Before I left for my greek cruise (which, handily, you can read all about here if you really want to), I sent the first few chapters of my novel to three beta readers.
It may sound silly but, it was a terrifying experience. Writing a blog post and sending that out there for the world to see is bad enough, but letting go of a novel that I have been working on for a couple of years now and trusting that it wasn’t just going to be ripped to shreds by those beta readers, was a whole new level of hard.
I had to close my eyes and push the send button as I certainly wasn’t doing it with my eyes open.
I didn’t necessarily want to send my story to beta readers but I had got to a stage where I had been staring at the pages for so long that I could no longer see my own story. I couldn’t tell if it was good, bad, made sense, was complete nonsense, if I should give up with it or keep going, I needed an outside opinion – an unbiased one to give me a little nudge.
I didn’t know where to start with trying to find a beta reader, I googled it but it all felt so confusing. I instead headed to Facebook and searched for beta readers. There I found a page with people offering their time for free to give constructive criticism. The group, in case you’re interested, is called Beta Readers & Critiques. I asked to join and was accepted almost immediately. I wrote – as quickly as I could – a message asking for help with reading my first few chapters. I wrote it fast and hit send so I couldn’t change my mind. That was it, the first hurdle jumped, I’d asked for help. All I had to do then was wait.
A day or so later and I’d had three responses from kind members saying they would take a read for me and offer feedback. They supplied their email addresses and I sent them the chapters…as I said having to close my eyes to be able to hit the send button.
Once they were gone, I felt wretched. Images swam through my head of faceless bodies laughing away at how bad my writing is, sighing at having to carry on reading it, wishing it was over, trying to think of constructive ways to tell me it’s a load of shit, or deciding it was so bad that they would never come back to me at all. How long would I have to wait? Oh, the torture of it. Why did I send it, why have I done this to myself, why aren’t they replying??? I tried to forget about it, ignore what I had done. I had to move on with my life.
Turns out I only had to move on with my life for one day as the next day I had my first response. I kept one eye closed as I clicked to open up the email, I was desperate to read their thoughts on my work but at the same time I didn’t want to know what they had to say about my beloved story.
I read through it and instantly felt justified in my initial worry about sending it out into the world. The words ‘trim the fat’ had stood out and were poking fun at me. I slammed my laptop shut and walked away reeling. How dare they say that to me about my writing, that it was repetitive and made it boring. How dare they!
Then I thought about it and thought about it more in context and it was like a light bulb had been switched on, I could all of a sudden see the writing in the story again and knew that this guy was right – it had helped!
But I wasn’t yet going to go back to the beginning to do ANOTHER edit until I had all of the feedback back and could analyse it all first, however I could take what I had learned and apply it to chapters further along in the story. And that’s what I did in the run up to my getaway. I didn’t receive all of the feedback before I left so I just focused on those later chapters.
In the post that published just after I had left for my holiday, writing tasks for when you can’t write, I had set myself some writing tasks to do whilst away to keep up my skills so I could dive right back into my story when I got home again…but, shocker – I didn’t do them. I have the excuse in my head that I didn’t get the alone time I needed to do the exercises but that’s just not true; it is true that I didn’t have a lot of alone time, but I still could have found the time somewhere – I just didn’t want to.
So now I’m back, I’ve had all the feedback back…and I’m still here making excuses as to why I haven’t yet sat down and read through it all or even typed a single word of my story.
I’m not too proud to say that I know it’s because I’m scared. I’m scared of trying to get back into it and not finding my flow, being so upset with the feedback that I give up with it altogether, scared that when I sit down to carry on with it – I hate it.
I have never published a story because I have never even got close to finishing one. I always turn against my writing and I suppose I’m just waiting for that time to happen with this one. This is the furthest I have ever got with a novel and I’m terrified that if I carry on with it, possibly wasting more time on it, I’ll eventually want to give up on this one too. So what’s the point in carrying on?
Tomorrow, tomorrow. Mañana, mañana.
I’m so grateful to the beta readers who took their time to read my story and I don’t want it to be for nothing, I just need to grow the balls to read it and get on with the job in hand.
Maybe I’ll start it after finishing this post.
Then again, maybe not.
Until next time . x