I announce, with trembling pleasure, the results of the first complete beta read of Doleful Creatures.
Verdict: It needs work. Which I knew it did.
I’ll present what my reviewer says, unvarnished:
I still stand by my suggestions in prior emails. A pruning of characters and a merciless cutting of the first 23 chapters seems like a good start. Putting a much more narrow focus on your main plot for the story I think, in the end, will leave you with a much better story. This will showcase the beautiful prose you intermingle in the story. As it stands now, you have a messy glass display case and it's tough to pick out the treasure. You need to tease the treasure from the distractions by getting rid of some of the subplots, side stories, and extraneous characters that are cluttering up the treasured main plot (as painful as that may be).
I’m not complaining about anything she said – not one bit. I asked for an honest opinion, and I got it. I want Doleful Creatures to be a good book, not a mediocre one, and I believe following my reader’s advice will be good for the book.
And, frankly, I’ve had the time since this last revision was completed in June to let this book simmer on the back burner, as all should simmer, and I know it’s got its flaws. I even did a spreadsheet to help me visualize its flaws. And the results of my spreadsheet aren’t all that far off from what my beta reader is telling me, so I have to take what she says as truth since I see it myself.
Calling Doleful Creatures now a messy glass display case is an apt metaphor, and I know why:
This book started out as one thing – a relatively simple animal tale – and morphed into something else – a more metaphysical tale featuring animals – between revisions. I’ve never successfully melded the two. And perhaps melding isn’t the answer. I’ve got to pick one route or the other, and purge what isn’t fitting any more. I’ve already got an idea of what subplots and what characters are going to go – because there’s at least one subplot and two characters linked to that plot that I never felt worked in the first place. Whenever I had to go back to that plot and those characters, I stumbled in the writing. I now know why. They don’t belong in this book.
That being said, the next revision to Doleful Creatures will be a challenge – but thanks to her I have a clear road map on where that revision needs to take me.
I’m working on what Stephen King says: [W]hile it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.”
I’m no genius. But I can be a good writer. Listening to beta readers will help me on that journey.
And avoiding the example of Bucky Katt will help me as well.