Writing can be very solitary. It can be especially solitary if you’re writing epic fantasy or science fiction wherein the vast majority of plots and terminology are challenging to explain to the general populace. It can be tripley-especially solitary if you’re brand new and none of the people in your life have an inch of respect for your work yet. My work on Imbalance is the same now as it was in the years it took to write and edit, yet thanks to my publishing deal the difference in respect afforded the book is night and day. Once someone in the outside world validates the work it leaps from “yeah, yeah” to “legitimate” overnight. I imagine self-published authors just have to keep pushing forward with this sort of anonymity – at least until a critical mass has read and lauded the release.
Having worked on Imbalance much of my adult life, I came to appreciate three friends of mine in particular who cared enough to listen to my premise and storylines. I’m a talker. These fellows were, principally, listeners. As such, they were well-suited to take it all in, and they already knew me to be a staunch supporter of my own latest projects. The details of the backstory – either told over a few hours of beer, or after badminton, or via questions about my old movie script – bred interest in actually reading Purge of Ashes while most people remained in the dark. These three were my primary beta readers.
I’m writing this post to emphasize the importance of such people – those willing to put faith in you when you have no meter to gauge your faith in yourself. I knew I was proud of the book, that it was very carefully woven, and that it maintained the action-pacing of a feature film. I also knew I read it through rose-tinted glasses and a pervading bravado. To discuss it with others in similar detail as to if we were discussing The Wheel of Time or Malazan Book of the Fallen was integral to realizing it was ready. That I could have a whole conversation with one of these three without mentioning entire story lines – or any character arc in particular – instilled a recognition that there was enough content to merit the page count. Now, friends are friends and not true beta readers – this I know. I think their contributions are just as important but in a different way. Such friends make it worth your while even if every stranger is unimpressed with the book.
They can also confirm that such a scenario is never going to happen.