Experiment #1: I asked in an Instagram story if anyone would be willing to beta read for me. To my amazement, about 14 people volunteered. The true test will be whether the majority of these people actually read the whole thing and give me feedback. My hypothesis is that about half will end up getting to it, which is plenty. (I’ve put a copy of the feedback sheet I created at the bottom of this post.) I promised to send out the draft this Friday. That gives me four days to write the final 2.5 chapters. It’s those final few that I have to really yank out of my heart. When you raise stakes for twenty-seven chapters, those last three chapters better damn deliver!
Anyhow, as I struggle not with writer’s block exactly but more with lethargy, I’ve been taking some walks with my earbuds in.
Experiment #2: Spotify has multiple collections of Sylvia Plath reading her poems, so I’ve downloaded them and I listen in the graveyard. I know, sounds like depression, but absorbing the sobriety of life through an art form is actually uplifting. Depression is a lack of order, rationalization, explanation. When you listen to somebody calmly lay out the hard facts of life in an orderly form, my own burdens are soaked up into a sponge, and when the walk’s over, I’m pleasantly light. Sometimes, I’ll even sing breath trails through the cold air. Nobody else is ever there to overhear.
These two events are the most recent inventions I’ve come up with to facilitate better writing. Stay tuned for more…. possibly, a visit to the local writer’s group, which meets in a used book barn called “Isle of Books.”
Guide to Beta Reading for Ariadne’s Thread 😉
[[Note: Right now, go to “File” and choose “Make a Copy.” This will be your own document, where you can fill out the questionnaire without frustrating everyone else.]]
First of all, I can’t thank you enough. I owe you a cup of coffee, so remind me if we are ever in the same area. But now, to business!
Feedback I don’t want at this stage:
- Nitpicking my phrasing (although you see a trend of breaking some writing rule or using a certain word excessively, please let me know.
Feedback I do want should be HONEST, FROM-THE-GUT, PRECISE and should follow these instructions:
- Type a big, all-caps “STOP” whenever you stop reading to do something else.
- Highlight parts you like.
- Use the text strikethrough to cross out parts you do not like. Optional: Use the comments feature (Alt R C) if you want to explain why it worked/didn’t work for you.
Once you’ve finished the whole thing, feel absolutely free to rant incoherently (instantaneous reactions are VERY valuable to me at this stage), but it’d be great if you could also briefly answer these questions:
- Describe your emotions while reading in 5 words:
- Did you care about the characters? Why or why not?
- Who was your favorite character and why?
- What was your favorite part of the story and why?
- If you could add anything to the story, what would it be, and why? (scene, character, object, etc.)
- Where did you feel tempted to skip or skim?
- Were there any questions the story raised but didn’t resolve?
- Were you satisfied by the ending? Why or why not?
- Did you notice any inconsistencies?
- Summarize the story in a sentence or less.