Attribution: Michael Trolove, Wikimedia Commons
EFFIN’ ALBERT is being beta’d right now and I am in a quandary. Four wonderful writers have read it, in whole or part. Two finished it and offered comprehensive crits. One stopped at Chapter 23, suggesting I go back in, revise and resend. The fourth is now at Chapter 23 and we are at a kind of impasse. I offered an out. He wanted to keep going. I responded, he asked if I wanted him to stop.
I know the thing needs work. The beginning chapters are replete with back story which must be pared down. I have to rethink how to start the novel, how much to put in. I need to reconsider how I’ve characterized my protagonist and antagonist. I need to rethink chapter structure and length.
But thus far, for the most part, three of the four beta readers tell me they enjoy the story, they like the writing, they feel the tension. One says ALBERT is better than CHERRY. (!) One says, and I quote: Your use of language, your unbelievably stunning confidence in your reader—you don’t explain ANYTHING you don’t need to, you don’t describe anything you don’t need to. It’s really inspiring. You have a command of your craft that leaves me awestruck, really. . . For more than 2/3 of the manuscript, I would say don’t you dare change a thing! Nothing.
Another says, First, let me restate, I love your writing. It’s crisp, clean, voice is mesmerizing. I also love this story. I wanted to keep reading because I wanted to know more about Mikie and Albert and what was happening in their fucked up little lives.
Then there’s this: Look at your story how you would other people’s, trying to improve it, not justify what you have.
Absolutely. This person also writes:
While you do have conflict between characters and some hint of suspense here and there, most of your “setup” sections dull or diminish the suspension you were building, and sometimes it seems like you just forget what’s on the plate. A lot of the time you’re ending with a situation arising, or something sparking, then the next chapter doesn’t carry that over and does something else that forms into either the same or a different point. While this gets what you want to say out, it doesn’t pull me from chapter to chapter as effectively as starting with a problem and ending with a new one would.
Yes, yes but somehow, there is a disconnect and I don’t know how to fix that. I am explaining (poorly) and defending (often), neither of which I should be doing, both of which I swore I would not do. The purpose of sending my novel to betas is to get their thoughts about my book, get suggestions on how to make it better but right now, I don’t know how to reconcile the first with the second.
I’m perched precariously on the fence of indecision and self-doubt right now. I know this much: I don’t like the view.