Kristina Elyse Butke
Back to the Drawing Board
Well, well, well...
Son of the Siren has officially seen five different beta readers and gotten partial reads and feedback from one mentor from Author Mentor Match and an editor from Voyage YA.
A lot of eyes have been on this baby now...and just when I thought it was ready to go, I got my two newest beta reads back from Haunted Unicorn Publishing and Kit 'n Kabookle and discovered that the book still isn't ready. I asked for star ratings again to compare the new, heavily revised draft to the version Independent Book Review saw. IBR gave me 3, 3.5, and 3 stars. My newest beta readers gave me 3 stars each. So, no improvement there. There are different problems this time around, all except for one that has been the bane of this book.
The main issue lies with my antagonist, Queen Aurinda. Her characterization and behavior are sinking this book. Readers from each beta read had different feelings about her, but none of them were quite what I was going for. I gave the Queen more nuance and made her a bit more neutral in my first version of the book that IBR got; based on their feedback I decided to make the Queen deliberately evil in the new version, but that choice didn't sit right with me, and I let my new beta readers know. So per my request, they addressed the Queen quite a bit and she needs the most work. She's holding back the book from reaching its true potential.
I'm frustrated, but not surprised. I've decided I'm going to go back and make her closer to how she was in my original version that IBR saw, but develop her further.
It's hard to talk about all of this without spoiling most of the book and the character! But the main question with her is, "Does someone under a siren's spell have any control over what they do?" In the first version of the book, she had lucid moments, but really couldn't control what she did, although she did horrible things. In the second book, it's revealed that her cruelty was deliberate, which made her an entirely evil person. But it didn't quite make sense in the context of how historically (in myth and other fairy tales) people who hear the siren song behave, which is usually without awareness or any modicum of self-control.
Other things that came up including pacing (again!), the romance (again!), and then some newer notes...for example, a request for more internal conflict between Lirien's siren side and human side (I have a little bit, but more would be welcomed, and as soon as I got this note my mind started working up new ideas). Then another biggie, which I mentioned in my article about New Adult...but I got feedback from multiple people that the book's themes and content just might not be marketable or suitable for YA, and to go ahead and submit it as adult or NA.
One big thing about all five beta reads--they are so different! The conflicting feedback from IBR threw me for a loop; when I got these two new beta reads, their feedback also conflicted with each other, too. Every single reader has had varying reactions to the book. There's an important lesson for me to learn from all of this, and that's how every reader will have their own reaction to the book, and that it is absolutely impossible to please everyone. When I rewrote the book, I tried to please my critics, and I think that's another reason why the book just didn't work out so well in its newest iteration.
On the one hand, it's discouraging to have to rewrite the book for what feels like the billionth time. On the other hand, the book still needs work and I keep getting good pieces of advice on how to improve it, so I'm excited to come up with new ideas. In the meantime, I'm still taking a break from edits and letting the feedback continue to simmer, and I'm trying not to let the amount of work needing to be done overwhelm me.
It is my biggest hope that whatever version of Son of the Siren comes out next, it'll be ready to submit to agents (and get at least one four-star rating from a reader). I have to admit, I've never worked so hard on a book before. My graduate thesis was far easier!
Please wish me luck! I wish you luck on all of your projects, too!