- Amy Alves
My Buff Beta Reader
I was a seasoned romance reader well before I started dabbling in writing my own novels. After I had kids, my reading went from ten books a year to over a hundred. It was something just for me, a little indulgence that I mentally needed. Especially on those nights when the kids were up every 32 minutes and I wasn't able to sleep anyway.
I often thought about some of these writers and if they involved their significant others to help in plotting or feedback. Or even the sexy scenes. Usually in the acknowledgements section, I'd see them mentioned, and many confirmed that their partner had helped along the way.
My husband ended up being both an alpha and beta reader for me and it's been enlightening and hilarious. First, I have to mention how important beta readers have been in my writing process. I have a small team who are so detailed, thoughtful, and constructive in the feedback they provide as they are immersed in the world I've created.
It's vital to get beta readers who are experienced in your genre, because they know what readers will expect. There's a recipe to romance tropes, and while this bit of predictability may seem unappealing to some, it is actually what your audience has come to expect. When you venture too far off course, that's when readers get testy. Or that's how I've felt in the past, anyway.
My beta readers know their romance!
With one notable exception: my loving husband.
This amazing man has spent countless hours brainstorming with me, acting as a sounding board, problem-solving, and answering 327 questions about a variety of things that I have zero knowledge of, but required for scenes in my books. Things such as: how company votes work, shareholders, the NHL and AHL and how they work together, incorporated companies, NFL questions, and a man's perspective on different scenarios. I don't even think he teased me much. He drew diagrams, used analogies, suggested twists and surprises in my plot line. He's pretty dreamy. And buff as the title suggests... I am typing this post while taking small breaks to watch him workout.
Here's the interesting thing about getting a non-romance reader to provide feedback on your book... they approach it logically, see the plot in a different light, and may be pleasantly surprised by the steamy scenes. My hubby is a linear thinker, who likes to simplify and prioritize. He caught several plot and character flaws no one else did and had a different perspective. Now, I did have to remind myself that he is not my target audience, so some of his comments got left on the editing room floor.
One of the most fun parts of editing (which if you are a writer, you would likely agree that there are not a lot of fun parts), was reading his comments and suggestions.
He was so frustrated by the conflict, wondering why they could just do this or that and they could have avoided the whole mess.
This is where I had to explain multiple times that there needs to be conflict, just like when he eats my chocolate and there is conflict and then I mention how avoidable that was too. Ha. Seriously though, characters and relationships have flaws and this can be seen as they deal with life events.
I had the draft saved as a Google Doc and shared amongst my alpha readers before sending it out to the rest of my beta readers to get some of the more embarrassing mistakes fixed before it was sent to my betas. I shared the file with my mom, sister, and husband. My sister said she was getting so distracted by our comment banter that she was worried we were taking away from the story with our back-and-forth banter. I picture her going onto the google doc with popcorn ready to scroll through the comments section of the novel I painstakingly wrote for almost two years.
"You're risking the side comments being more interesting that the original content..."
- my sister's patented backhanded compliment (it runs in the family)
If you are a romance reader, not writer, and want to have some of these relationship/character/conflict debates with your significant other, get them to read one of your favorite romance novels. We had so
many cheesy, character arc, sequel book, sexy-filled talks about several of my romance plots, but you could do this with any romance novel. They could hate it, yes. But that's something to talk about too. My hubby didn't like the drama and how complex some of the feelings were. He's a pretty straight forward guy, so it was a bit much for him. But it led to conversation. Plus - sexy scenes. If your significant other doesn't want to talk about the internal conflict of the protagonist, they may want to talk about the shower sex scene. Just saying...
Bottomline: if your hubby is interested in reading your writing - let him! It was fun, interesting, hilarious, and helpful!
The Buff Beta Reader will be reading another book for me this week. This will be book 3 in the Landry Love Series. Book 1, The Experiment, is set to publish February 4th, 2021.
We will see how this this beta experience goes and possibly do a Part 2 of his comment shenanigans.
Side Note: I should mention that there were also adorable comments made on the doc about how much he laughed during a scene, how he liked a certain character, or when he was surprised by something. I only shared the ones that made me laugh.