Thursday, June 16, 2011

I hear crickets as beta readers give my novel the once-over

Beta reader copies
I’ve been on book vacation lately, although in some ways the last two weeks have been the most important of my book-making process. On June 5 at about 11 p.m. I finished my third draft of my debut novel, “Off the grid.” It took me about two weeks prior to that to re-write, write from scratch and enter my handwritten edits into this version.  Instead of jumping up and down about my awesomeness for actually doing this, I started to get nervous because this means real humans will be looking at my novel. My beta readers got copies in the mail or delivered by hand days after I hit save for the last time.

While I won’t publically embarrass them here (and partially fear that they will think it stinks and I won’t be friends with me anymore), I’ll make a few comments about them. Currently three people are reading the book. One speedster already finished, making four total. I selected these folks because I thought they would be honest with me and provide the critiques I will need while also being willing to put up with my clumsy mistakes. Two are co-workers with unique views and expertise. One is an individual I’ve only ever talked to in 140 character bursts on twitter. The last beta reader is my wife Katie. Trust me, she’ll tell me straight up if it stinks (and in some cases already has).

It’s fascinating to read in bed next to her while she’s scribbling away in the margins of my book.

She said last night, “Don’t read over my shoulder!”

“It’s my damn book,” I told her. “You’ve been reading over my shoulder for 200 pages.”

I couldn’t help myself. I’m vain. I want to know what people think. I want to make it a great book. I want to sell it someday.

It’s early, but I have received feedback from the one beta reader who finished the book. She gave a good review, questioned some character motivations, pointed out my many silly errors and gave me a lot to think about. It was the first time I actually felt like an author.

Now, I’m like an animal looking for its next meal. I want feedback to sustain me! I asked for my comments around the Fourth of July – which was about a month to dig though the novel. I can’t wait to get these people together to talk about my little world. We’ll see where the book goes from there.

As for a timeline, I’m planning on attending a writer’s conference in August in Seattle, which should be nicely timed for me to be fine-tuning the fourth draft of the book. Now I need to learn how to query agents and sit by the phone. I guess they wouldn’t call to reject me. Maybe I’ll sit by my Gmail account or mail box waiting for rejections.  In any case, there’s certain more “process” to come that has little to do with writing and a lot to do with re-writing, editing and listening. I’m up for it. I want this so badly.