The terror of hearing back from beta readers

Why is it that when the finish line is legitimately in sight, every now and then I have a moment of panicked hallucinations that make me see this???

Why is it that when the finish line is legitimately in sight, every now and then I have a moment of panicked hallucinations that make me see this???

I’m in the process of final spruce-ups of “The King’s Sons” for publication. Heard back from all the beta readers now but one, who requests a hard copy. (On a related note, I’ve written before about what to look for in a beta reader.) Haven’t sent the book to her yet because I don’t have it uploaded to order proofs (I need to do that SOON. And get in touch with her about that. UGH. So much to do!!! But hey, it’s not like any other writers can relate to being busy, right? 😉

Anyway, I realized the last couple of days that I go through a distinct emotional roller coaster of a process each time I get beta reader comments/edits. It’s something like this:

  • EUPHORIA. Yes! The comments are in! That’s always good. And the beta reader said overall he/she liked the novel. Excellent.
  • NERVOUSNESS as I read the detailed notes. Yeah. Yeah, I knew that scene moved too slow. And that that subplot is kind of boring. And…. well, I didn’t see that coming. But now that I think about it, that comment makes sense. I can make that better….
  • PANIC sets in. How can I possibly fix all of this? Where can I find the time? And how can I, logistically, alter the novel so this isn’t an issue? How can I…? UGH!!!
  • PANIC spurs me to start editing. With something small. Well, this comment about the first scene…. It suggests moving this piece of information forward. I think I can do that. It could fit in right here….
  • I CALM DOWN as one little change becomes multiple edits. This isn’t going to be impossible after all, perhaps. I should chill. No reason to make myself sick. The beta readers liked the book.
  • EXCITEMENT sets in as I realize how much the changes are improving the quality and the pacing of the novel. Yes!!! This is going well! Now that I’ve fixed all the small stuff I can go through chapter by chapter and fix some of the larger issues as I come by them. This might take some time, but I can get it done. Woot!

Just this morning, I went from the “panic” to the “calm down” stage. I haven’t reached “excitement” yet because I’m still not sure how to handle one subplot that is a bit drawn-out and doesn’t really go anywhere. (I kind of felt that way about it myself when I last read through the novel. When a beta reader mentioned that as well, I knew it’s a real issue I should address.) But hey, if I can’t find an interesting way to embellish it, I can always trim it as much as possible. That’s improvement. It’s most certainly improvement. That might be how I end up handling the situation, because the story is already complicated and on the longer side (over 100,000 words). I don’t really want to complicate it more. De-emphasizing the least interesting subplot, cutting as much from it as I can, should help a lot.

And I can do that going through chapter by chapter, with notes at the ready. When I reach a chapter with one of those scenes, I can take the scissors to it. So yes, I guess I’m feeling calm again, which is wonderful. I feel like I’m in control again. And as long as I feel in control instead of overwhelmed, I know I’ll be making progress.

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9 responses to “The terror of hearing back from beta readers

  1. That sounds A LOT like my thought process too. Although I sit on the comments for awhile (most of my beta readers a kind enough to send me a chapter-by-chapter analysis) and if more than one of them point out the same issue, it goes into a file of pending reviews. Do you ever get comments from readers that conflict with each other? That’s the worst, I never know what to do about that.

    • Every now and then I’ll get conflicting comments about something. When that happens, I go with my gut reaction about whether making a change could improve something, or whether it’s ok as is. For instance–I guess this isn’t a direct conflict–but if one beta reader mentions that a passage confused them and no one else says anything about it, I still might try to reword things to make my meaning clearer. Hope that makes sense!

  2. I’m currently going through the scene to scene editing phase and it is taking forever (especially since I’m employing the methods from Writing the Perfect Scene). However, when I step back and look at the whole picture, it’s amazing how much progress I’ve made. It’s like getting some huge puzzle piece done!

    • good for you! 🙂 I think it’s definitely important, through all the slogging, to take a step back at the big picture like you said, and see how overall, how vastly improved things have become. 🙂

  3. Pingback: My beta readers make me cut stuff. That’s why I love them. | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  4. I like this. It makes sense. I feel similarly about reviews.

  5. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite certain I will learn many new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

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