I've been bad about writing lately, both here and in a creative sense. My morning writing time has been gobbled up as I prep two games for a house con , both are new to me and thus tossing up a learning curve to deal with. Kobolds, I know. Dramasystem with fractious ants as PCs? Not so much. In the meantime my novel waits for me, finished and ready for an agent . . . or is it?
I had three beta readers make it through the entire thing. Having never had beta readers before I don't know if that's a good or bad number, but as I didn't bother too many people to try in the first place I think it's fair amount. A few people started and dropped off - that's okay too. I'm not so enamored of my work that I think it beyond reproach, like this guy with the best meltdown since the woman and the Greek Seamen. Seaman. Semen. Whatever. * One reader got a few chapters in and pegged it as a 'dog book,' and wasn't interested. It's not a dog book - I mean yeah, it has dogs and all - but the fact that he felt that it was is more of a failing on my part than on his. I can't please everyone, but I do need to have as broad an appeal as possible. So, tinker tinker tinker.
The three who made it (survived?) are all people I respect, wildly talented in their own arenas of both work and creativity. All three are artists/creators in their own right. They came away with pretty much a stoplight of opinions; one loved it, one liked it with a few reservations, and one pretty much hated it. Obviously the one I need to focus on is the latter, who for the sake of clarity here we'll refer to as Red. Red sent me a very positive email after the first 6 chapters, which made his complete reversal all the more shocking in the detailed mauling he gave me later. Note I'm not saying he was wrong or out of line. He was very forthright and honest, which is what I'm looking for in a beta reader. I'm not the type to get huffy or angry when someone critiques my work - hell, I refrained from responding to someone who, in writing a 'review' of the story I had in Machine of Death, a) admitted she only read the first paragraph; b) got three details wrong from that brief bit of reading; and c) GOT THE TITLE WRONG. But I digress.
The question is, what to do now? Do I agree with some of his points? Absolutely. I know it takes too long to get going in a traditional sense. I was trying for a long, slow build, but may well have overdone it. Also, the minor character based on The Practice Wife could and should be excised at this point. Back when I wrote the first draft that split was fresh and raw, and there was a lot of projecting going on. It's not that we're bestest buddies now - I haven't spoken to her in 15+ years and I'm just fine with that - but it just seems kinda petty at this point. Those two examples are just the beginning of the salient points and concerns Red raised.
Other things, though, aren't as clear cut and clash with the comments from Green and Yellow. The first one that comes to mind is Henny, the male best friend. Red found him non-important and unworthy of interest, while Yellow flat out loved him and thought he needed more screen time, so to speak. Green understands and empathizes with the lead character's desire to keep his powers a secret, while Red blasts him as a selfish coward who isn't thinking about anyone but himself. They're both right, which makes deciding on a course of action difficult. The book isn't an origin story for a new superhero, but maybe I need to put more into why he isn't zipping around in spandex. Again, I'd been foolish not to pay heed to thoughtful advice.
In other words, I type with a wry grin and a weary shake of my head, I'm a lot less done than I thought I was. I am eternally grateful to my betas because not only is it awesome to read a raw work, it's something special to take the time to offer thoughtful feedback. Much appreciated, Green, Yellow, and Red.
* I cannot recommend enough that you click on that link and read the lunatic rantings of the biggest ego you may ever encounter. The 'author's' basic argument is that his getting a 1 star review is indicative of society collapsing and the rise of evil. You may thing I'm exaggerating. I assure you I am not.