I've had a flurry of activity these past few weeks on the book, which has been exciting because I've mostly taken December off from writing. I'm a firm believer in not writing in a vacuum, which I've spoken about in previous posts. To that extent, I've had different groups of alpha and beta readers working through my novel. The results have been quite exciting.
My strategy here is fairly simple:
Alpha Readers are folks that are getting very rough, very early work. In this case, I've redrafted my second and third chapters to address prior concerns. The changes aren't significant, for example, I shifted chapter two about ten minutes in time. So, instead of seeing something 'just after the action' we are instead seeing it 'just before, and into.'
In hindsight, it's easy to look at that and go, hey dummy, you should have just shown and not told. Yes. You're right. However, chapter 2 used to be chapter 1, and saddling the user with all of the necessary back story to make that action sensible was a big chunk to bite off in the first two paragraphs of the book. So, it started in the middle of a chase, instead of setting up a fight.
Now that there is a chapter 1 that precedes this chapter, it's not that hard to show the action that caused the characters to run in the first place.
Beta Readers are folks that are getting much more polished, even completed versions of the book. I had two people that were willing to take the time and read through the novel in its entirety. Discussion ranged from 20 minutes to 2 hours on the resulting notes. While an overview and high level, these sorts of comments help me identify parts of the book that work, don't work, questions, concerns, etc.
When working with my alpha readers, it's a different sort of experience. I want to do a deep dive on a very small segment of the book and really understand what is working and what isn't. In this case, I even wanted to get into the weeds of 'is this newest revision working' before I make changes across the entire book to support it.
When working with the beta readers, it's more about what I've already done (than wht I'm planning on doing). It's amazing the sort of invaluable feedback you can get here! I know I don't always convey everything spot on the first time, but I'm constantly surprised at what I do land, and what I do miss on.
I know that my book is going to be better because of these conversations, and after a long wait, I'm ready to dive in and do a solid revision of the book to try and start knocking items off of the todo list.