I’ve had a couple of Beta Readers that were willing to read my first draft, and I truly appreciate the feedback they gave. It’s made my book much tighter, cleaner. But some of the most valuable feedback is the kind I never really received.
One of my readers is my brother, Frank. He’s perfect. He’s a commercial graphic artist who has owned an indy comic book publication company, published several of his own indy comics. He regularly gets his artwork out there in contests. He’s not ashamed to admit he loves role playing games. When he’s not reading comics or graphic novels, he’s reading science fiction or fantasy. He told me it would take him a while to finish my book because of his schedule, and proceeded to work his way steadily though it, telling me what he liked and areas where he thought I needed to take a second look. And then he stopped.
“Have you finished it yet?” I asked him eagerly a few weeks ago.
He told me that he’d been busy and hadn’t finished the book. I asked him where he was in the novel and he told me. It was the same spot he was at two months previous to that.
He had put the book down two months ago and hadn’t touched it since. I don’t care how busy someone is, that’s a five alarm wake up call for any writer. Two months. I’d lost him. My own brother. Houston, we have a problem.
Sweetie had plowed through the whole novel and had given me some very stinging and honest criticism that I didn’t appreciate at the time, but came to realize was valuable and spot on. One of the areas he’d had a problem with was what he called “The CSI Moment”. He felt the tone of the book changed significantly in that section and that it was jarring to the flow and the atmosphere of the novel. I’d had a nagging sense in the back of my mind that this section didn’t fit well with the rest of the novel, but was perplexed how to convey the information differently. Sweetie gave me some ideas, and I put it all on the back burner to address later. Yes, that was exactly the section where my brother had put the book down.
I asked Frank about that section and he gave it favorable comments. He didn’t feel it changed the tone in a bad way, and said he enjoyed the ‘CSI’ type details. He was being honest, but he had put the book down right there and not picked it up for two months. That kind of action demanded my attention as a writer.
I proceeded to guilt Frank into continuing the book as only a close relative can. The good news is he later reported that he had been so entranced by the book at that point that he caught himself reading it for two hours straight, unaware of the passage of time. I had redeemed myself, and re-captured my reader in the latter part of the book. <insert sigh of relief>
And now I find myself looking at “The CSI Moment” and pondering what to do. I may need to take out my Machete of Death, otherwise known as the ‘delete’ button.
Keep reading, keep writing, keep drinking local beer.