I met with my critique partner last week to go over my now-42-page detailed outline for my next novel, Everything to Hide. The outline has expanded from 27 pages! We thrashed out quite a few things chapter by chapter. Based on the feedback, I'll be making some changes.
I find having someone who respects your writing style but isn't afraid to tackle you is, in many ways, more valuable than having beta readers. I had 24 beta readers for my first book, Where Sunflowers Grow (check out My Books tab). These readers were in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany and Italy.
Of course, not all beta readers will ever agree, but sometimes having beta readers can be 'death by committee'. I always prepare a detailed checklist for my beta readers with broad questions, such as, "At what point did you feel the story started to kick in?" or "Was the ending satisfying, believable?" I have specific questions too about characterisation, plot development, character arc and so on. I do, however, let my beta readers do their own thing if they don't wish to answer specific questions.
While I think beta readers are valuable, I'm going to make a change with Everything to Hide and only have my critique partner and two beta readers. My critique partner is a traditionally published writer. One beta reader is also a writer, while the second beta reader is an avid thriller/mystery reader with no writing experience or interest in writing. This person will be worth their weight in gold as they do not know me nor have they read anything I've written.
I'd like to see if this pared-down process gives me more constructive feedback. When you have 24 beta readers or even 5 or 10, you can end up with a myriad of different opinions that don't necessarily help you. Regardless of how many, in the end, the author has to go with the gut, and this means not taking into account some beta reader comments.
So, I'm almost ready to go. The aim is to have the first draft of Everything to Hide completed by the start of December. I'll start to introduce you to some of the characters and the setting very soon.