A Wished-For Love: First Beta Review

The last three weeks have been a pleasant vacation from writing and posting. The break presented an opportunity to catch up on chores and reading, both of which suffered from lack of attention. I needed to step away and take a breather after finishing the novel that consumed so much of my life since first putting pen to paper in December 2013.
“A Wished-For Love” is in the hands of several Beta readers, one of whom sent me her critiques earlier this week. Now that I have the review of one Beta, I thought I would post an update as a way of easing myself back into regular writing and posting.
The first review came from a recent college graduate, an English major. With her degree in mind, I asked her to focus on four areas:

• Plot Holes. These writing pitfalls cause readers to wonder when they traveled through the time warp. Plot holes make them scratch their heads in confusion and frustration as they reread previous chapters looking for missing information, without which the story doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t “add up.” Usually, this is the result of poor editing, or the writer rushing through the writing. Sometimes though, the writer simply fails to rewrite an earlier scene after a later chapter changes the story.
The roots of a story reach through many chapters, winding ahead and back, into the future and back to the past. I remember wondering on occasion how the writer knew to plant the seed in, for example, chapter two, for an event that doesn’t occur until chapter thirty-nine. Well, he didn’t know it at the time. When he wrote the later chapter, he realized he needed to go back and change chapter two. The reader won’t magically understand the story if details are left out. The writer cannot hope the reader will “pull a rabbit out of a hat.”

o My Beta reader didn’t find any plot holes, although one area she noted as a plot twist was thin; she recommended beefing it up a bit.
o A second area concerned another plot twist in which two characters had information that in real life they would have shared with those affected. I knew that was a weak point when I wrote it but chose to let it go.

• Structure and Flow. The story must follow a logical sequence so that it progresses smoothly. The writing must also allow the reader to comprehend each sentence in each paragraph in order to understand what the writer is saying.

o My novel alternates every five to six chapters between two timelines. My reader said that made it difficult to remember details. She suggested reducing the number of chapters between each break. However, I’m loathe to do that since I would have to rework the transitions from one timeline to the next – a major revision. I’ll wait for my other Beta readers to respond and see if they note the same issue.
o She also noted repetitive inner dialogue. This redundancy breaks up the flow as the reader must wade through unnecessary writing. I blame that on my desire to reinforce the magnitude of grief and temptation on a person’s actions. However, that displays a lack of trust in the reader, as well as a lack of confidence in my own storytelling. Besides, as you know from my other posts…I’m wordy!
o She mentioned a “tendency to have a description or discussion in the story, which will be several paragraphs and then it breaks off to explain what the said character does, looks like, their relationship with the other character, etc. That really breaks up the flow of the story itself. I suggested that such breaks would probably be better regulated [sic] to the beginning of that description or discussion rather than in the middle of a conversation.” I think this is a rookie writer’s mistake. I’m glad she pointed that out.

• Pacing. This deals with the ability to move the story at a certain speed without causing the reader to lose her concentration.

o My Beta reader noted that the story felt rushed. Part of that is due to dual timelines and the sudden cutoff from one to the next.
o She also mentioned that I seem to have too many characters. I’m not sure how many is too many, so I’ll research that before I make any changes. I think I can cut a few characters without affecting the story. Every character must have a purpose in the story.

I have work to do that will ultimately strengthen my story. Editing is tedious, but I made sure to express to my Beta reader the depth of my gratitude for her time and effort.
Hopefully, the other Beta readers will respond soon. I’m anxious to review and incorporate their findings, and then run the novel through the Hemingway and ProWritingAid programs to tie up other loose ends. I’ve used both programs to some extent already, but I’ll wait for the rest of the critiques before making a final pass. Once I complete that task, it’s off to the Query Board!

16 thoughts on “A Wished-For Love: First Beta Review

  1. sarahrussellpoetry

    HURRAH! Thank you for taking us into the messy, and MOST NECESSARY part of any writing — poetry, short story, novel, whatever. Because so few writers are willing to talk about this (other than cryptic statements like Hemingway’s that “all first drafts are shit,” too many writers 1) think their first drafts are golden, 2) send to agents or magazines without others’ input, and 3) take comments others make as personal insults to the majesty of their oeuvre. You’ve provided a valuable lesson, Will. Hope you continue to tell us about the rewrite process.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Will Pennington

      You’re welcome, Sarah! The 1500 word critique of my 500 word, first ever submission to any writing group wiped away any sense of smug superiority I felt at my writing skills. That was a hard lesson, but necessary. I don my best lizard skin when reading critiques of my work.
      I do intend to post critiques as my Beta readers send them to me.

      Like

  2. Jane

    Aw, finally you heard from a Beta reader – yay! Your postings have taught me that writing a novel involves an incredible amount of time, patience, resources, patience, readers, patience, revision, and patience! Looking forward to hearing about the other Beta readers’ suggestions. Happy editing, Will:-)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A.J

    It is a good idea to tell the beta what to focus on. Something I didn’t do with my first beta reader. Ah well, live and learn as they say. It is funny about how we respond at times when someone else reads your story and asks, why so many characters or why did it divert in this chapter. I’m glad she found your story showed no major plot holes. I think her comments show a good edit and writing skills on your part. So, well done. When your beta says, “the inner dialogue is repetitive.” Does she mean actual word use or the idea? I think inner dialogue is an important part which helps the reader know the character without bogging down the plot or pace with excess backstory. A strong person still has self-doubt but they will always keep it inside so as not to appear weak. An emerging hero or villain may use inner dialogue as a part of their growth. Without internal dialogue, we simply tell the reader what our characters are rather than who they are. Well, that is my opinion and sorry for standing on the soap box. You are right about editing. It is hard, but it is worth the final reward.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Will Pennington

      Thanks for reading and responding A.J. She meant that I repeat myself in my main character’s inner dialogue. He’s exploring his grief for his dead fiancee as well as his ability to love again. He wants the same love he had with her, but comes to realize every love is different. I repeated the same thoughts as a way of reinforcing in the reader’s mind the impact of grief on the MC. However, I only need to tell the reader once why he’s grieving. That’s the biggest issue with the story.
      BTW, I read a couple of your posts on the editing process. I almost feel like we’re kindred writing spirits in that regard 🙂

      Like

  4. Pingback: Inner dialogue | AJ. Adsett

  5. Kris

    That makes sense to ask the reader to look for certain things. The single one I read, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do–other than read it.
    Looking forward to hearing more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Will Pennington

      Beta reading is an enormous responsibility, one which I will avoid at all cost while working on a novel. It’s always good to ask the writer what kind of beta read they need, otherwise you may be wasting valuable time. I knew what I wanted from the college grad; the others I asked for a general overview. A Beta read is not an edit, fortunately, but it still requires a lot of work!

      Liked by 1 person

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