Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting "beta reads" for Agamemnon

Through a group on Goodreads.com, I found some beta readers for my next publication, Agamemnon Must Die. The Group, one of hundreds (perhaps more) on the site, is called the (link here) Beta Reader Group. I had never heard of a beta reader before and was most grateful to have found this group and the volunteer readers who can be reached there. A writer's circle of friends gets tired after being asked so many times and anyone willing to read one's writing and give concrete feedback other than paid editors is truly welcome.

Finding online those willing to read one's work in this manner is a blessing. The same rules of etiquette still apply, of course. These readers perform a service without contract and must be treated with courtesy and respect. If any do not comment (or read), they are no different from one's friends who blithely promised to do so but do not deliver. One may only prompt or nudge for a response only so often and only with regard for feelings, "life events," etc.

As it turned out, I was fortunate to find three such readers in a combination of friends and the online group. I wish here to report on my experience. 

One reader raved over Agamemnon to such an extent that I actually asked if there was not anything that might be less than perfect. Honestly, I did. Obviously there is nothing better for an author's ego than such a reception. I felt vindicated in the choices I made in the retelling of thoroughly foreign (to me) myths that are over three thousand years old.

But I was glad also for the reaction of the second reader who confessed that reading my work had been an almost overwhelming chore--that nothing worked, not the plot, the characters or the dialogue. The reader was most apologetic and fortunately my usually robust ego had been previously fortified by the first response I received. Here was warning, if such was necessary, not to expect a runaway seller.  

The third reader turned out to have been born and educated in Greece. We discussed the nuances of religion and philosophy implied by my reinterpretations of the myths that Aeschylus wove into the Oresteia seven hundred years after the "events." I was quizzed about the sources of the differences, many quite radical, between what the fifth century (B.C.) dramatist conceived for his prize-winning trilogy and the story I wished to tell. I was also challenged to check on the terrain, for instance between Mycenae and Delphi, since I could not use the excuse that something happened "off stage" for some of the major transitions (scene changes). How wonderful these days to be able to avail oneself of satellite maps and "street views"!

These beta readers have prepared me for the forthcoming travail with the editor and proof-reader. I don't pretend to have discovered their existence, not even in the sense of Columbus discovering America, but nonetheless heartily commend them to my fellow writers.

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