The Beta Reading Journey

Today, I’m super excited to have a really awesome guest post. My beta reader, Lydia, is sharing her experience in beta-reading several incarnations of The Assassin. And there may be a few comments from me in there, too. 
The Beta Reader Journey
Hi! For those of you who don’t know, my name is Lydia, and I blog over at Thinking in Fragments. Some of you might know me from my guest posts at Ginger & Co., but that’s not my “claim to fame” with Laura. I’m proud to say that I was one of the first beta readers for The Assassin way back when (I want to say 2009). I’ve had the pleasure of following the journey of this book for almost seven years.
I don’t think I remember exactly how I came across Laura’s blog all those years ago, but when 14-year-old me saw that this real writer was looking for beta readers for her spy novel, I didn’t hesitate to send her an email. Thinking back on it now, it was extremely out of character for me to email a blogger about something like that. But I had just started my own very first blog, and I thought helping out this cool blogger was going to be my ticket to blogging fame. Obviously, that was not the case. But, I did get the chance to travel alongside Laura as she transformed this book into something, well, real.
That first draft of The Assassin was so incredibly different from what is published today. I searched my old computer I used during high school to find all the old drafts (trust me, there were plenty of them), but I think I tried to hide them from anyone who would borrow my computer, and, if that’s the case, boy did I hide them well. But what I do remember was that Cassie was my age at that time, 14. She still lived with her adopted parents and was in high school, solving crimes for the FBI on the side. The subplot with Connor was addressed differently, and details that centered around the fact that Cassie was much younger were also different. Other than those character details, the overall story arc was almost identical to what is published today.
I beta’d that first draft for Laura, and sent it back, sort of assuming that was the end of that cool experience. I kept up with Laura’s blog, but never did I reach the blogging fame I thought I would by beta reading The Assassin (lol). A few years later, I found that original beta’d draft on my computer, and started re-reading it. The genius of the story and everything in it came flooding back to me. I remembered how great I thought that plot was, and I wondered if Laura was any closer to sending it off to publishers. So, I sent her another email. This time, I got a reply saying that she had done a huge edit of the entire novel and so much had changed, and was I interested in being a beta reader again?
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Of course I said yes. I was so excited that even two or three years later, this cool, now college-aged blogger still wanted my input on her novel. In this draft, Cassie was a bit older, I think it was her first year in college, and Connor was a little bit older than her. But the story was still the same, just with a different opening and the ending was slightly tweaked. It was just as great as I had remembered, and I couldn’t wait to get my feedback to Laura. This cycle repeated a few more times (just with less time in between the drafts) before one day, I got an email from Laura saying that she was looking to make the transition to self-publishing. She had found an editor and wanted me to go over the draft one last time before she sent it to an editor. That was in the fall of 2014 and it was the last time I read over a draft of The Assassin before it was published.
That last draft, I actually procrastinated on beta’ing, and ended up reading over 200 pages of it the night before I moved into college. It was a wild ride, and I ended up having a lot of fun reading it (for I think six hours…), and revisiting Cassie’s world made me less nervous about the huge transition I was about to make. After I finished that draft, I kept in touch with Laura, started a new blog, joined as a contributor to Ginger & Co., and was elated to hear that she was going ahead with self-publishing the book! The release date changed countless times, and when it finally came out, I was so excited for her.
Laura spent years working on The Assassin. She’s worked harder on this book than some people work in their whole lives. She put her heart and soul into Cassie’s story, and I am so thankful she let me be a part of it. Even though I kind of miss how endearing (and angst-y) Cassie was at 14, I love the college-age Cassie (I relate to her more now that I’m in college anyways). Being a part of this journey, I feel like I’ve gotten to watch Cassie grow up. I’ve gotten the chance to see her grow and mature and understand the world more, and even though she’s fictional, I like to consider her someone I know. She was a friend to me when I was 14 and had no friends, and she’s still a friend to me now that I’m 20.
Ginger break time. Okay, making that a thing now. That statement up there is what writing a book and publishing it is all about. Touching people in ways that you never would. What an incredible feeling. 
Thank you Laura, for letting me be a part of this awesome journey. I’ve learned so much, and I really think I’ve gotten the chance to grow as a writer and a reader due to this experience. It’s been so great getting to watch Cassie and Connor solve crimes over and over. Now, how’s the draft for The Assassin sequel coming? I’m ready whenever you are.

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