How are you all doing with your NZ Book Month Reading? I’ve read my third book, so I’m pleased to say that I’m on target to read four books by New Zealand authors before the close of the month. This week, I was lucky enough to read a book that isn’t even available in stores yet! It’s one of the things I love best about being a writer: other writers send you their brand new books to read before they are published. It’s called beta reading and I believe the term comes from the computer industry. When a software company makes a new product, it tests it first in-house for bugs and problems. This is called alpha testing. Then, when they’ve fixed all the problems they can find, the company sends the software out to some test companies who beta test the product to see if there are any further issues to be resolved. So, in the same way, an author writes the best story they can and edits it themselves (alpha reading) and then they send it out to specially chosen beta readers for their perspectives and suggestions on how the story might be improved.
I love beta reading. It’s the coolest thing. Firstly, it means another writer values your opinion enough to share their work with you. That’s pretty exciting. Then, you get to read a brand story that no-one else has read yet. Imagine reading a Percy Jackson book or the latest Anthony Horowitz title before anyone else? That’s pretty exciting. Next, you get to make suggestions that the writer might then incorporate into their story. That makes you an important part of the writing process. More exciting stuff. And finally, when the book is released you get to see whether or not everyone agrees with you about how fantastic the book is.
The story I beta read is called Stim, a young adult novel by Christchurch writer Kevin Berry, last year’s Sir Julius Vogel Award Winner for Best New Talent (with Diane Berry). Since Kevin is an award-winning writer, I knew Stim would be good but it was something else. Stim is AMAZING. It’s the story of Robert, a Canterbury university student who makes a bold plan to get himself girlfriend, which would be fine except Robert is an Aspie – he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome – which means he finds interactions with other people, and especially girls, rather difficult. Luckily, Robert has a friend, Chloe and a flatmate, Stef, who help him though some of the awkward bits. Hilarious and sad at the same time, Stim is a window on the everyday struggles of people with Asperger’s. It’s a great book, due to be released later this year by Bluewood Publishing.
I’ll bet you’re all cross now. Here I am raving about a book that you can’t even get out of the library yet. Luckily, Kevin and Diane Berry (KD Berry) have written some other great titles, which ARE available in the library, including high fantasy novels Dragons Away and Growing Disenchantments, fun reading for the meantime.