Late last night I got first comments back from my newest beta reader, and the long and the short of it is, she doesn't like my novel and won't be reading it for me any more.
The most demoralizing thing about it? She objects most to elements that are, from my perspective, essential to the plot. She refuses to believe that my characters would react to pivotal events as I have them do. So it's not like I can say, "Oops, you're right, I slipped up on POV there," or "Oh-oh, I took my MC out of character there," and fix it. For this beta, the flaws are structural.
Then there's the fact that certain aspects of my main characters' pasts influence how they're caught up in the central conflict of the plot, and I've shown some of that instead of merely mentioning it in the narrative. And my ex-beta is right--- if this is supposed to be a romantic suspense novel, all that slows it down. But do I just want to produce a "good read," to be consumed in a summer's afternoon? What if I want to say something more?
I'm trying to remind myself that previous betas have liked the story a lot. That even the other current beta who's charged me with using too advanced a vocabulary likes my characters very much and misses them when events in her own life keep her from reading. Still I worry, what if this latest beta is right? What if I've pushed the genre so much it's distorted out of recognition and no one will want to read the novel at all?
What I need is a good editor who will read the whole manuscript with an open, objective mind, then tell me what I can take out without watering down the plot or the character development. But in that case, what I would want is nearly another month's worth of income. That's what it would cost to hire a self-respecting editor to tackle this thing.