Last Friday I sent the current draft of my novel to ten beta readers, i.e., non-professionals willing to provide honest, objective feedback — and hopefully identify issues that I myself would be unlikely to notice otherwise.
The first time I shared part of the novel with someone I didn’t know was many years ago. I was shaking like a leaf. I felt exposed, any and all insecurities I had about my literary adventure glaringly brought to light. Who was I to think I could write? Was what I had written any good? Was I about to embarrass myself, putting the reader into the awkward position of having to politely recommend I keep my day job?
It was mortifying.
Last Friday was completely different. Rather than horror, I felt relief. And not because I no longer have those and other doubts, fears, and insecurities — even though I’d like to think the work has improved significantly since I shared that first excerpt. Instead, I attribute the difference between now and then to something else.
I’ve nearly reached the point I recognize as the end. I say “recognize”, because it feels less like making a decision and more like acknowledging an objective truth. It’s like when I’m hiking and come to the end of a trail. I don’t decide where the trail ends. The end just is.
Likewise, the book is what it is. Almost. Changes will result from the beta reader feedback. That’s the point, after all — but only to a point. While there will be another month or two of edits, what there will not be is another year or two of tearing it all apart and building it back up. In that sense, what the beta readers have to say almost feels like a sort of verdict.
I’m excited. I’m anxious. Most of all, I’m curious.
Did I create an inspiring, thought-provoking story that's too good to put down? Or, was the success of my efforts limited to my own personal journey, as opposed to one others might also want to take? Somewhere in between?
Whatever the answer, I’m ready for it. Like an expectant mother who’s been carrying a baby for ten months, I’m ready to give birth.