I've shared my Growing Toward the Sun with writing friends, chapter by chapter, but until this week, no one has ever read it cover to cover, like a real book.
This week I sent it to my first round of beta readers. Their assignment? To read the book--like a real book, within two weeks--then email me for the list of questions I've prepared.
That was hard, figuring out what kind of questions to ask in order to get the information I need. Questions about my characters (likable? unlikable? stereotypical?) and about plot (boring, too detailed parts? glossed over parts? favorite sections?)
Most of the beta readers requested Word docs, but one requested a print version. I slid the whole, inch-thick document into a manila envelope, sealed it, and took it to the post office. As I stood at the counter, answering routine questions about what the package contained (MY BOOK!) and value of item enclosed (UNMEASURABLE! It's My Book! Didn't you hear me? My BOOK!) I had to think of an old fashioned novel I once read about an aspiring author.
Anne of Green Gables or Jo March or Hildegarde Dolson, or whoever it was, stood hopefully in line, waiting to mail her manuscript to a Big Magazine. She wondered how the postman could handle Her Manuscript with such casual disinterest. She glanced at those waiting in line and hoped someone would say, "Excuse me. I couldn't help but notice--is that a manuscript you're mailing, there? Are you perhaps An Authoress?"
I watched the no-nonesense postal clerk affix the postage crookedly in the top right corner and grinned to myself. Then I drove across town to deliver another copy to Grandma. The first person who ever told me I should write deserves to read it first, I think.
Now I wait. Which I'm not particularly good at. But I have a feeling it will be worth it, and Growing Toward the Sun will be a better book because of my beta readers.