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Beta reader for science fiction

I have attached the first 4700 words of my novel Black Stripe - Trigger Guard.  I would appreciate people reading it and letting me know their opinions.  I am also looking for someone writing in any genre who would be interested in exchanging work to become each other's Beta reader.  As long as the work is interesting I'll read anything but prefer action (as opposed to non-action?) from thrillers, crime, sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and practically anything else.

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  • Hi Jim, I'm new to the site and this is my first critique, so here goes. I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy and mystery, as well as some lit fiction and non-fiction. So hopefully I'm a knowledgeable reader.

     Overall, I really enjoyed this excerpt. There's lots of intriguing complications already, and the characters are interesting and believable. It will be interesting to see how they all intersect. If this were a book I had purchased, I would definitely keep reading.

    Niggling things: I did notice a couple times when you appeared to use the wrong word instead of a (correct) similar word. There was a spelling error or two. Also, you used three different fonts, one of which I didn't have and had to substitute. It would be a shame if that stopped an agent or editor from continuing to read.

    Bigger things: three different POVs in the first few pages--that's a lot! I was okay with it but if this pattern continues it might be a bit overwhelming to the reader. Some comments for each POV below:

    PROGRAMMER: It's clear this woman is doing something clandestine, perhaps illegal. Love it! However, I was unclear as to whether she was inserting information (perhaps a new DNA record) or deleting it, or what. The reason I want to know is that whatever she was doing, she caused an error to the system, which would seem to be related to her activities. She was worried about being caught, but I thought she should also be worried that if she was inserting information, that it had gone wrong somehow--if she was uploading a record, was it a duplicate of an existing one, or...? It seems like the error would mean something had gone wrong with whatever she was doing, and this might mean she failed in her mission.

    DATA CLERK: This character felt shallow to me, a throwaway. The important character in this scene appeared to be the boy, so I'm curious as to why the scene isn't in the boy's point of view--it would seem he has the most to gain/lose and the reader has the most interest in seeing what he's thinking and feeling. I love the concept of having to register your DNA to receive government benefits. I can foresee all kinds of complications to this. I hope we see more of the boy.

    JAY: This character had by far the most verbiage, so I'm assuming he's the protagonist. His situation was quite interesting, lots going on with the crash, his injuries, the escaped criminal and the computer/robot conundrum. There were some places with a lot of technical information, how the computer got into the robot, how it saved him--I'm not sure we need to know all that because it does slow the story down. It's good that YOU know all this, so kudos for figuring it all out, but unless all this information is relevant, we might not need to know every last detail. It might be sufficient to know that the computer switched its mind to the robot, and it isn't supposed to be able to do that, and thus complications arise.

    Hopefully this is helpful. I've attached a file with comments and markups. Good luck!

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    • Thanks for the feedback.  I have the file open now and I am reviewing it.  Not sure what happened with the fonts.  I am assuming that is the Chapter numbers and fonts.   I had to change those to make it look different when I converted to an e-pub format. 

      Since I posted this copy I had some other feedback and I have changed a few things around, nothing substantial but the demur to demeanor has been pointed out and is kind of embarrassing.

      Thanks for your positive comments.  If there is something you would like reviewed please let me know. I am happy to reciprocate.

      To answer some of your questions.  

      1. The Clerk is a throw-away.  You never meet him again.  
      2. The son is a very important character.
      3. The programmer has made an error that is central to the story.  She comes up again.  everything you mention is right bang on, so at least I am portraying the correct mood.
      4. Jay is a central character along with the son and Tee.  You say I may have too much info on how Tee becomes mobile and saves Jay.  I will look into that.  Gives me something to think about


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      • If you would like to read more the entire book is done.   I can send you the next few chapters.

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        • Hi Jim, 

          It was a little tough to follow mainly because of the formatting. Maybe next time, a PDF?  

          In any case, Sci-Fi poses a challenge when it comes to worldbuilding vs getting into the action. We want the reader to get an idea of the world (which we are very proud of dreaming up!) and sometimes make action second fiddle. However, I’d say action should lead the way. The question is - what action exactly?

          I had a hard time pulling out what was what and who was doing what, and why. Perhaps make the character goals clear at the start of their sections?

          Hope that helps!


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          • Thanks for reading.  I take it from your comments you didn't like it.   That's fine. I start with several characters at the beginning.  I thought of making the first three short chapters into a prologue but decided against it. 

            I purposely made the beginning mysterious to drag the reader into the book so they would have to figure out what was going on.  A bit of a mystery around the programmer, how the farmer and his son Morgan fit in, and, finally, the main event concerning Jay and Tee.

            I have had a couple of comments on the fonts.  Thanks for the feedback.

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            • To me, it’s not a black or white, like or not like. Just conveying my own impressions :)

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            • If you have something you would like me to read please let me know.  I appreciate your comments.  They have given me something to think about.

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              • Thanks for the offer, Jim. I’m working hard on my first chapter and have yet to decide what to focus on. When I’ve finally landed on it, I’ll post it here for review ;) I’ll Keep you posted.

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                • I've got an entire book written.  Looking for feedback on it.   I didn't think it would be so hard to find people to read it but most of my family have graciously bowed out from reading it.   Freinds smile and nod when I mention my writing.  Sigh...

                  I am assuming if you are on chapter 1 of your book you are still looking for a direction to take it.  Good luck.

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                  • Friends and family wouldn’t be much help (unless they’re writers or editors themselves). So, you’re not missing out in that realm.

                    There’s a forum called Critique Circle where you give and receive critique. The critique is pretty detailed. It operates on a points system so as you give critique, you receive points and can post your work for critique. The points system is a way to keep the whole system rolling. I see people adding a chapter at a time of their work. 

                    Lots of editors and practicing writers are on there. That might be something to look into. 

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                    • I just joined today and already did one critique

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                    • Jim Hi! Being technically inept I've only just discovered Anne's  critique and the helpful comment about the critique circle.  She was much more helpful than me but I think we both enjoyed it immensely despite finding the start a bit hard going.  Did I see chapters 5-14 somewhere? Dying to know if Tee makes it back after the 37 hours.  All the best. Jaye

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