When I began writing several years ago, I never thought of having a group of people read my work before I sent it off into the world, but I soon realized that writers need to have beta readers–those special people who read all of your work and provide invaluable feedback to help improve said work. Even when we think we’ve “polished” our brainchildren, there could be a need for someone to read that “polished” version.
Case in point: I wrote the first draft of my urban fantasy novel some time ago. Then I re-wrote some things and polished it, but realized that it was a little too short–my approximate word count was 62,500 words. Well, for fantasy, it needed to be at least 80,000, so I decided to go back and add a sub plot. (I’ll do another post regarding word count in the near future!)Everything turned out grand.
My main beta reader read this “final” version of my manuscript the other day, and pointed something out to me that I hadn’t noticed. I mentioned that one of my character’s was deceased in one chapter, but in the very next chapter, he was eating dinner with someone. Needless to say, I could explain this (ahem). I told my beta reader that maybe he was very, VERY, hungry, and that he came back for dinner?? In any case, of course that had to be changed immediately. I was ecstatic that this was pointed out to me before I sent my baby out into the world. Boy, wouldn’t that have been embarrassing? No one is above having beta-readers! Even Stephen King has them!
I remember reading a particular incident concerning Mr. King and one of his readers–I think it was a college professor of his. (It could have been in his book, On Writing) Anyway, his college professor/beta reader, laughed at a particular section of his book where Stephen mentioned that the local townspeople gathered every year to shoot the peasants for food. Did you catch that? Stephen meant to say the townspeople shot pheasants, NOT peasants. That one word made the difference between regular eating habits and cannibalism! Beta readers are good to have! Write On!