On Monday, I did the last prep before sending the manuscript out to its beta readers. Since then, it has been a week of pretzels. Mental pretzels, sure, bending myself this way or that–trying to anticipate my beta readers’ complaints. But also actual pretzels, because they’re salty & delicious, and good-tasting gluten-free snacks are few and far between. I also had an interview with the Surly Muse which was far less surly than I expected.
I learned not to second-guess my betas. Think of it this way: if you could anticipate the sore spots of your work, you wouldn’t need fresh eyes on it, would you? Beta readers have their own set of expectations. They are the soft landing between the manuscript and the reading public. Poems I thought would be problematic flew by with flying colors. One poem was caught in their dragnet not for being bad, but merely for being a lesser copy of a poem directly following it. I would have never spotted the similarity.
What I have learned is how productive it can be to read with a beta in real-time. Dan kindly looked over the poems with me as we conversed through instant message. As he was reading, he provided a line or two of feedback on the ones that caught his attention. I read with him, imagining what he saw on each the page. It was as close to reading the manuscript with new eyes as I could get.
This line-by-line reading caught a few awkward phrases, revealed the ebb-and-flow in each section. If I could have read it with someone in the same room, we could have also talked about individual phrases. That kind of beta would be tedious (maybe even impossible) with an entire novel, but for a collection of poems, a short story, or a few important scenes in a novel–it is a good exercise. It helps you cut the superfluous, so your remaining words can strike right to the bone.
One interesting facet has emerged from the beta readers (as well as you, my blog commenters), is that the blackout poems are far more popular than I thought. I initially chose to provide the poem text in the opening sections, and provide a few photographed pages of the blackouts in the final pages of the book. With the upswell of interest in the actual blackout pages, I am going to add in 10 more blackout pages in the final section.
How did the work for the week go?
1. 2 poems, 314 words. Writing has been (as in past week) dominated by poems. I wrote two juicy rhyming poems to be included in Daniel Swensen’s fantasy novels.
2. 60 minutes / 300 minutes. Prepping the manuscript and reading-along with my beta are the only work I’ve done this week. With their feedback, I am confident that next week will be the last full week I work on Manifesto For All.
3. 167 minutes / 150 minutes. Starting next week, I am upping the number of minutes I spend sketching. My next project will include original artwork, so now is the time to refocus & refine my sketching skills.
Productivity tracking, as always, is a bit of a bear. I’ll save those thoughts for later. This week, I will work on posts on designing covers & prose poems. I have an exciting contest, in conjunction with Bullishink, to announce in the next two weeks.
Reading through my fellow ROWers status updates on Wednesday, it seems as though many of us have been beset by illness and other energy-sapping setbacks. To all of my fellow ROWers: hang in there, and good luck.