(Editor’s note: this blog has some NSFW language. What a way to get back at blog writing, right! Enjoy.)
Beta readers. As a military journalist, that is usually the third person in a line of people who’ve read through and shit on your story enough to make it polished. The Death Dealer. J. Jonah Jameson. Chunk from the Goonies (all right, that has nothing to do with this; just wanted to have Chunk in the first blog post). That third one is the magical unicorn spurting rainbows who can sit back and drink in your prose. When he finishes, he walks over and says something like, “Try again,” “Good read,” or just throws it into the circular file. These are probably things that happened to me.
Last week, I shouted to the Face of Books that I sought one or two beta readers to glance at my beautiful prancing pony of a comic book, Vorpal: Your Sins be as Scarlet. As always, the plea was in earnest and I did not expect people to respond. It’s fair that people want to get paid for these kinds of labors, their time is limited (it really is the most important commodity as you get older) and, well, some people ain’t into reading. Here was my plea:
Seeking three (or more) beta readers for Vorpal Issue #2. Might help if you’re a comics reader, but not a requirement. You don’t necessarily have to have read the first one, but it could help for story and continuity sake. If that’s you, please send me a message … Obrigado/Danke and Ciao.
LOOK HOW ERUDITE I SOUND WITH THAT CLOSER. I should be sitting on a yacht staring at Monaco and bitching about the quality of brie.
Anyway, maybe one of my friends would feel badly for me and go, “OK. I’ll do this, Tudor, but remember one day I will come back and ask you for a favor,” and, well, I didn’t really want to hide a bag of guns, be a drug mule, or sanitize a murder scene with bleach. I mean, that would be fair, but I sent it anyway.
And what happened was …
HOLY SHIT. TEN PEOPLE RESPONDED.
It’s like I was handing out free Guinness and unlimited bandwidth. Now realistically, I only needed two or three, but this was an enthusiastic, ‘let me at that book’ crowd, so I took them all in. It was a broad cross section of folks: Eight men, two women. Of the ten, I’m pretty close to four, know three others well, andThese are my beta readers the other two are probably ‘super acquaintances,’ including one comic book professional, and one I never met. I lucked out with generous, kind people , many who were also great writers and editors in their own right.
Knowing that my minyan of Beta heads would want instruction on what to do, I … had to look it up? To be fair, I haven’t had anyone beta read fiction for a long time. My head’s been buried in making comic book. First, I knew that many were fellow military journalists like me, and would be assaulting grammar and goofs. I expected it. But, to be sure of my own expectations and fair to all of them, I sniffed a few web sites to be sure the beta-reading SWAT team didn’t breach the door and haul my ass to Beta Etiquette Penitentiary (I’ve seen it; it’s real, you guys). After feeling good about what I figure these folks should do, I sent this:
My expectation is general comments, impressions and your thoughts on what you read. If you find items that stick out bad or good, please let me know. I’d also love to know if it’s entertaining.
My tender prose-and-pictures love pony leapt out into the wild. Like any creative soul, one of the hardest parts of this process is simply putting it out there. And when you do, what goes on is something like, “WHAT HAVE I DONE? DOES GOOGLE HAVE A ‘RECALL MESSAGE’ FEATURE? CAN I TAKE IT BACK?” That anxiety torrent was no different for me, though it was a tempered freak out, versus the ones where my wife peels me off the ceiling with flat-head screw drivers and WD-40.
So, I waited for the response, still very much figuring to hear, “Don’t quit your day job.” You know what I got instead?
“… excellent and engrossing read. I’m definitely looking forward to Book 3.”
“… the pacing was cool and action scenes looked really dynamic.”
“Love it! You have a good storyline going, and it flows well …”
“This issue is much more compelling artistically, story line and dialogue.”
“… it’s a good book dude…even for me, “Not-Comic-Book-Guy”.
“I love the story line. I think it compelling and I am already looking forward to next book.”
[Jaw drops to floor.]
[Eyes spurt of out skull.]
[Checking to see if those responses came from Nigerian princes … nope, no one asked for money. Huh.]
To a person, they liked it. One or two LOVED it! None liked all of it, but that’s a good thing. For the most part, they got my vision. So, I’ve made many of the minyan’s suggested changes and the book is now press ready. That means I need a release date, which means I should also stop typing and figure that out. A wandering mind is often a bitch.
So, MAJOR thanks to the 10 who beta read Vorpal #2, stroked their proverbial red pens across its pages (oh my!), and offered some 30,000-foot view looks. They’ve charged me up to get this book out! You guys rock!
Oh and …
HAPPY TURKEY DAY TO ONE AND ALL!