Alpha Protocol

Two days ago I was given two gifts, one lovely, one less so.

The first was my manuscript, fully critiqued and annotated by my alpha reader.

The second was a rollicking bout of of the flu, a parting gift from the final session with one of my students.

So I spent all of yesterday lying on the couch, trying to move as little as possible, while my husband brought me various sick-people things: wet washcloths, hot food, buckets of water with a handy straw so I only had to turn my head a few millimeters at most. What I really wanted to be doing was hacking into my manuscript, invigorated by the perspective of my alpha reader.

When the crit first winged its digital way into my electronic mailbox, I was terrified to open it. The sensitive pink creative psyche that I have vulcanized in a crust of flippancy and sarcasm was spinning out an endless thread of the most horrific criticism imaginable. Then I told myself to suck it up, opened the file, and stayed up way too late reading the overall impressions at the end of each chapter (then scrolling back to read the in-line notes).

It wasn’t so bad! It was kind of great really. Unlike a visual arts critique (of which I’ve had more than my fill), with a critique of writing no one is standing right there commenting on your mental health, worldview, and skill level. If something hits a soft spot, you can close the file. Get a drink. Grab the bootstraps and open it up again.

Let me say at this point that nothing in the notes jabbed me in a soft spot.

There were certain things about my characters that weren’t reading as clearly as I wanted, and it was invaluable to have someone not me letting me know how they came across. There were scenes that needed more strength of purpose, some that could be moved, one that should be fractured and re-absorbed elsewhere. There was one glaring problem that made the book an entirely different story than I had intended.

I didn’t agree with every suggestion, and I feel comfortable enough with my alpha reader to discuss them further. There is nothing going awry in this manuscript that I can’t fix.

Fix sort of easily, in fact.

A few days ago I was floundering in my edits, going line by line and getting more hopeless by the minute. My crit partner has given me direction, and my floundering has led me to Scrivener.

I know what I’m doing.


4 responses to “Alpha Protocol

  1. I always enjoy when I get feedback on my chapters. (I have one set of betas who are reading my book in small 2 chapter bites while I finish editing the last 1\2 of the book)

    Most of the comments are useful, but all of them are inspiring. That I have anyone who cares enough to point out something, makes me know that they cared enough about my characters to voice an opinion on it.

    Sounds like your alpha reader was amazing! Hope you feel better!

    • She is amazing, which was so helpful since this is my first time. I couldn’t agree more about the simple fact that someone engaging enough with your work to form an opinion is inspiring!

      I am feeling much better today, thanks 🙂

  2. I can relate to how scary it is to first open a critique. I’m always surprised that people find anything at all to like about my work, because most of the time I’m convinced that it is horrible!
    But, it is so useful to see it through another’s eyes via critique. It’s worth it. Almost.
    Great to see that you’ve found your direction!

    I’m glad you’re feeling better. 🙂

  3. You know, we’ll have to do a sort of “Where’s Waldo” book sighting trip when it’s finally out on the shelves. (Hopefully we will have hung out at least once between that time!)

    Also, I think you’re crit partner is pretty damn lucky too.

    Just sayin.

    You rock.

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