A guest post by Janina Franck
Typically, before a novel is finalized, beta-readers will make a pass over the story and pick out any remaining issues with the plot or writing. I usually try to get a minimum of three people to beta read because viewpoints can differ so much from person to person. In A Spark in Space, however, I searched for many more. In total, I ended up with just short of a dozen beta readers.
It was interesting to see the things I’d noticed in my normal three beta readers magnified. Of course, the reader’s focus was on different things – some focused more on the writing style in their feedback, others on plot, and some honed in on very specific things, such as wanting to see a specific term for reasons of representation.
Some of the feedback I received was completely contradictory to what others said, which is where personal taste comes in a lot, I suppose, but whenever something was mentioned more than once, or it seemed like a plausible issue once I thought about it, I went back to work it out.
Here’s the funny thing though – you can have a hundred beta readers and incorporate all their feedback, and you’ll still get people who have an issue with something in your story. In the end, how people read your story is up to them. Some will like what’s written, others won’t, and some will want to like it, but have issues with something extremely specific.
I reach out to my usual beta readers for different reasons: There is one that will love everything I write, no matter what. She will point out every detail she loved, but she won’t focus much on bits that need improvement. It’s not very useful feedback in terms of the story, but it’s incredibly motivating, and, if prodded a little with direct questions about specific issues brought up by other readers, she is excellent at suggesting ways to improve. Then there is another beta-reader who won’t spend much time on talking about things she liked, but will focus only on the parts that need improvement – very constructive and thought-provoking. Then, lastly, I have a beta-reader who acts like a mix of the other two – he will point out very clearly what he liked, and what he felt could be improved upon. Between the three, I usually get a lot of consistent and useful feedback.
In A Spark in Space I did things a little differently, as I mentioned before. Since the story is starring an aro-ace protagonist, I reached out to a lot of fellow asexuals for beta readers in addition to my usual three, because it was important to me that they found themselves in the character, even without me using the term asexual or aromantic in the story – doing my best to practice “show, don’t tell.” 😉 They provided a lot of very insightful and constructive feedback, which was very valuable to me in tweaking the story before passing it to my editor, but, what was most important to me, they enjoyed the story and appreciated the level of representation I’d included.
My beta readers are the most important people in the creation of a new work, because they show me whether a story has potential or not. They have the power to raise my hopes just as much as to shatter them, as dramatic as it may sound.
About the Author
Once upon a time, Janina Franck was born in the Black Forest in Germany. Growing up there, she shared a room with many of her bookish friends – and by that, shall we say, they were the paper-and-ink kind. Her imagination spurred by her environment and choice in company, she began writing at a young age. Later on, she moved to the emerald isle of legends and myths, Ireland, where she completed her basic education, as well as studying Modern Languages and Multimedia. While her surroundings changed, her desire to create stories did not, which she now pursues across various types of media, while travelling to quench her thirst for new impressions and adventures. Learn more about Janina at her website.