Phew. OF GOLD AND FIRE is currently in the hands of a select few beta readers, and we recently received feedback from some of them. We are so excited! Why might we be excited about people coming in and picking apart our story? Because above all, most of the feedback we received was positive and constructive. I’m so impressed with the thought and effort that went into the responses we’ve gotten so far, and we still have a couple reviews outstanding. A hundred thousand thank you’s to all our beta readers.
This is also a special time for us because most of our work throughout our lives has been made for the other. Aristen and I have written together since we were in kindergarten, but this is a whole new endeavor: sending our baby out into the world for the very first time.
We still have [a ton of] work to do, but let me share some of the kudos:
“[Character R] is awesome, more hunting wizards please.”
“I feel like you don’t want me to like [character J], but he’s one of the most awesome people in the story.”
This reader had a preference for character J for sure.
“[Character J] is awesome. It seemed like you wanted me to feel he was the bad guy in the situation, but everything he did made him likable.”
And, funny enough, this same reader wanted another character to die … a lot. It cracked us up.
“The world is really well planned out and interesting…”
There was a but after that comment, but it’s related to real world words. We think that there might be a kind of a misunderstanding about what sort of fantasy OF GOLD AND FIRE is. It’s not a thee and thou type; there aren’t any elves or fairies, but I think when someone says fantasy, they assume LOTR is the only kind there is. As a side note, some of our betas read in the fantasy genre and some don’t; we had a mix.
Much of OF GOLD AND FIRE is based in alternate world low fantasy–at least in the first book–with some gaslamp (not gaslighting) aspects. We claim gaslamp because there is some Magitek, but not really that much in the city where the first book takes place. Of course, OF GOLD AND FIRE is not completely rooted in any specific genre.
“Your ancestors called it magic… and you call it science. Well, I come from a place where they’re one and the same.”
One thing that made this particular reader a great source of feedback for us was that he had opinions. He wanted people to do things and was disappointed when they didn’t, telling us as much. He also took the time to criticize the characters for their action and inaction. For example, one character didn’t do something, and he called them useless for it. That’s right. They were useless, and it pissed this reader off. Much of what we intended came through; I’d call it mission = accomplished.
Here’s some more positive comments:
Question from the beta reader work sheet we made: are there enough stakes and/or tension throughout to make it a “page turner”?
“Considering once I really had time to sit down and read, I marathoned over 200 pages I would say yes.”
At this point, I squealed–loudly and obnoxiously. The story needs to be edited, and we’re working on refining, but to know that the story is that good for this reader at this early point? /Dreamy sigh
Question: does the premise avoid cliché and/or bring a fresh perspective to an old idea?
“I have never seem a magical system like this so I like the new view on that…”
I am also happy about this comment:
“…I was waiting for [character S] to jump out and take down [people] and was heart broken when he didn’t.”
Yaaaas! Emotional reaction!
There is a lot of room for improvement too of course:
“…the first chapter seems a lot more flowery than the rest of the book. There are noticeably more similes and metaphors, things seem over-described compared to the rest of the book.”
We’ve started revising chapter 1. I think part of the problem is that we’ve been toying with it too much.
We also got feedback with suggestions like “I wish you had developed … more.” This sort of feedback is important to us too, because it shows us where we need to direct our efforts in revising and is exactly why we enlisted beta readers in the first place. Yay!
And lastly, I’ll leave you with this, because this sort of small encouragement will really help us keep going: