When I finished the first draft of my book I started editing it straight away. I read through it finding loads of typos, dodgy use of punctuation and some bits that didn’t flow and needed reworking. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by it. I felt the story worked, it flowed well and the key moments grabbed my attention as much when reading them as they did when I wrote them. The only thing I had my doubts about was whether I had given enough detail to my characters’ back story and why they reacted in the way they did to some things, but I was wary of putting too much detail in that might disrupt the flow of the story. I felt I needed someone else to read it to see what they thought.
Now I needed to decide who to ask to be my beta readers. I had already discussed with one of my Twitter friends, Bryony aka @poshbird,who is also writing her first book, that we should read each other’s books when we had finished writing them. At first I wasn’t sure whether I was ready for that or whether I should go for the safe option of asking my husband to read it first but I decided this wasn’t the way to go. Firstly, he isn’t really a reader. Secondly, when he does read, what I have written isn’t really his thing. And thirdly, he might just be very nice about it and that’s not what I needed. I needed someone who reads a lot, likes books in general and who understood the importance of giving me honest, constructive feedback, but in a nice way.
So, I contacted Bryony and another very lovely lady I know on Twitter, who loves reading and has recommended good books to me. She also writes and has experienced the dreaded letter of rejection, but also feedback, from literary agents. They both agreed to read my book and both read it really quickly, which I was amazed by and also slightly unnerved by, as the bar has now been set for when I return the favour!
The feedback they gave me was brilliant. The typos, grammar and punctuation bits that I had missed were obviously important for me to be made aware of and the praise they gave me was very motivating and surprising. The constructive feedback was the most important part of the process and it supported my gut feeling. They both wanted to know more about some of the characters. They gave me specific people or situations that they would like to know more about and the kind of details that they wanted. I have gone back to their emails and messages for guidance a number of times while editing the book. There have been a couple of things I haven’t changed and I think that’s alright because, as they both said, it’s their opinion but it is my story.
I finished making the notes for this edit of my book today and tomorrow I will open up my manuscript on the computer and start making the changes. I have had some moments of self-doubt during this round of editing but I’m trying not to be over-critical and to remember the nice comments my beta readers made as well! I was nervous about letting other people read my book before it was really ready to be seen by others but I think the process has meant I will be submitting a much stronger read to agents and publishers. I know this version of the book is probably still a long way off what will be read by the masses in the future, or maybe just by my parents, but I really do feel like I’m getting there!