Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Not long after my post reminding everyone that my editorial service, Indie-Scribable, now does beta reading, I got a nice surprise. Friend-of-the-blog, and friend friend, Cinthia Ritchie, invited me to beta read her second novel, Waiting For My Daughter’s Ghost.
I wrapped up the read over the weekend and sent Cinthia my notes earlier this week.
Cinthia, as many readers of What The Hell know, is the author of Dolls Behaving Badly, her 2013 debut novel about an Alaskan woman who makes anatomically correct Barbie dolls. (She had me at “anatomically correct”!) If you read Cinthia’s blog, you won’t be surprised to learn that the book is at turns funny, touching, sad, life-affirming, and charming. She does all those things almost effortlessly.
(And by the way, Dolls Behaving Badly has been optioned by Hollywood. She also had a piece in the New York Times Magazine a while back.)
What a pleasure it was for me to get an early look at her second novel. And, of course, I was honored that Cinthia thought enough of my writing and editing chops to give me a crack at it.
The bind she’s in is a familiar one to me. After she submitted the book to her editor last year, the decree came from the New York publishing heights that she needed to revise it. Between her editor and her agent, the advice was mixed, contradictory, and, in some ways, against her own ideas of what the book really is. Maybe a lot of published writers have found themselves in the same predicament. It’s hard. You want to make the publishing pros happy, but at the same time you want to stay true to your vision and give the world the book that you wanted to write.
As a beta reader, I didn’t want to know the details up front, so I tackled the book without knowing what Cinthia’s editor and agent had in mind for it. I read it cold and took it as it came. And in the end, it turned out that I was on the same page, more or less, as the editor, at least with respect to one major idea for revision.
What I wanted to do, above all, was provide Cinthia with an objective point of view, and so I made a special effort not to soft soap her. I told her what I honestly thought about the book and offered some possibilities for revision that I thought would help her get the manuscript ready to resubmit in the strongest condition it could possibly be. That’s what I think a beta reader is really for: to give the writer an unbiased opinion that will help to improve the book. Otherwise, you’re just a yes man (or woman) and you’ve weaseled your way into getting a free book.
When you hire me to beta read for you, I’ll offer you the same impartial advice I gave Cinthia. I’ll be kind and diplomatic, but I’ll tell you what I think. I’ll also propose ideas for solving whatever problems I see, though obviously you’re free to reject them. It’s your novel. It’s your calling. I’m just telling you what one reader (who also happens to be a writer) thinks about your book.
Incidentally, my rates for beta reading are genuinely affordable. A 100,000 word book will cost you $100, and you’ll get comments in the text plus detailed notes. I also throw in a little proofreading because I can’t help myself …
I hope writers who read this blog will consider hiring me to beta read, and possibly edit, their stuff too. I’ve worked with the author of Dolls Behaving Badly, after all!
I’ll keep you updated about the new book and the movie. Meanwhile, follow Cinthia’s Alaskan exploits at her blog, and read, if you can, everything she writes. She’s a gem.