Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Beta readers and Winnie the Pooh

Pooh murmured to himself

"But whatever his weight in pounds, shillings, and ounces, 
He always seems bigger because of his bounces."

"And that's the whole poem," he said. "Do you like it, Piglet?"

"All except the shillings," said Piglet. "I don't think they ought to be there." 

"They wanted to come in after the pounds," explained Pooh, "so I let them. It is the best way to write poetry, letting things come." 

"Oh, I didn't know," said Piglet.

This is an early example of a beta reader having his advice overruled by the author. Piglet's suggestion is correct, yet the removal of the shillings would not improve the couplet.

I've reached the end of my next novel, and I've started sending it out to beta readers. I don't send it to everyone at the same time, since I'm making changes as I get feedback and I want to get comments on the latest version. (Also some of my lovely betas are doing Nanowrimo.) I'm still obsessively tweaking the fight scene, too; in my experience fights take a lot of rewriting. It's very interesting, reading betas' suggestions. I've had three reports so far, and none of them have queried the same things, and they have all made some suggestions which I have leaped upon and incorporated, and others which I have not.

The variety of responses confirms me in my view that half a dozen good betas perform better than the average editor. I write for readers, not people working in the publishing industry, so it makes sense to have readers vet my books. I imagine it's possible for an editor to become jaded, or didactic. I like a nice mix of readers and reader/writers. Readers can tell you what's wrong, and a fellow author can often tell you how to fix it.

My betas so far have liked my latest novel. This is a relief. It's lonely, writing a book, and quite worrying waiting to see what readers make of it. I hope to publish in the not-too-distant future.


  1. Oh I can't wait. I just love your books. If you need more beta readers.......

  2. Aha! Kim, I will email you :o)

  3. I can't wait either but I'm not good at beta reading so I won't volunteer! I'm sure you're book is just great, Lexi, all the others have been!

  4. you're = your

    I do know the difference. Eek!

  5. The publishers don't know what they're missing. A great book every year without any need to threaten or beat you up.

    I'll have my 'buy' finger poised as soon as you say 'go'.

  6. FH, I know you're busy with an Editing Nano right now, or I'd attempt to recruit you.

    Anna, the finished book will be better for your beta suggestions and those of others :o)

  7. No, I'm meant to be busy with editing a previous Nano! And the level of procrastination I'm capable of is one reason I'm not volunteering as a beta, tempting though that would be!

  8. Procrastination is normal. And guilt - I seldom do anything without the feeling I should be working on something else. I rigorously squash that feeling. I am the captain* of my ship, I tell myself.

    *And the cabin boy too.

  9. Love the Pooh scene. And can't wait to read the latest Revellian.

  10. Whenever I read Winnie the Pooh I think how good it is. AA Milne's verse is excellent, too.

  11. Great post - I love a bit of Pooh myself :-) And I've been using beta readers (apart from my mum, who doesn't really count) and getting some great feedback.