I sent out my last novel to a wide range of readers for critique. My writing group of 2 (myself and Sherry) was a bit too small of a cross-section to get good feedback. Sherry was the only one to read the first draft, but the final (ha!) draft needed more readers.
And the end result — well — wow. Boy did I get a cross-section. Two readers never finished. They both got about 40 pages in (more on that later) and called it ‘first draft material’ and ‘needs a lot of work’. Neither are published (which isn’t that big a deal), but more importantly, neither read in the genre. Reading that back, it makes it sound like genre writing is somehow ‘less’ or ‘lower quality’ that other writing. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that there are certain tropes that don’t need to be explained in detail if you are already familiar with the genre.
Two other readers greatly enjoyed the book. One to the point of forgetting she was supposed to critique. That makes a writer feel good. The other almost cried at the end. The ‘almost’ kinda got me. I’ll need to work harder to get that from an almost to a definitely.
My fifth and final critiquer (sp?) also never reads in the genre, but she approached the critique from more of a line-edit/consistency point of view. Very helpful!
The end result is that I need to strengthen the opening, add a bit of detail to make a stronger image of the city in the reader’s mind, and tweak the ending and a few conflicts in the novel, so that the ending has a more emotional impact.
It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. Just tweaks here and there. Sheila Gilbert from DAW has asked for a full, so once I get these changes done, and have two new readers look at it, it’s off.
Now, back to my previous point of two readers only making it to page 40… Before I send out my work, I ALWAYS spell check and re-read it. I want to make sure things are as good as I can get them. I don’t know what happened, but the document I checked is nowhere to be found. I didn’t discover that until some of the beta readers came back to me with comments. None of my spell check corrections were in there, and page 40 started a scene that was a duplicate of one on page 200 or so. The thing is, it belonged on page 200. The readers read it on page 40, and became completely lost. And for good reason. That scene needed the previous 200 pages in order to make sense. It was embarrassing, to say the least. And I still can’t find my good copy.
Now back to work.