That Whipped-Dog Feeling

It’s come to my attention that my publisher’s added, ah…a “beta reader team” to its editorial staff. As I understand it, this is a group of genre enthusiasts who’ll look at my unpublished manuscripts and tell me what they think. This is new, so I thought I’d get a jump on the anguish. Castigate myself in advance, sort of thing.

Here they are, then, the beta readers in my head:

“I don’t know. There’s something about it—I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s incredibly offputting. It’s like eating chocolate cake, and it’s definitely chocolate cake, but there’s an extra ingredient, or an ingredient missing, and it just tastes wrong. Stevia instead of sugar. Off-brand margarine. I wish I could be more specific, but this book falls flat for me.”

“I didn’t fall asleep, but I came close. Not only have I read this book before, but I’ve read it a thousand times. The concept, the characters, the setting, it’s all been done before, but the worst part is the dialogue. I could literally read one line and predict the next with 99% accuracy. If you’re going to rehash the classics, at LEAST bring your own voice.”

“I feel like I’m being talked down to. The author bounces between lyrical prose and choppy dialogue like a Super Ball in a rock tumbler. It’s obvious she’s trying to talk like she thinks young people talk, but I doubt she knows anyone under fifty.”

“OBVIOUS BRIT IS OBVIOUS! Stop trying to talk like an American. A few ‘y’alls’ do not a Texan make.”

“Everyone’s so whiny. We get it. Prison sucks. But does everyone have to sound like Doreen from ‘Prisoner: Cell Block H’? Also, I can tell the author is old enough to remember ‘Prisoner: Cell Block H,’ and therefore too old to be writing this series.”

“Boring and bad.” <— actual Amazon review, left on one of my previous books.

“Old. Old. You’re old.”

“The writing was okay and the plot was okay, but the characters felt like archetypes. There was nothing unique about them, no nuance. Nothing that stood out. You know when you’re reading a Stephen King, and you can tell who’s going to live and die by the end of chapter one? This was like that, only ten times more blatant, and not as good as Stephen King.”

“You’re really old.”

“I don’t really get what’s going on. It’s too complicated, and we’re five chapters in and I have no sense of time or place, or which characters I’m supposed to be rooting for. The narrator’s bland, everyone else is annoying, and I can’t find it in me to care.”


“What’s with all the toilet humour? I counted four fart jokes in the first chapter, and it was only 2,500 words. Did a twelve-year-old write this, or what?”


“Christ, where to start? Plodding pace? Check. Vapid protagonist? Check. Clumsy writing? Check, check, and check. Honestly, the most interesting thing about this book is that one guy who makes fun of the main character all the time. I’ve also identified the following overused words and phrases: woolgathering, in truth, snide, snort, fuck off with that, rough, plasticky, fart.

“Do you have a pee fetish, or what?” <— I do not! It’s just, I keep getting assigned books where the plot demands someone get pissed on. Or strongly suggests it. Or, fuck it. Spray on!

“[Nine or ten eloquent paragraphs on why my book is garbage, not just eloquent, but beautifully-written, so incisive I can’t deny their truth, so persuasive my boss lets me go.]”

“Bazoo. Bazoo. Shut your bazoo.”

Oh, hang on. That last is from Frasier. Martin Crane hates my books.

On another note, check out my necklace. I’m wearing it as a bracelet, just to be a twat. (It’s noisy, see. Round my neck, it’s not so bad, as it lies against my chest and doesn’t rattle. On my wrist, it’s like tap shoes on linoleum. No, like reading my manuscript. Highly obnoxious.)

Anyway. Right. I think that’s that out of my system. Skin thickened. Bulwarks up. Beta readers, have at it. You (probably) can’t get me fired. ❤

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