Sunday afternoon as wind-driven snow whipped over the backyard peaks and valleys fashioning them into anonymous mounds, I settled in by the fireplace. It was time to begin reviewing notes made by the long-suffering people who agreed to be beta readers of my current novel.
Beta reading is a necessary tool in the path to publication but I find it nerve-wracking. This is the point when a story first goes public — someone other than me gets to probe my creation, poke into its structure and pass judgment on its credibility and readability. I want and need honesty from the readers, but I cringe at what their opinions might reveal about my storytelling effort.
Few of my readers are impartial. Family members and friends have a built-in bias — they are predisposed to a positive response. More experienced critique partners can sometimes be the opposite, nitpicking to the extreme as they identify all the ways in which the story isn’t told as they would tell it. I’m not obligated to accept any of the criticisms or suggestions, but I value every one. Once the story is published (notice my positive attitude here!) I may never know what the majority of readers think of it so getting feedback now is desirable.
But still, there is a small chill of uncertainty within me. I suspect it belongs to the icy heart of my I.C. as she circles close by, subtly trying to cool my flame of hope for the success of this book. Is it really the best it can be? Is there even a market for it?
As the evening began to descend, the outdoor lights came on for one last pre-Epiphany sparkle and I put aside my pen and the comment sheets. I chose to spend the evening curled up with a book… mine. I wonder, can I be one of my own beta readers?