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Beta/Sensitivity Team Expectations

This is the most intense part of the team. The beta team will get an early copy of the book after my initial edit (a few months before the expected release, with maybe a bit more or less time depending on how long the book is). My editing process so far has been to review the book during my initial edit and list my concerns about each chapter, including details I might be a bit unsure on, as well as a section at the end of the book for anything that I think might be an overall issue or concern, rather than one contained to a chapter or two. I’ve included an example below from Throne of Darkness. (I'm going to try and do my best to cut these down in the future).

I would ask that any Beta readers send me feedback on these questions either as you go or all at once when you’re done with the book. This can be via email/text, email/voice memo, or via chat in the Slack Workspace I’ll set up once the team gets a bit bigger, that way you can also ask any questions or clarifications you might have. 

I understand that especially with some of the longer books I plan to write that this will be a fairly long and laborious process, so you won’t need to answer every single question, and I may try to divide things up to keep from overwhelming people, but this process really helps. Using it before I hand the book off to an editor has resulted in minimal comments/changes from the editor. If I can get a great routine going with some really strong beta readers, that could save me a lot in developmental edits, allowing me to focus on fine-tuning and improving my prose, and it will also free me up from certain deadlines associated with working with a professional editor. Any issues with spelling, grammar, or consistency that you pick up on would also be appreciated! Even professional editors don’t catch all of those. 

This team will be held to the highest standard out of the four divisions, and I plan on keeping it fairly small and tight as the overall advance team grows.

Example Chapter Questions:

(Don't worry, this is the largest amount of questions I've ever asked for a single chapter)

  • What do you think makes this scene interesting? 

  • What do you think is special about this scene? 

  • What is the main emotion(s) you get from this scene?

  • Should I cut down the descriptions of the commanders by removing some of the worldbuilding info and sticking that in later in the book, or do you like it or feel you need it up front to get a good picture of how people look?

  • Do you get a good sense of Estingai’s and Svemakuu’s characters/relationship?

  • Do Estingai’s actions and emotions seem out of place?

  • Do you get a sense of the Remnant and its circumstances? Of the Imaia?

  • Does the situation of the remnant seem like a very steep uphill battle?

  • Do you have a passing understanding of the magic’s basic mechanics and what seems to be possible with it?

  • What do you think of the chapter title? What about “Lost in the Darkness”? Or “Deathknight”?

  • What impression do you have of the deathknight?

  • Is this too long? If so, what do you think can be cut out or is unnecessary?

  • Does this seem like a good hook/prologue?

  • Is there anything in particular that pulls you out of the scene?

  • Is there anything specific that you did not like when reading this chapter?

  • Do you feel like you need more physical description of the characters and the setting?

  • Do you enjoy the line: "The Remnant," Svemakuu said, letting the word hang in the air for a moment before he continued, "We are all that remains of those who fight Atonga. Kweshrima may have doomed Efruumani, but the Atonga began conquering it and stripping it of its resources and beauty long before then in the name of fighting their supposed 'Enemy.'"

  • What do you think about ending the chapter right after the line “I'm trapped. Trapped and lightless.” instead of the current end of the chapter?

  • Or “It took Estingai's clouded mind a moment to process that and what it meant. I'm lightless.”?

  • Or “She looked up just in time to see her reflection in the enormous slab of polished rock that fell down on top of her.”?

  • What did you like about this chapter?

  • Is it long enough, or do you want a bit more detail/background? If so, on what?

  • Was there anything you found boring or un-enjoyable? What specifically?

  • Would you keep reading? On a scale of 1-10, how was this chapter? 10 being “I’m hooked and need to read the next chapter/book ASAP why are you asking me questions?” And 0 being “I’m bored and this is wasting my time”?

    • Reasons for the score? 

    • Suggestions on how it might be improved? The goal is ‘great’, not just ‘good.

  • Difficulty of reading from 1-10? Terminology, ambiguity, visualizing the world?

    • Difficult is 1, easy read is 10

Sensitivity Readers

The Beta readers will overlap with my sensitivity readers, as those will change from book to book. 

When I create a story or a world, I like to draw on a lot of cultures, experiences, or areas of knowledge that I have little or no connection to. While I make sure to do my research and learn as much as I can, that is still no substitute for someone with an intimate knowledge of those experiences, cultures, or areas of expertise. 

In some areas, this may have to do with something like the workings of military organizations that only someone who served in one of them might be familiar with, or it could be an area of astrophysics or geology where someone with a degree in that field might be able to provide details someone less familiar with the field (such as myself) might not even think to look into.

For instance, at some point, I want to write in a Southeast Asian-inspired setting, and while I have already done some research and plan on doing more, I would want to make sure I speak to people who are intimately familiar with those cultures to give as much of an inside view as I can.

I will also touch on certain topics like PTSD and issues of mental health/trauma in my books, and again, while I do my research, that is a far more sterile approach than speaking to people with those experiences who are willing to discuss them. 

With Kaalev in Cleareye, for instance, my friend’s uncle is deaf, and I was able to pick up a few details that my research did not cover. Some of them I included, others I didn’t as they would have gotten in the way of the narrative, but simply knowing made writing the story both easier and more enjoyable. 

At times, I might ask to consult with some members of this team while writing or outlining the book incase there is certain information I need when creating the world or story. 

If you or any friends or relatives have any areas of knowledge or expertise that you think might be helpful and want to be a part of the beta team, please let me know!

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