To beta readers and beyond!

9 Jan


My kids have been watching a lot of Toy Story lately. Can you tell?

Sex, Nazis, Bank robbers. This post has them all. Read on!

This week, I have been frantically proofreading my novel so that I can send it out to my beta readers to critique. This has taken significantly longer than expected. FRY comes in at under 80,000 words, so it’s hardly War and Peace, but still more than I can read in one sitting. And I’m a full-time mum by day, so I really only have the evenings to work on it, although I have just enrolled my kids in nursery one morning a week. I’m glad I’ve done this. I’ll really need a little extra time as I approach my publication date in March.

But it’s not just the late nights that are conspiring against me. I went out and bought a new printer in the January sales. Took my dad with me, actually and nodded in all the right places as he talked about duplexes and printer cables. We walked away with a black and white laser jet, which seemed perfectly adequate for my needs. However when I sat down and really thought about my requirements, I realised I had a problem. To get FRY out to my beta readers, I needed 12 copies of around 190 pages each. But my printer is not a fast one and it only does about 700 pages per cartridge. Of which I only have one, because they didn’t have any more in the shop. To get round this problem, I’ve had to order some photocopies (proto-type books, actually – they should look pretty nice.) This will inevitably delay getting the manuscript out to my beta readers. I have at least sent out email copies to the advance party, who live abroad, so it’s good to know that some copies have already reached their destinations. I had originally allowed my beta readers five weeks to comment, but given the problems I’ve encountered, some will only end up with about three and a half. I really hope that’s enough!

So what was my criteria for choosing beta readers? Well, obviously I’ve looked to friends and family first, but I wanted to get the right mix of people. I wanted some who would be the target audience for my book, but also others who have experience or skills in areas related to my book. So I asked a former policeman and a former Police Community Support Officer to read from the police perspective. I choose a couple of people with legal backgrounds to check out my court scene (lawyer types, not bank robbers). I needed a couple of friends with shop or supermarket experience, as this is where some of my key scenes are set, and another friend with a background in psychiatry to check the medical facts. Besides this, I have some avid readers on my list, and my journalistic sister-in-law to check the copy. The very last person to read it will be the ultimate Grammar Nazi, my mum (although I don’t think she’d much appreciate being labelled a Nazi.) I’m also not sure what she’ll make of my sex scene. Gulp!

How do you choose your beta readers? Would you let your mum read your sex scenes?


4 Responses to “To beta readers and beyond!”

  1. rami ungar the writer January 10, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    Mostly I ask people who I think will give me good feedback or a re knowledgeable on a particular subject, so I have several people to turn too. And yes, I would let my mother read my sex scene. She’d probably just roll her eyes and say, “That’s my boy.”

  2. Lena January 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    I have not come yet to the phase where I would need beta-readers but I would probably not let my mom read the sex scenes. But then I am not really sure I would have any sex scenes in the first place.

    I am running a website for writers (mostly for newbies) and we publish authors’ interviews every couple of weeks. I was wondering if you were interesting in being interviewed about your novel and writing experience, as well as balancing family life with writing. Please let me know 🙂

  3. Lorna Dounaeva January 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Lena – ha ha, I have a wriggling toddler on my lap even as I write this! Yes, I’d be happy to do an interview for your website. And thanks for popping in!

  4. Pete Denton February 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I’m still in the midst of the third draft, so beta readers are a while off yet. I do have a few people who’ve offered to read it. A friend who’s a published author, a vociferous reader who doesn’t read my genre and another reader who DOES read my genre. I could do with a police officer as well. Might need to look into that one.

    Good luck balancing everything and getting the feedback. 🙂

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