Re-writes, beta readers and reviewing

I’ve had a study in contrasts for the last few days. I’ve got one book ‘finished’, one book in editing, another few in-progress, and a short story that I’ve been writing that’s gone through the write/Kate-edit/outside readers/comments/re-write/outside-readers stage. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of emotion but has been really interesting.

Because I write weirdly (I jump backwards and forwards, I don’t plot, I keep adding bits, I’ll go back three books to add a scene that helps in the fourth…), and because I’ve never had a book published before, I’ve never had to consider something ‘finished’. I’ve always been able to edit; even when I’ve put something aside, that’s just a personal choice. I’ve always been able to fiddle with it; I’ve been able to edit, and then keep editing, and then write some more.

So, having Green Sky and Sparks accepted was a bit of a shock to me. I HAD to stop working on it. I HAD to take my hands and brain away, and let Sammy and the lovely Caro read in peace. I HAD to accept that I couldn’t randomly add bits. When it went to Sammy for editing, I had to actively stop myself making changes – I actually put a DO NOT CHANGE note on my filename for a few months! When Sammy sent edits through, I really enjoyed the chance to blitz through those – but then had to put it to one side again. I’m now experiencing the same thing with the second and third books, although it is easier this time. I’ve managed to convince my brain that I can finish something, and that the story must be unchanged. That part has now been written – work on something else! I’ve just had edits back for Grey Stone & Steel, although there are mostly grammatical things so less plot points and rewriting. I’m learning how to be an editor rather than a writer, and accept a manuscript as something that I can’t just add to.

However, this contrasted rather nicely with the edit-write-edit-write tumble that I’m currently experiencing. I’m writing a short story for a FoxSpirits call, and I managed to finish it yesterday. Some of my absolutely lovely friends agreed to read it for me, and so I’ve had a pile of feedback in a very short space of time.

One of the things I love about beta reading is that people can comment; I love being able to discuss a story and change bits and add things and just see what people think! It’s almost as good a feeling as getting the characters out of my head in the first place. I’ve had a discussion about motivations and whether I can add to a character; I’m feeling happy that the world is all there but not over-explained; I’ve had a think about a few things that I didn’t even realise were present in the story and whether I want to expand or keep them; and I’m feeling mildly terrified about what an editor friend is going to say – she’s amazing and her feedback is always brilliant, but ohmygosh is it terrifying to wait for!*

And then I was thinking about reviews. It’s wonderful to know that someone likes your book (or not, as the case may be), but I’m not looking forward to the frustration of that; you can’t really interact, you can’t explain, you can’t change things. I have to put my world out there and let people interpret it – I’m going to HAVE to let go in a way that I’ve never done before, and I’m very slightly dreading it. I mean, it’s going to be amazing, but…scary, too. I’ve had to let go of one story and then another, but they’ve still been within my control – if I’d wanted to change something, I could have. When it gets published, that’s it, it’s done. I can add to my world, but I can’t change it.

Oh well, enough musing – I have a short story to finish editing!

* Edit from 1st March: She liked it! She suggested several things that were “Oh, of course…” things and made perfect sense and make the story much better. I’m half collapsed in relief and half grinning like a mad thing that she did like it and it’s good! Whew!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.