THE TANGLE DRAFT 4
Advice for Beta Readers
If you’re reading this, you’ve agreed to be a Beta reader for my novel, the Tangle. Thank you, thank you. It’s a big ask. Below are some guidelines for this book in particular and hints on how to be a good beta reader in general.
My goals for this round
At this stage, I am looking for gaping plot holes, character inconsistencies and overarching theme problems. I may still have a bit of rewriting to do, so I’m not looking for proofing or editing. Point them out if they’re obvious (switch on track changes) but don’t get hung up on grammar and spelling. However, if you can think of a better word that makes more sense, let me know. Call out an awkward phrase but also tell me if you loved a section! Your job is to provide honest, helpful and specific feedback. You are looking at a draft that is good but not ready for general consumption.
The Tangle is speculative fiction. This genre is within the larger science fiction category but covers a potential near future or alternative universes. Mine is the former. Have a look at my website to check out the setting. The idea is that this world is close to our own, a place that could (or should) eventually exist. I very specifically went for a utopian rather than dystopian future – partly because there are so many of those and I needed a break from the relentlessly depressing potential futures.
Even more specifically, this is a feminist speculative fiction. Now I don’t want to throw that term around. In fact, all my main characters have gender neutral nicknames to hide this fact. The idea is that a man (or anti-feminist) might pick up the book, read the back, and not realise it IS female driven. I wanted a fun, fast-paced story, but this is also an exploration of how financial equality can achieve sexual (and racial) equality, as well as an examination of the insidious mens rights / incel movements. These are real issues that exist today that I wanted to investigate.
If your usual reading genre is totally different (ie you prefer mystery or even non-fiction) or even if you are actually biased against sci-fi, that’s fine. Just let me know when you give your feedback.
Some of you will prefer to read the whole thing at once and then think about it and start again, or you may comment as you go. This isn’t a long book, but you can do it either way. However, you might get to the end and forget what you wanted to say, so I recommend writing a note if something stands out if you don’t intend on going through it again. If you are struggling to finish, keep me informed. The Tangle just might not be your bag, and that’s ok. However, if you got to a really boring bit, or felt that it just didn’t make enough sense, and this prevented you finishing, let me know! I also can’t wait forever for you to finish. If you have three other books you want to read first, inform me and I may add you as a beta for a later draft. Ideally, I’d like you to be able to finish in ~3 weeks.
As a beta reader it would be nice if you enjoy the book. But reading the whole thing and then just telling me it was great (or silly) isn’t helpful. I need some macro and micro feedback, referencing sections or pages as required. If you think a character needs work, for instance, point out the section you got to when you realised this and recommend a way around it.
Macro feedback consists of telling me about overarching problems that affect the entire novel. The main areas are plot, pacing, consistency and characterisation. For example, does a character change his or her voice through the book, are there consistency issues, should it be slowed down anywhere, or sped up? Minor feedback covers awkward sentences or paragraphs, or minor plot points and characters that could be improved.
Characterisation is always important and this one is problematic for me. Partly because I don’t like long winded detail and unnecessary conversation; and partly because I have three POV characters to flesh out in one small novel. Some questions here are; do the characters have good reasons for doing things? Do their actions make sense? Are there good character arcs? If someone needs a better explanation for what they are doing and why, let me know. What about the minor characters? Do they all have their unique voice? Do you care about what happens to them? Is what someone does or says a bit clichéd or worse, racist or sexist when they shouldn’t be?
I have researched quite a bit of the advanced technology aspects. Do these make sense? Do any need more detail? Do you feel like the world building needs some work and where? Did you ever want to find out more about the history or a technology or geopolitical issues?
Let me know what you like about the story and give me some positive feedback. But also, be brutally honestly. YOU need to catch the major flaws, not the potential agent or editor. I need to know what to fix before sending the book to a less forgiving reader.
The best feedback will be a combination of email and notes on the manuscript. Questions are very useful; “why would Cal have done this?”, as are recommendations, “what about moving this section forward to chapter 20?”. If you hated something, tell me why. Even better, suggest a solution to a plot or character issue than I may not have thought of. If you have pet peeves that are only relevant to you, keep those to yourself!
Finally, I have a certain style, voice, purpose. I didn’t set out to write high fiction or a booker prize winner. My prose is concise rather than poetic or languorous and I have focussed on plot; the fast-pace and snappy dialogue was deliberate. That is my style which I’m not likely to change. Your job is to look at the substance! Have a think about my vision and worldview, rather than yours, and what you think I was trying to achieve. This is very important to remember if you have no experience of the genre.
I’m not about to make my beta readers sign an NDA, but just a reminder that, like all such work, it is protected under IP laws and anyway, I’m not yet ready for it to b distributed. If you’d like to send it to someone, perhaps they’ll really like it or could help with the editing or marketing, that’s ok – just let me know!