I joined a beta reading community recently and have signed up to read multiple different romance stories in my short time there. Some of this was to get more experience with giving feedback, but I will admit that it has also helped me to avoid the major rewrite I need to do on my first manuscript.
For the most part, the manuscripts I've been reading have been good. The first one had some characterization issues, but the plot was clear and hit all the romance beats. After reading the first one, I signed up to read the first ten pages of three different stories in a different group and was able to move through those pretty quickly. I offered to read the full manuscript for two writers and one has taken me up on it, so I'm making my way through it as each chapter is submitted. The second full manuscript I read also hit on the romance beats, had really well developed characters, but there were a few things that just didn't feel true to me.
The one I'm working on now has been difficult. When the writer posted about it in the group, a lot of members jumped on the description of the male lead character, and I felt bad since this writer was new. There were a few red flags in the blurb about the book (mainly that it hadn't been edited at all yet and that is was well over industry standard for word count), but I decided to give it a chance. My problem is that the story doesn't seem to start in the right place. There's about 90+ pages of backstory before the leads characters meet, and then after that, I'm not feeling like it's hitting the romance beats. Normally, when I beta read, I send both a brief commentary in an email with more detailed comments scattered throughout the pages, including both editorial remarks as well as whether something worked/didn't work for me. In this case, I think the book needs a major rewrite, and in light of that, I'm not sure my comments on the actual pages are going to be overly helpful.
This is the first time in a beta read that I almost DNF the book. When the main characters hadn't met by the end of Chapter 3, I scrolled ahead in the manuscript to find out when they would meet and to decide whether it was worth my time. I've read a few tips on beta reading from various blogs, and many of them have suggested marking a page by saying something like "if I was a casual reader, I would have stopped here" and then list why. I did see a few beta readers who said that it was okay to stop reading and let the author know why you stopped at a certain page. However, now that I've finally gotten beyond the point where the characters meet (and really, where the story should have begun), I'm pretty sure I can finish the book. On the plus side, I think the writer can use all of the backstory they included in the beginning of the book to help their characterization throughout the actual story. It just needs to more organically occur within the context of the manuscript and not as an information dump in the beginning.
As for my own first manuscript, I did have three beta readers look at my first ten pages, and I received helpful feedback. I'm hoping to finish reading the manuscript I've struggled with in the next day or so and then finally get back to my own rewrite. I got a "heart" during #CarinaPitch and I need to polish my submission by next Wednesday.
Have you ever DNF a book you were beta reading? If so, what caused you to stop? How did you handle telling the writer? Sound off in the comments!
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Book reviews, random thoughts, and writing samples from an aspiring author.