Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain, Aledans! The blog take-over continues today with Cally Jackson and her New Adult novel, THE BIG SMOKE. If you missed Monday’s Sneak Peek of BAD YETI by Carrie Harris you can find it here. Angela Wallace will be here Friday and Sunday with EARTH TONES. And we’ve had an addition to the take-over: Laura Diamond will be here on Saturday to celebrate the release of her novella NEW PRIDE. Don’t forget to stop by to help celebrate all the take-over awesomeness.
Without further ado, take it away, Cally!
Thanks for inviting me to guest post on your blog, Becka! Today, I’ll be talking about the joys and frustrations of beta-reader feedback.
As part of the editing process for my now-released New Adult novel, The Big Smoke, I had about ten beta readers review the manuscript and provide feedback. Overall, the comments were amazingly positive and encouraging. But one of the most fascinating things about the feedback was the huge variance in readers’ opinions. Each person enjoyed a different aspect of the plot, preferred different characters, and took something different from the story overall.
Here’s some of the feedback to show you what I mean.
About my main female character Ceara’s story line
“There’s a lot going on in her story but you’ve set it all up well so it’s very believable and not at all difficult to follow.”
“Right now there are a lot of underlying plot threads, and I’m not sure how they contribute to the overall character arc.”
About my main male character Seb
“It seemed like you took a little while to settle comfortably into Seb. His first scene at the dam felt a little clunky and forced.”
“I really enjoyed the scene with Seb and his dad at the dam because it was so well described and well written. The reader gets a really good understanding of their relationship. Love it.”
“I enjoyed EVERY MOMENT of Seb’s narration. You did an amazing job narrating as Seb. He was witty, and very realistic.”
About a passage comparing two girls
“Wow, this is really good. Such an imaginatively descriptive passage.”
“Love this comparison.”
“I would cut this, it’s a little too insulting.”
Is there anything you would cut from what you’ve read so far?
“Not at all”
“No, keep it all as it is.”
“I feel like some subplots need to be cut, and others expanded.”
As you can see, I received a LOT of varying opinions. Originally, I found this really confusing. I mean, how was I supposed to know what changes to make if all of the feedback I got was conflicting? GAH!
But then I realized something: I was looking at it entirely the wrong way. The fact that everybody took something different from my story demonstrates that it’s complex and multi-layered (which I want it to be), and also shows that each person brought their individual perspective to the reading experience. And really, isn’t that one of the coolest parts about reading? i.e. finishing a book then discussing it – maybe even arguing about it – with friends who’ve read it too? That’s the beauty of the reading experience: the beauty of subjectivity. If everyone had the same taste and opinions, there wouldn’t be such an amazing variety of genres and plot lines out there for us to choose from. So really, if I only wanted one opinion, I should’ve only asked one person, and that wouldn’t have been nearly as enlightening in the long run.
While my beta readers may not have provided me with definitive solutions about what changes I needed to make, they definitely helped me see the novel in new ways and gave me a multitude of suggestions to mull over.
So how did I decide what to take on board? Good old fashioned instinct. I went back to what I wanted to achieve with the novel – if a suggestion helped me take the book in that direction, then I adopted it. If not, I respectfully put the suggestion aside. I know my now-published version won’t please everyone, but what book does? And, really, as if we’d want that. Because that would take away the beauty of the individual reading experience: the beauty of subjectivity.
About The Big Smoke:
Ceara’s desperate for love; Seb’s desperate to get laid. Ceara adores reading novels; Seb hasn’t finished a book in years. Two strangers, both moving from small country towns to Brisbane – the big smoke. As they prepare to attend the same university, their paths seem set to collide, but they keep missing each other. Maybe fate is keeping them apart, or maybe it’s just chance.
When the semester starts, things get complicated. Ceara’s best friend withdraws from her, Seb’s closest mate turns into a sleazebag, and the relentless demands of university make their stress levels soar. Before their first semester is over, both Seb and Ceara will be forced to question who they are and what they want from their lives. Will they have the courage to find the answers, or will they crumble under the pressure? And when they finally meet, will it be love at first sight or a collision of headstrong personalities?
You can buy The Big Smoke here.
How about you?
Have you received contradictory feedback from beta readers? Or, have you read a book and had a completely different take on it than a friend? Please, regale me with your experiences!
Cally Jackson grew up in the small country town of Gatton, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia. After deciding at 17 that a Hollywood acting career was sadly out of reach, Cally turned to a career in professional communication and is currently employed by the government.
Cally’s passion for fictional writing first emerged in grade two when she got in trouble for penning her own tale instead of copying directly from a story book as she was supposed to be doing – it was a handwriting exercise, after all.
Cally now lives in Brisbane with the two loves of her life – her husband, Mark, and her dog, Lucy. The Big Smoke is her first novel.