Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not.

WIP Update – Beta-reader feedback

with one comment

Three of my beta-readers have finished, two are halfway through. I can’t believe they’ve read/ are reading so quickly – maybe that’s an indicator I need more words.

I hate to categorise in terms of gender and age, but it’s going to be easier to do that, in order to pass on their comments, than use names and provide back-stories.


F – 52 – finished – annotations to manuscript and face-to-face conversation:  ‘I’ve marked the typos. [When will I ever be rid of them?] It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read. I enjoyed it and engaged with the characters. I liked the emails alternating with chapters. I liked the knitting details.’

In the text, she’s highlighted passages that she feels are too descriptive/ unnecessary and turned lots of my full-stops (where I want long pauses) into commas.  She picked up on language where she heard my voice and not the characters’ – very useful and something I only see after a distance of time. She felt the writing changed halfway through. Most annotation is in the first third – did it get better or was she caught up in the story? She didn’t like some of the language used (too short sentences versus too flowery), but she didn’t pick up that each chapter was written from a different character’s point of view. I need to ask the others whether they did!

She pointed out there was no reference to a wider circle of friends. Hmm? I’m not sure whether it’s necessary. All the action takes place around a core group of four or five. The story is written from their individual points of view at different times. I’d have to change too much to include more people who aren’t relevant to the story arc.

She thought there was too much focus on one character in the last chapter, but that’s what I wanted. I’m not sure what to do about that, although I’ve never been happy with the last chapter.


F – 58 – finished – via email: ‘I feel sorry for Adam.’ [That’s good because it means I’ve created characters that she can feel for.]

‘Should we know what’s going to happen from chapter 1?’ [Er, yes. That is the point of the book – to follow the friends of a dying woman, and how they cope or don’t, through her final months.]

She’s passed the manuscript on to someone else to read, who might be more constructively critical. She also has a neighbour in her village who might be able to give professional (agent-type) advice. I need to draft a letter.

In response to my prompting about the chapters being from different POVs, she had noticed.


F – 45 – finished – via text: ‘I’ve finished and am in floods of tears. [While I don’t want to upset my best friend, it is good to have provoked such a reaction.] It’s not the sort of book I’d normally read. It’s wonderful. I feel privileged to have read it. There are a few things I’d change. The only title I can come up with is, ‘Casting Off.’ [I have texted back asking her to put her critical head on before we speak later today.]


M – 49 – halfway through – via email: ’I’m not a great reader. I’m halfway through and the plot’s starting to pick up. It’s not a bloke’s book. You’ve spelt cocoanut wrong.’  [I’m waiting until he’s finished for more.]


M – late-50s – halfway through – via email: ‘You’re right, it needs another title. I’ve got half an idea of one. So far only one real criticism – I know and understand the knitting references but am fairly certain 99% of men would not.’ [Does that matter? Do you need to know and understand everything? I didn’t think there was that much knitting in it!]


All comments have been far too positive for my liking so I’m going to give a copy to my mum. She’s a retired teacher and has a medals and missions approach to life – there is nothing that cannot be improved upon and she never marks excellent on a survey unless things really were second to none. Even when she’s had a fantastic time, she will add a caveat. She’s not the sort of person I go to first for feedback.

I’m also feeling brave enough to send it to another friend who writes. We have different styles, different ways of doing things – she wants feedback as she writes and will send out rough drafts; I need to happy with, and to have exhausted, my words before I want anyone else’s input. She’s also one who tends to temper her praise in a way I sometimes find nit-picking.

I’m collecting comments and won’t make any changes until they’re all in.



Written by Sarah Ann

April 13, 2013 at 9:51 am

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