• CEMurphy

    beta readers

    I did something very unusual this weekend, which was send a book out to beta readers. Normally I…don’t do that. Broadly speaking I feel writing a book is largely a closed loop between myself and my editor: she’s the source of feedback that I need, and I generally find adding more people in to that cycle to be very stressful.

    I am, in fact, finding it very stressful, which is totally on me, not the readers: they’re providing feedback in exactly the way a writer wants them to, which is clearly, concisely and specifically, without emotionally laden language or snarky commentary, and by cushioning it with comments about what they did like, too.

    No lie: the absolute worst editing experience I’ve ever had, when a very rough draft book was sent to second readers without my knowledge, I got feedback from one of those readers that said, literally, when I’d gotten something wrong, “AHAHAHAH NO”. I’m still angry about that, on so many levels. The whole process was so upsetting it took me about three months longer than it should have to edit the book because every time I opened the file I became enraged. In fact, I finally had to turn all the comments off, on that project, and deal with the problems as I saw them in the book before reactivating them and taking one last grim stab at it to answer anything left.

    A good beta reader doesn’t do that, obviously. A good beta reader remembers that they’re involved in part of the creative process and that artists tend to be somewhat delicate fragile flowers about their art. And a good artist remembers that the way to improve their art is to listen to feedback about it…which doesn’t stop me from having an Instantaneous Sulk whenever I get a revision letter.

    I mean, for example, the MAGIC & MANNERS revision letter was so light that even I couldn’t get into a sulk about it, which is pretty astonishing. Normally I glance at the letter, then, regardless of what it actually says, think something to the effect of OH MY GOD SHE HATES ME WHAT DOES SHE WANT ME TO DO TO MY PRECIOUS STORY NO I HATE HER I HATE IT ALL HOW DARE SHE and then about three days later, sullenly, I circle back around and actually read it and go “okay that’s not really so bad after all…” This is my process. I recognize that. :)

    But it *is* my process, which means beta readers tend to put me in the OH MY GOD THEY HATE ME cycle for several days while feedback comes in, and, as I said, I find that stressful. It’s worse when the book is on a (hopefully) short turn-around, as this one is, and I have less time to sit and breathe my way through the sulks because I need to get the edits in place and ready to go.

    All that said, though, in this particular case, though, when I’m revising a 20 year old book and I have far too much baggage clouding my judgment of the material, boy are they being helpful. Two of them (so far) have called out one thing as something that needs either clarification or excising, and a third has commented on something that I…well, I wondered about it, which is why I needed these readers.

    Actually, I wondered about the thing the other two commented on, as well, which is probably good, as it means I’ve probably got a clearer picture of the material than I’m afraid I do…but it also means I really needed somebody else to read it and say “no really you do have to deal with this” rather than allow myself to believe that naaaaaaaah it’s fiiiiiiiiiiiine. :)

    Anyway, despite the stress angle of it, I’m glad I’ve done this, as it’ll improve the book in exactly the ways I hope to. Onward!

  • Uncategorized

    1 down, 34530987 to go…

    I have nearly finished the AAs for WALKING DEAD. The rest of the afternoon will be spent reading the last few chapters and typing them in so they’re no longer a burden on my tiny little mind.

    I’ve also, much more satisfactorily–which should tell you how fond I am of doing AAs–finished converting cemurphy.net back over to WordPress and hacking it until it looks like the rest of the site. The biggest advantage to this is it allows individual entries instead of the flat file I had, but having comments available again is nice too. :)

    After the AAs are sent off I need to do a cemurphy.net newsletter, because among other things, I’m going to be doing an all-day interview at Bitten By Books on Tuesday this week. I’ll post a reminder on Tuesday, but you should drop by and try to win an ARC of THE PRETENDER’S CROWN.

    It’s been an utterly slug-like weekend. I’ve barely left the house. It’s been alternating between being really gorgeous and absolutely pissing rain, with an emphasis on the latter, which hardly encourages one to go anywhere. So yesterday I watched six episodes of Doctor Who: that was my big effort for the day. :) (Well, that and stayed up too late working on cemurphy.net, but that might actually qualify as work, so I’m allowing myself to forget about it.)

    Right. Off to finish the AAs.

  • Uncategorized

    just doin’ the job

    So I got revision notes on THE PRETENDER’S CROWN from my agent, the estimable /Jennifer Jackson a couple of days ago. The first screen (which was all I read at the time) wasn’t too terrible (I have gotten *really* gun-shy about revision letters since the one that obliged me to *completely* rewrite HOUSE OF CARDS), so today I held my breath and looked at the rest of it.

    Really not dreadful at all, except perhaps for the part where she said, “Around page 250 I thought, hm, this is slow getting started. I think, ideally, you might cut about 100 pages from the first chunk and then we’d really have something.”

    This is essentially what she said about HEART OF STONE. (Actually, there, she said, “Here, rewrite this completely,” then read the rewrites and said, “Great! Now cut another 30 pages from the first 100, and we’ll really have something.”) And she was right.

    I suspect she’s right about this, too. She had a couple of bits where she specifically said, “I think this part went on too long,” which is *insanely* helpful from an editing point of view. Just a “here, look at this part” makes it *so* much easier for me to suddenly go oh, oh, yeah, okay, I can see how that could get cropped down. So now I’m actually all excited about the book again, and looking forward to trying to tackle that behemoth. Which means I must be all excited about writing this Walker Papers book, because it would be good to have it done before I have to turn my attention to TPC. And strangely enough, it kinda works. I’m feeling zingier about writing, and that’s always good.

    Days like today, this job doesn’t suck. Yay!

%d bloggers like this: