Surviving the first reader—with sushi

11 Aug

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, so it was clear and warm last night as my friend (and avid reader) Belinda and I had sushi at the Happy Sumo in Thornton. (Who knew they had sushi in Thornton?). But in my head and stomach it was a dark and stormy night as I waited for her.

You see, Belinda is the first person to read the whole of my first-ever novel. She got the long version, before I cut, oh, 30,000 words. She is a good sport. I was exhilarated and petrified to hear what she had to say. What if she hated it? What if my instincts are completely whacked and I wrote a story that I love but no one else ever could?

As it happened, Belinda enjoyed it so much, she read it twice, and was honored to be my first “beta reader”—as they say in the biz. Belinda reads approximately 3,000 pages a week, mind you. She loves to read. Loves to. A lot of plot and character has passed through her brain, so I took her advice to heart.

I was encouraged to find that her comments were much the same as the ones clamoring for attention in my head. More backstory about the late first wife. Develop the kids more. Things I knew I had to address in the second draft. And there were a few things I hadn’t thought of, like one of the characters’ name was too suggestive of an unpleasant act (even though I had borrowed the name of a coworker—or perhaps that’s why, I was in the forest and this was one blighted tree). Or that readers might like to learn more about horses—for example, Belinda was fascinated to learn that horses can’t throw up.

I left the Happy Sumo full of delicious sashimi, new/reinforced ideas for improvement, and the reassuring sense that I just might know what I’m doing with this whole crazy fiction-writing thing. Oh, and gratitude. Thank you, Belinda, my Olympic-caliber beta reader!

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