When Betas Do More Than Expected

Chimp at typewriterAt the moment, Second Wave is in the final stages of beta reading. It was supposed to be back by Halloween, but then I’m still reading one of the reader’s work that she sent me. That’s called real life, and somewhere between Halloween and today, we had a holiday celebrating family dysfunction. It’s called Black Friday, and it’s kind of a big deal.

In any event, I got one back already. She’s a fan of the series, knows my writing style and intentions, and only complained that I left it at a cliffhanger. I don’t agree other than everyone’s in weird places when the story ends.

A second fell off the radar. Hey, we do this for free, so I don’t complain when someone decides it’s not worth their time. Not when the most they’ll see is a paperback copy. So I’ve written off that beta. No harm, no foul.

The last two are the two I’m most interested in anyway. One, like the first lady to return her beta, is a fan. In fact, she’s also my celebrity crush. We spitball a lot via instant messaging. I’d do it by phone, but I’m afraid we’d never get off the phone. But she, too, knows the Compact Universe well enough to tell me, “No, no, no! Tishla likes Maxwell House, not Folgers. Don’t you read your own work?” (Answer: Sometimes, but not often enough. I need to build myself a wiki, or at least a concordance.) She expects to have Second Wave back to me today, so I’m very much looking forward to what she says. (Hey, it’s been over a month since I got a beta read back.)

The last one turned into something I had not expected. My friend went full on developmental edit. He even showed me examples and said, “Are you sure you want me to continue? The feedback is basically going to be the same throughout.” Yes, I said, I do. He might be seeing the same thing over and over again, but the nature of revisions and betas is that we tend to cherry pick. Why you do multiple betas.

But even when I used a professional editor, I cherry picked. My favorite line to Stacy Robinson when we worked together was “I’m going to exercise my stet privilege here.” I throw out a lot of bath water, more than a trad editor would permit. (That’s what the bigs pay them for, and since they’d be handing me a check…) But never throw out the baby. This is a tough process. An editor’s job has little to do with patting you on the head. (Though Stacy also has become a fan after editing The Children of Amargosa.)

So my last beta reader for this project has found his inner editor. And I can tell what he has in mind by the feedback he’s given on two previous efforts. They were novella length, one with very few suggested changes. So if this beta is brutal, there’s gold to be mined, and mined with little effort. (Well, rewriting entire scenes is not little effort. But finding the path forward becomes easier.)

I’m most pleased with this last one because it looks like my friend has found a new calling. I’d love to see him become a freelance editor. Of course, all that depends on his time and how much he wants to write.

But the Amargosa stories are evolving into epics. I’m currently mapping out what I want to do with Storming Amargosa, and it’s occurred to me that I may have to write sections of it between novellas. Why? I don’t know what changes are coming to Second Wave yet, and I don’t know what off-world events are going to impact the final story in the trilogy. Yes, I’ve written a complicated mess for myself.

But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?