MS to your mates, and them handing it back saying, “It’s great! I loved it.”

    • Pete Denton says:

      You’re right that the people who beta read your book need to be able to say what’s wrong and areas to consider or maybe reconsider. I’m looking forward to the experience. Actually, no I’m not!

  3. Julie says:

    I also don’t understand why someone would publish their first draft. I feel like I spend more time just publishing my comments, and I still make mistakes! Beautiful photos Pete!

  4. elliecarstens says:

    I’ve only just learned about a beta reader and have not had one (though I did offer my MS to a girl in the target age range for my first YA novel Flux and she raved about it), but I would love to go through that experience.

    My biggest problem in writing is I edit AS I write. It takes me a while then to complete a project. However, as a stay at home mum, I’ve more time to sit and write (my little one is still quite little) when I’m not doing mum stuff. The two months I took to write Flux meant the house suffered a little, but once the novel was finished I cleaned properly ha ha.

    I do believe in checking, checking, checking, and RE-checking your work though, and at times, having someone else go through your work with a fine-toothed comb is essential. We often miss our own mistakes and require a fresh set of eyes to make sure we’re not missing anything. I also agree that people who don’t edit like an obsessive compulsive person are ruining indie published author’s reputations. It’s sad, but when the ease outweighs all else, people take that route.

    Amazing photos, Pete. Very inspiring 🙂

    • Pete Denton says:

      They are giving indie publishing a bad name. I like obsessively checking my work and hopefully that means when my beta readers scour through they won’t find much. Hahaha, I know they will find loads, who am I kidding 🙂

      I like the excuse of writing to get out of doing housework. I might have to try that one. 🙂

  5. Subtlekate says:

    That is the reason for self publishing having the reputation it does. It’s hard to know what’s going to be great and what’s going to be the result of someones hashed up first draft.

    I gave it to someone whose writing I respected a great deal and who had a great command of the language. It was brutal but necessary. Unfortunately I can not longer pass things his way and am left looking.

  6. My writing buddies have served as beta readers for me and gave me helpful feedback about keeping the voice consistent and pacing. I also asked several avid readers to read a draft. They gave me feedback about how much they liked the characters and what made it unique.

  7. katemsparkes says:

    Ever just want to reach through the internet and slap people? Yeah.

    I don’t even let beta readers see a first draft, let alone the entire world! This really IS what gives self-publishing a bad name. Call me a snob, but I really don’t want to read someone’s first efforts at puking their thoughts into the computer, typos and all. There’s no perfect draft of anything, but come on.

    As for beta readers… I struggle with that. I have one friend who read an earlier draft of Bound and gave me a few little things to fix, then said “I love it, when’s the next one going to be ready?”

    Ego boost! And I needed that to go on. I’m so sad.

    But I knew there was more to be done, so I had to find people who would give me a deeper critique. In my experience, strangers are better for this than family and friends. You won’t get honest feedback from someone who’s afraid of damaging your relationship by hurting your feelings.

    I have two lined up for when this draft (I’ve lost count of the revisions, partial revisions, and edits) is ready, both found through blogging. It’s scary, but it’s necessary.

  8. Joanne says:

    I choose my beta readers because their life experiences similar to my story to check for accuracy and believable story lines. I used a paramedic to read my car accident scene, a retired judge to read the court scenes, etc. then I ask they read the whole thing for a general overview and any obvious errors.
    I probably did at least 15 rewrites before I was satisfied.
    I fully expect my current WIP to take quite a while to complete because it has many aspects that will need checked for believability.

  9. shell flower says:

    Right now my book is out with 4 beta readers, all of different backgrounds. One is a teenager in my target age. I finished my “first draft edits” meaning I self-edited to the point I felt okay with even a handful of readers reading it. I can’t imagine that first draft going on Amazon after a few days. Talk about a lame story.

  10. Your blog is music to my ears. I had two critique groups read all the chapters of my book, then had seven beta readers, and STILL found errors when I recently read the proof copy. The secret to finding the last hopefully little errors is to read the book out loud, at least for me.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks 😀

      Last year I read several big selling authors and found mistakes in them. They are there, but only the odd one. A first draft is bound to be littered with errors.

      Reading out loud is a great idea. I try that whenever I can.

  11. I agree. If I want to be considered a pro, I need to put my manuscript through a couple of sets of eyes at least. I haven’t sent a book to a professional editor but I happen to have a friend who worked as an editor. Also a couple of friends who beta read for me that are librarians! Finally, I let my MS sit for at least 2 months before I begin my edit. That gives me plenty of distance from the heat of writing that 1st draft to see it with fresh eyes. (If you’re writing to a deadline, this may not be possible.)

    • Pete Denton says:

      The deadline probably does stop a number of writers to allow themselves a couple of months. I’m leaving my NaNo book for more than six months as I work on my other book. I think that’s enough distance!

  12. Wow, no wonder self-publishing is viewed with poorly. I have four individuals that read every word and are unforgiving in their review comments. I respect their opinions. It just has to be that way.

  13. Linda Govik says:

    Goodness… Being passionate about my rewrites, I cringe at the thought of sending out a first draft for the world to see in this way. I don’t even do that with my blog posts… As for my beta readers, I have a few selected readers who are brutally honest and very intelligent. I know they are going to give me the feedback I need (which isn’t necessarily what I want) but in a constructive and positive way.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Sounds like you have a good plan. I’m not sure about a few selected people reading my THIRD draft! I couldn’t publish a first draft, of anything. 🙂

  14. I always get feedback from as many people as are willing to read and give it. Just because I understand what I’m writing doesn’t mean my intended audience will. What if I make a leap in logic that seems natural to me but the readers don’t follow? I won’t know unless I get reader feedback . . . preferably before I publish.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I think I’m the same. The number of times I’ve written a short story and my wife has said, “what is going on? Do you mean …”

      My editing head now reads through and thinks, that won’t get by without a comment so change it now. 🙂

  15. ioniamartin says:

    I agree! There are so many who write a book and just think they are ready to send. I find that many of the books I download from amazon have an update with a week or so of downloading it. I think doing it right the first time and making sure you present your best work cannot be underestimated.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Presenting your best work is a must if you want to sell more books. I think even multi-million selling authors release books with the odd mistake, but one littered with mistakes is going to stop anyone buying from you again. It’s already a tough business out there you need to give yourself a fighting chance.

  16. jmmcdowell says:

    Julie (Word Flows) really nailed it. Dealing with conflicting critiques is tough. It’s easiest when most or all readers are pointing out similar problems. You know then that what was written isn’t working. But when one reader loves a scene while another thinks it should be axed? Writers need to trust their instincts then when choosing the right course.

    I found several of my betas among my blog buddies. And they have been worth their weight in gold.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Great advice to side with Julie 😉

      I agree about trusting your judgement when listening to the feedback. I hope the readers have similar concerns so I know where to turn next. This is a REALLY long, complicated journey isn’t it? 🙂

  17. I would never, ever let someone read a first draft of my work. Everything is so messy – I more or less vomit words onto the page in my first draft and I usually end up rewriting the entire thing from scratch, anyway.

    My CPs and betas are all people I met on Twitter, and I only let people I’ve built up a relationship with read my stuff.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I know. I’m a fifth draft, now you can read my work, kind of guy 🙂

      Good to know you’ve found people online you can trust with the beta reading. 🙂

  18. EllaDee says:

    I’m wondering if the writer in question was following the “philosophy” of How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely… it’s all about getting it out there by hook or crook. From a reader’s point of view, the more crafted the output the better. I hate seeing sloppiness when I read a novel.
    I love that you have Denny’s in your Vegas pic. They’re no longer in Australia but I made sure I visited the Denny’s in San Fran 🙂

    • Pete Denton says:

      I think sloppiness is all that they will get though. I’m sure in the longer run it will hurt any book sales they were hoping to get. Yeah, blast from the past going through these photos. I’m sure many things have changed in the last 20 years. Denny’s were good. Even though when they were on the clock they always brought our meals on time so we never got them free. 🙂

  19. Well said, Pete! It is absolutely essential to seek validation of your work. Beta readers, critique groups, buy charity auctions with agent/editor feedback, revise it at least 3-5 times with sabbaticals from it to gain insight and let your writing skills grow. Bring it to conferences and workshop the heck out of it. My biggest thing about a beta is that I must trust them. Otherwise their feedback will fall on deaf ears. 🙂

  20. writinghouse says:

    I use the Stephen King method* – I have a preferred reader for whom I write my novels (and happens to be my partner, thesnailofhappiness and a damned fine editor to boot) so things never reach the outside world without being triple-checked and checked again. When I had proof copies of my first book printed (free of charge, courtesy of NaNoWriMo), one contained another book of short stories bound in the middle.of it. This book of shorts had clearly never seen a proofreader or editor in its life. It’s on sale for about £10 and I know I would be pretty miffed if I had paid money for it!

    * Read Stephen King’s “On writing” – it’s brilliant and really helpful!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks. I’ve read On Writing, it’s a great book. I admire King for his method, but I’ve tried that approach and get nowhere! I’m a planner all day long 🙂

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