Beta Readers–You’ve got to love them!

Or…What happens when they point out something in your novel that could make it stronger but would require some significant revising just days before your first edits are due back to your editor?

In a perfect world, you would have finished your manuscript and sent it to your Beta readers long before your first edits come back.  Ah yes…in a perfect world. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

So, what do you do? First of all, you have to believe in your Beta Readers.  For that, you cannot have just anyone as a
Beta Reader. You need people you trust. People who are not going to love anything you write just because you wrote it, but people who read a lot, and read in the genre that you write. They don’t all have to be writers themselves, but one or two writers in the group is nice, especially if one of them has editing experience also.  How many readers should you have?  That’s up to you.  I have four whose opinions I value highly.

So now you’re Beta Readers have read the manuscript and pointed out some things that you might have missed in the story: things that were not said, but maybe should have been said; things you assumed readers would understand but that did not come across clearly in the manuscript; things that didn’t sound quite right to your readers; etc.  You take all their comments to heart, decide which ones you need to address and fix some, but you don’t necessarily make all the changes they suggest. Sometimes only one reader will have a problem with something and you have to decide if it is really is a problem or not.  Occasionally, however, there is an item that multiple readers come up with.

That’s what happened to me with TRUE blue, and to be honest, it was a change I was toying with as I wrote the novel, but had decided to leave as I originally envisioned.  Now, though, just days before the edits are due, three bring up this main point and feel the storyline would be stronger if I do this little change, which really isn’t so little as it is interwoven throughout the entire book!

Of course, I’m not going to tell you what it is. 🙂 That might spoil the story for you.  But I had to ask myself before I did any changes to the manuscript, would this main change really make the story stronger?  Would it make a significant enough difference in the character arch to justify the revisions? And, what did my editor think about it?  I sent off an email to my editor. She replied that she really didn’t see a problem, that the story worked just fine the way it was, but yes, changing it would work, also.  It was up to me to decide.  I still needed to meet the deadline, though.

So now what do I do?  Well, I decided to work through all of the edits first while I mulled over the bigger change. Finally, when all the edits were done, I decided that yes, in my heart I knew that what my Beta readers were telling me was true–and, although it would require more work, I also knew that I owed it to myself to put out the best work I possibly could. I made a new manuscript file, figured out the best way to make the change with the least amount of revising, and dove in.

Two days later, the manuscript, complete with all edits addressed and the new changes incorporated, was done–two days before I said I’d have it back to the editor. Yeah!

And yes, I do believe the story is stronger for it.

So, Beta Readers…It takes a lot of courage to put a manuscript out there to your first readers.  But if you want comments, be ready to accept what they give you, and be ready to put the work in if they come up with an item that might require a fairly significant revision. Of course, as a writer, one way to look  it is as just another awesome challenge to get the story just right.

To all my Beta Readers…Love you. Thanks! To my readers, only FIVE MORE WEEKS until TRUE blue’s release.  Until then, I thought I would leave you with this tease…

Sometimes we must revisit the past to embrace our future.

Twenty-four years ago, the murder of a Chicago police officer changed Joey DeLuca’s life.  He lost his best friend and first love, Meghan McConnell, when her mother whisked her out of town.  Now, on the eve of another officer’s death, Meghan is back and about to step into his life again.

There is very little gray in Joey’s line of work as a Lt. Detective–it is either black or white, right or wrong. But Meghan’s insistence on finding answers to her father’s murder threatens those beliefs and throws his marriage to CPD Detective Andi, his career, and the entire DeLuca family in jeopardy when new revelations come to light.

Can Joey save his marriage, solve the murder, and keep his family together all at the same time?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Susan Rae 

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