I’m On My Speculative Journey

The other day, a good friend of mine (I’ll call him Clayton) came by to visit and, inevitably, he brought up the subject of my book. Clayton was an early beta reader of this novel; in fact, he read what was very nearly a first draft. Stop editing! Stop editing! That’s always his heartfelt cry. I explained to him that 7 out of 10 beta readers had told me I should do xyz, and wouldn’t he listen to 7 out of 10 betas? Not if they were wrong, he said. Listen, he told me, do they read science fiction and fantasy? I thought about it–I wasn’t sure. I also didn’t want to admit that I don’t read science fiction and fantasy, at least not regularly. Finally, he sighed and told me he would read my edited book in one month when he drove back down south to visit me and my family.

But he left me feeling a little off kilter because, in ignoring 7 out of 10 betas, I would be ignoring their advice to develop the relationship between the female protagonist and the male hero. I understood why the betas needed this–in the end, the protagonist goes on a suicidal mission to rescue her man, and they didn’t see why she would bother. How Clayton read the book, however, was exactly as I’d meant the book to be read. I don’t write romances. I never have and never will. The relationship aspect, from Clayton’s perspective, occurs after the end of the book–after the protagonist has set things right so that a relationship can develop in the first place. That is what’s at issue–that they have to find a way to be together. Now that I’ve rewritten most of the book with a more fully developed in-plot relationship, I feel uneasy about it.

Later, I expressed this to my husband, who has to listen to all my story problems, poor man. He interrupted me by shouting, “Clayton reads science fiction and fantasy. You have to listen to him!” There it was again. I hung my head. But I don’t read those genres, I admitted. Except Ray Bradbury, I added. Bradbury was my favorite author in junior high and high school. Oh, and C.S. Lewis and Ursula K. Le Guin and Madeleine L’engle and . . .

At what point in my life did I forget about speculative fiction? It’s no wonder that the first book I loved writing falls into the realm of  the speculative. Childhood reading affects a person more than any other period of reading. What does all this mean for the book I’ve very nearly finished rewriting? I don’t know. I’ll wait to see what Clayton thinks. He might find he enjoys the deeper relationship between the protagonist and hero. Or not. In his own words, romance is the vilest, the worst. . . splutter, splutter, splutter.

Would you listen to 7 out of 10 betas? What’s your favorite genre? Would you go with me on a new blog theme of rediscovering speculative fiction?



  1. Great post! I'm not sure…I wish I could say I could follow my gut and do what I thought was right for the book, even if it meant ignoring betas. But–quasi-recent experience–I had one beta say something so completley off about my book that I actually laughed (in a nice way, I promise)…yet I'm still incredibly insecure about it. Even though I KNOW the beta was wrong. But reading your experience helped!

    I'd love to read more on your thoughts on speculative fiction! I love all the writers you mention 🙂

  2. This is a tough one! Developing a romance sub-plot will make your book more marketable–romance sells. But if it isn't your vision of the book, you might not want to put it in there. It's your book–do what feels right to you.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Rowenna, yes, gut instincts are a good guidance, but difficult for the cerebral personality types!! Argh!

    Jill, I actually believe I can manage a relationship w/o too much of actual romance. I think that might be my compromise position. In any case, my book is stronger after this last rewrite.

  4. Sounds like you did a major rework so that can be scary. But the change sounds reasonable and intrigued me, though I have to admit I'd never be one to turn down romance. 🙂

  5. 7 out of 10 are good odds. I think you probably made the right decision.

    I write scifi without having read it also. I've been reading it more in the last year. But I also know what I like. I think good science fiction is still about the characters, not about the gadgets and whatnot. It's important your characters make decisions that are believeable.

  6. Jessica, I don't mean to be misleading. My book isn't scifi. It would fit more in fantasy. Yes, I'd agree that 7/10 are good odds.

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