We had dinner with one of our beta readers last night. They’d just read Linesman book two (ALLIANCE), and were giving feedback.
Naturally, conversation revolved around ‘the book’.
Most readers, not counting professional editors, can’t tell you what’s wrong with a story. They can only tell you how they felt about it. I’m the same. For example, I can tell you that I don’t like a character, but sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on what I don’t like.
Our beta reader liked the characters, and was generally positive about the book . He didn’t pick out any specific issues, so it was up to us to pick out what needed fixing.
You can do this, you just have to listen.
He said, quite early on, that he:
“… couldn’t remember the names of the characters from book one for a while. It wasn’t until about chapter six that I started to remember who was who.”
Us: “So what do you think was wrong?”
“Nothing. It was fine once I worked out who was who.”
He mentioned those same chapters a few times during the night, even though he said different things every time.
It’s obvious we have a problem there. Whether it’s people soup, or too much happening without letting the reader pause to reflect, or something else altogether, there’s something wrong with the start of the book.
All we need to do now is work out what it is, and fix it.