Friday, April 3, 2015

The Rainy Day Murders--My Beta Readers

To take The Rainy Day Murders (RDM) to the next level, I have enlisted the aid of five highly-qualified beta readers. A beta reader is a non-professional reader who reads over the manuscript giving suggestions on how to improve the material. Beta reading is typically done before a book is published.

It was time for me to step back and see how people coming to the material for the first time would react to the manuscript of the Washtenaw County sex murders of the late 1960s in Michigan.

It is surprising how easy it is for a writer to overlook common mistakes. The eye sees, but doesn't see itself. Nagging grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes are mechanical errors that can be easily fixed, and fresh eyes are always appreciated to snare them. But organization and content matters are of more concern to me: Does the narrative move well? Are there continuity problems? Where are the hollow spots? Is the material believably presented? Do the facts and assertions appear accurate? Is the story a respectful treatment of difficult material? These are my areas of particular interest.

Working with this material for over four years has given me a form of writing blindness called authorial myopia. I needed some time and distance from RDM to gain perspective and recalibrate my vision to strengthen the manuscript.

Once my beta readers report to me, I will devise a specific plan for one last revision and begin looking for representation and a publisher. Barring that, I will self-publish RDM and make it available over the Internet. 

The descriptions in RDM are often graphic but never lurid. I have endeavored to portray the victims with dignity and respect while--at the same time--providing the public with documentable information regarding the details of the seven young women's murders. This was not an easy story to write, nor will it be an easy story to read for some people. I have strived to make RDM as accurate as possible given the limitations of the historical record.

The facts and circumstances of these tragedies deserve to be told to prevent them from falling further through the cracks of governmental neglect and the deliberate obfuscation by John Norman Collins.

Here is a link to my post about the victims: