It was time to let someone else read my novel. Oddly enough, the novel proofs I had ordered were cheaper than printing the book out on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. So my beta readers were about to be duped by the appearance of a finished novel.
Over a few months, the three copies got passed around to eight people. I actually ended up formatting the book for a Kindle (more good practice for later), so one of my friends could read it without waiting. And the feedback was really interesting.
I was mostly interested in whether or not the story held together well enough for them to keep reading, and whether there was enough there to bother working to improve it. I asked them to write down any errors that pulled them out of the story, but I wasn’t expecting a total proofread. It turned out there were plenty of things that jumped out at them.
The first two people to send me their notes each noticed about 50 errors each. The surprising thing that there was only one error in common between their two lists. Not a big boost to the ego to have ninety-nine errors caught by the first two readers, but not entirely unexpected.
As more feedback came in, each person had a different sort of thing jump out at them. One person focused in almost entirely on punctuation, while another caught words being repeated within paragraphs. Every read was seen through a different lens.
Beyond the long list of corrections that was building, each person also had different things stick with them from the story. A particular scene, a good turn of phrase, a point where the story didn’t ring true, etc. One reader would mention a point in the story that really grabbed them, but the other seven wouldn’t even mention it. Another would say that a certain thing needed to be bumped up, while another thought it could be cut.
It was awesome.
It was great to have so many people helping me out. I did my best to improve the things that were mentioned by more than one person, but of course it was still up to me to make the choices about how the book should be changed. The buck stopped with me and I didn’t take every bit of advice.
But the book is absolutely better because of these eight people. Anything that isn’t great is all on me. I can’t imagine doing any differently in the future.