Beta Readers and Feedback
Today Vivian and I headed south to have lunch with some ex co-workers. We try to do this at least once a month, in an attempt to stay in contact despite not having proximity of space for relationship maintenance.
I’ve been to the office a few times since I quit. Several times to train my replacement and a few times for lunch. The first few times were a bit surreal, as if walking into an alternate universe where everything looked exactly as I left it yet everything was different.
Namely, I wasn’t there any longer.
My office had another person with the same title, staff had overturned a little bit, and the shared reality of the office had continued without my presence. In my mind the office was as I left it, yet I knew it continued without me.
Today was different, as I’ve been gone long enough to move onto my new reality completely. Which in turn means the business in my brain has moved on as well.
Though I was still asked a damned payroll question today. I will never get away from payroll.
Lunch had managed to translate into new realties as well. The first time we had lunch together, there was an awkward how-do-we-proceed-with-this-new-relationship feel about it. I was still deep in the business, and they were still feeling the lack of my presence. According to them.
Today I no longer felt the sense of business moving without me, and we were able to discuss things beyond changes since I’ve worked there.
Like my writing, which of course is just standard catching up what’s going on in your life conversation.
We talked about how client writing is making me slightly paranoid regarding technological advances. After all, you can’t research cutting edge tech week in and week out without the brain seeing some potential.
Potential that was confirmed by my friend in IT. Thanks, Matt. I could have probably used some nah it’s all in your head, not yup you are right we are seeing the birth of Skynet. But the spider web of connections in my head regarding technology was a mere transition to the topic of creative writing.
I was asked by one individual if I was writing anything other than for clients, to which I confirmed I’ve re-upped on my blog if only to practice my skills. One of my friends commented it’s good I’m doing creative writing for myself and not just client writing, and then quipped that means I can finish my story.
The first friend then replied the story is finished, don’t you remember?
A little background. In about June/July I was on a writing frenzy. I was writing all the time in my blog, and my creative writing was getting juiced as well. I posted a (very) rough draft of a short story for some feedback.
Which was all over the board.
The feedback I received provided a standard bell curve after dissemination, and I realized it was probably worth editing. Which I have since done.
These two friends represent opposing sides of the bell curve. Well, maybe not opposing. One friend enjoyed it; however, she believes it’s not finished. The story is a flash fiction. I pick up in the middle and I end in the middle.
She wants to me to complete the story, for the protagonist to find resolution and a happy ending despite her unhappy circumstances of life.
My response? The story is finished. It’s done. Life does not wrap up in pretty bows when situations move on. Life is on-going with one ending: death.
The other friend hasn’t read the entire 800 words of the story. Probably because I did post a (very) rough draft. Though her complaint comes from the story being too detailed. Which I get, however I am not going to change most of the details as they set mood.
My sense for not editing to that feedback was confirmed when she stated she skims pages in books of a well known romance author. He puts in too much detail about setting.
While listening to this discussion, and finding out what everyone was reading in general, I got a sense about reading audiences. And whether or not to write to an audience or write for self, hoping the right audience is out there.
Personally, I see both scenarios benefiting authors.
It’s important for authors to know there is an audience, as well as what reader experience is going to be brought to the table. If anything, it helps with word choice and editing decisions.
On the other hand, putting too much stock in individual readers will ultimately confuse and confound the writing experience. Of the four friends at the table: two hadn’t read the story, one didn’t read it entirely, and one felt it was incomplete.
Frankly, my story makes her twitchy because of where I left it.
Am I going to change the story to fit either of the two who had feedback? Not entirely. From the first time we had the conversation, and we’ve had the conversation about this story before, I learned some of my (not so) well placed clues were hard to catch. This caused the ending to be more mysterious than needed.
This opinion was backed by a beta reader who has extensive reading experience in multiple genres. Feedback? Well written but didn’t understand the ending. Noted.
So I am not dismissing reader feedback entirely. More edits are due as I tighten the story, after which comes more beta reading and maybe some submittals.
I do think finding beta readers and critique partners is important, though. Feedback is necessary for editing, if not for the story.
2 thoughts on “Beta Readers and Feedback”
Please keep writing. Your short story was good and I’m amazed you called it a rough draft. And your bravery to put out your rough draft puts this fellow perfectionist in awe. I look forward to your next short story and will be prepared to start and end in the middle happily next time. Readers can adapt too. 😉 From your twitchy, happy ending wanting friend… 😘
Thank you! Knowing you enjoy my stories helps me to continue writing, though I seem to have lost my voice a little 😉 Maybe next time I can give you a little more than a car ride in a cop car…