It wasn't my intention to turn them into Beta readers, they were just naturals. They gave me very honest feedback. Since I know their body language well-- perhaps too honest. All the shifts of boredom and rolling eyes sent me back to the drawing board with new energy. Plus, they know me very well, and were able to tell me how much it sucked without making me cry. Yay!
I came back and tried again.
Now, I'd like to say don't try this at home, because I almost feel like I should warn the writing world. Kids are blunt, and they will blurt out things that will leave you wondering whose children these are. But in the end, the benefits were too much! If you write for this audience try this at home-- go for it! If you don't have children, send your MS my way, I will pass it by my very honest children for you.
So what brilliant comments did they leave me with? These two were my favs, so I share them with you, even if they have no benefits whatsoever. You just can't make stuff like this up; (Keep in mind they're 11 and 6.)
"That's not where I'm getting my tattoo."
"Why not? It's where I'm getting mine."
"Can I play Boysenberry when this is a movie?"
"Hey, I want to be the guy with the tattoos. No wait. I want to be the guy who flies."
"That is the guy with the tattoos. Pay attention or you won't get a part."
Ok, so I can't use those comments, but there were many I could use. They were quick to point out if things were unclear, repeated, boring, without action, or involved too much thinking... Yeah. They were very helpful in all the ways my usual Beta readers are.
How did I go about it?
- I read out loud, they raised their hand to interrupt. (So politely! This was their idea, mine was to leave them speechless-- no such luck.)
- I recorded it to catch the chuckles, the gasps, the things I couldn't mark on the text.
- We did this at draft one and five, and I plan to do it once more at draft 8 (what will hopefully be IT!) See me grin :)) They are excited about this final read. me too.
- I had my notebook open and made changes as I read and as they gave me their suggestions. They got to see the magic in action. They liked that-- it made them feel like part of the process. They were impressed with the changes from draft one to five. Very impressed, but they made me change one thing back, and they were very firm about this so I agreed to it. So far, their change back has been a hit, so yay!
Have you ever had kids Beta read your work and how did that work out for you? Any tips?