I’m about a week, maybe two, from finishing the second draft of Shaken. It won’t be perfect, but it will be ready for fresh eyes not yet jaded by the detailed readings my fiance and I have given it.
Honestly, it’s just words to me now. I killed a darling sentence awhile back, and since then, I’ve been ruthless: deleting right and left, adding where needed, and generally trying to turn a rough draft into page-turning urban fantasy mystery. But I know the story so well that I can delete things and still understand what’s going on and why—things someone less familiar with the story may not follow.
So I’m starting to hunt the wilds of my life for potential beta readers.
This girl wants to read it, but she doesn’t really read urban fantasy and may not have much feedback to offer. This person will love it no matter what. This person will be so harsh I may have to jump off a bridge when I receive notes.
One person in my sights seems promising, but asking someone to beta-read seems like a big commitment or something. Do I want to reveal to him my deep artistic vulnerability? Will he have time to read my novel in the next six days, let alone six weeks or even months? Will he love me enough to keep reading my book after the tenth time he’s seen my inconsistency in capitalizing a world-specific word?
Another person I’ve been stalking for awhile, circling my prey and trying to gauge if I can separate her from the herd of reading-exchange-buddies. She doesn’t seem weak enough to fall for the writer’s equivalent of the bird-call, the offer for a beta read in exchange… but perhaps if I could lure her into my trap with an offer of cookies and coffee?
Beta readers are no easy prey, friends. One may look plump and weak, but then gore you with its horns. Another may flee at the first sign of a split-infinitive. Still another may stand aside and offer you not just hunting tips, but also plotting strategy and better names for characters, and, really, she could have done it better than you if only you’d come to her sooner.
No, be wary when venturing into the beta reader habitat. A beta reader might have told me to stop mixing my metaphors in this blog post, but perhaps he wouldn’t have gotten my ironic sense of whimsy—and if I changed it to suit his wishes, would I kill my voice and just be writing to please him? Or worse, if I refuse and preserve my voice instead of taking his advice, will I discover that my voice is pitchy enough to make ears bleed and therefore unpublishable?
I tell you, readers, this is a safari into the deepest wilds of friendship and acquaintanceship. If I haven’t come out of the jungle in a month, tell my cats I loved them.
How do you find beta readers, readers-who-are-writers? What do you look for in a beta reader?