Test readers, and why I fear them
Right now the current version of The Afterlife Occurrence is being read by two different test readers. One of them is a good friends, Cadi Calder, who’s read the previous version of this, as well as heard me talk about the story for years. The other is a complete stranger. I’m not quite sure which is more scary.
Why I need them
The current draft of TAO is, well, let’s call it the fourth draft. Though technically the first chapter is at draft number eleven or something, and the last few chapters are probably more of a second draft kind of thing. But it’s the fourth major work through as a whole, so that’s what I’m going with.
At this point in the story, I find it hard to see where the problems are. I know what’s going to happen, and if something doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to, my brain still think it does.
That’s were my test readers come in. Cadi already read this once before, back before I touched the last half of the book after first writing it during Nanowrimo. She’s brave, I can tell you that. Now she’s reading it again, after I’ve finished some pretty heavy edits. So, I basically pretty much rewrote the thing.
As she knew the story however, I felt I also needed new eyes on this. New eyes that had no idea what was going on, and would be able to tell me what’s wrong with it. Where are the massive plot holes my brain pretends doesn’t exist, and just how difficult is it to tell a few of the characters apart? You know, the basic stuff.
Why it scares me
The thing is, this is the first time I’ve let anyone other than Cadi read this, so it’s a pretty scary thing. My other test read is a man, and I found him on a Norwegian test readers page I’m a member of. The good thing here is that I get feedback from a member of the opposite sex, which is good considering the majority if the characters in this book are male (it just happened, and works for the story, so I went with it).
The scary part is letting strangers read it. I’ve sort of gotten used to friends reading it – and by friends I mean friend, cause only Cadi’s read it so far – but letting someone else read it is hard on me. What if they hate everything about it? What if it’s actually horrible?
I know constructive criticism is a vital part of a writer’s life. Heck, so is negative feedback and people saying you suck. I guess I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to deal with it. That for some reason, my brain will shut down the second someone questions a decision I made.
I want to believe I am strong enough to handle it. But the truth is, I won’t know until it happens. I won’t know until someone tells me what I write suck. Or worse.
I’m not expecting anything that harsh from a test reader, but that doesn’t mean I worry any less. The thing is, I want my test readers to tell me that is bad. What I need to work on. Because that is the only way it’ll get better. Yet I’m still dreading it.
After all, do I really have what it takes to make it?