Beta readers

I touched on this in my unscheduled post last night about the beta programme, but in my opinion, beta readers give a writer the chance to test out new content before it reaches market.  If the content isn’t good enough or isn’t quite right, it can be brought up to standard.

I’ve had a couple of beta readers in the past year, but only one has consistently returned useful comments.  Fortunately, those comments have helped to transform my work and my process.  Where I make changes, and there have been sweeping changes this year, my first question is, does this work, does it address the concerns that the beta reader previously had?

What I’m lacking though is a difference of opinion, or opinions on a wide range of story issues.  I’m not saying that it’s an unworkable situation; even one commenter is better than none.  However, if I’m going to reach (or even figure out) my target audience, I’m going to have to engage with some of them and encourage them to be beta readers.

What does it feel like to get comments back from a beta reader?  Overwhelming, I think.  Having someone say genuinely that your story has potential makes all the work put into it worthwhile, without lessening your desire and motivation to get it finished and finally realise that potential.

Certainly it’s a very positive experience when you realise that there is more that you can do with a story.  A second pair of eyes give you another perspective.

Sometimes if it’s a perspective which matches your own that’s not a bad thing.  When I approached a beta reader last year to look at Flight of Passion (now retitled Servant of the Siphen) I already had an idea of what I needed to cut, and having someone agree with those ideas helped me to get on with it.

My sincere thanks go out to Jen Leigh, who read for me last year and this year.

Aliens (why not, after all)

The idea that sentient extraterrestrials might be out there, perhaps even studying us, has created a fertile ground to produce all sorts of stories, radio and TV shows and of course films.

As I’ll mention in a later post, one of my writing inspirations is the Stargate series and its spinoffs.  I think you would agree that they wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting, if stepping through the stargate there wasn’t a chance of meeting a completely new species.

Most of the time though, the teams encountered human cultures.  In saying that though, many of those humans were put there by a more advanced race a long time ago, so there’s still a fingerprint of alien involvement.

When I first conceived the idea of the Siphen I only really had in mind phantom-like energy beings.  I had no idea of their motivations, how they exist, or what purpose they would serve in the story.  These are things that you develop with a bit of guesswork and throwing ideas at a mental wall until something sticks.

I suppose more than anything I wanted the Siphen to not be the usual powerful chaotic antagonists who leave a trail of destruction in their wake.  Instead they’re like scavengers, finding the path of least resistance to get their next morsel of energy.

But they weren’t always like this, they used to exist in harmony with their environment, in such small and carefully controlled numbers that they could have existed until the end of the universe without needing to migrate.

Though much like the Goa’uld that once swam in water, eventually they eschewed their simple existence and expanded far beyond their original habitat.

Anyway, hope that’s given you something to think about, I may write some more about them later, not necessarily on an alphabet post. 🙂