Saturday, February 6, 2010

Writing Process V: Betas

This is the step I always want to rush. See, sometimes I have a hard time looking at my projects objectively. Not the writing style, exactly, because I can usually tell which sentences suck and which ones rock. But sometimes I have trouble seeing if my execution, my scene structure and my ideas are brilliant or just plain bad. Which is why I always want to rush to get my work to someone else. Even if I'm only on chapter three.

If I send out my first (and only) chapters to get critiqued, the outcome is usually partially good and partially bad.

The good: I get that pat on the head, the affirmation that I'm heading in the right direction (usually). This can help motivate me to write more.

The bad: If it needs a lot of work, I can get discouraged. Or too caught up in fixing/editing/perfecting that I can't move on until those first three chapters are sparkling like a vampire in the sun. (heh heh)

So now I'm trying to be patient. I need to finish a manuscript before rounding up the betas. Though it is sometimes hard, especially when I'm torn between projects and would really just love to send the first 40 pages of like three different projects to a beta to ascertain which one has the most potential.

Personally, I like beta-ing. I feel lucky that I get to read these awesome WiPs before everyone else. (I have talented friends, that helps!) Plus, it helps me look at projects objectively, and I can often take that objective eye back to my writing and improve on my own. Reading and critiquing can really make you into a better writer.

My advice for dealing with beta readers:

* Find good critique partners and stay dedicated. If someone critiques your work, don't back out when it's your turn. Help one another. Really root for your partner's success. Commit yourself to reading and critiquing as best you can. (Don't give a lazy critique, that helps no one.)

* Partner up with someone who gets your writing, and who is familiar with your genre, preferably someone who regularly reads and writes in your genre. Don't just grab any beta off the street. Talk to them first. Feel them out. Make sure you're a good match.

* Don't take the negative comments personally, they are really trying to help! (and if they really really aren't, you need to find a non-evil critique partner.)

* You don't have to go through with every suggestion they make. Take what you like, leave what you don't. They are only opinions, after all. (But if everyone who reads your project points out the same problems, then yeah, maybe you should listen.)

Next up: Writing Process VI: Line Edit

How did you find your critique partner(s)?
What's your favorite bit of critique related advice?


  1. You make a good point. I have let a couple of people read my first two chapters (family members) but they were only really good for typing errors and vague feedback. I'm trying to hold out until I have my rewrite done as my novel isn't really fleshed out yet, even in its early stage. I am excited to get outside opinions and feedback on my work though, so I can understand how you feel. Still, I encourage you to stick it out. Whatever you come out with to give to your betas, they will be there to help you improve on it so it shouldn't matter which one has the most potential right now, just how devoted you are to allowing it to surpass that potential and become something even greater.

  2. Dude, you're an awesome beta!!

    My best bit of advice: the ending of SRH needed work...and it did. I'm so glad my betas pushed me to dig deep.

    I love beta-ing too. You're right, it definitely helps me with my own writing.

  3. great post. I found my critique group by writing my blog. Victoria and I clicked, so we started a little group that has 5 of us. I love it. They are all awesome writers and they are awesome betas. The cool thing for me is that each of them critiques so differently, so I get so much out of it.

    I need to be patient too, though. I totally get that!

  4. What I've started doing is "trying out" critique partners. We exchange a query and 3 chapters--what an agent would ask for--and if we both would read on, we become partners. If not--we don't.

  5. I was lucky to find most of my betas on the blogosophere--my alphas (hehe) I met in my writing class and we all clicked. But I know what you mean, I used to be the same way and now I can't show my novel to anyone until I have a whole draft done, or like 70% of it bc I need to just get to the end to see what I need to do and if it works before I start making my alphas and betas go crazy with it.

  6. Every time I write a stupid chapter I want my betas to read it immediately. Besides the fact that they have a life besides being my critique partners, I usually have mangled the chapter by the time they get back to me with their advice. It is so hard not to run out right after writing something you deem to be fabulous and share it with your people, but I know it's better to wait. Albeit, hard.
    Just so you know, I blogstalked you through a series of blog-hopping. I'm new to this blogging world, and it's so nice to meet so many authors like myself. :)

  7. Sadly, I don't have a critique "partner" yet - not because there aren't lots of people willing to read an give feedback on my work, but because I'm too lazy and clueless to look for one. I have had random people critique some excerpts of mine, though, and although it was difficult at first I've learned to really appreciate the feedback, and I love giving it too.

    Ideas are what I really worry about the most as well. I already know that my rough drafts suck (as most rough drafts tend to do), so the reason I'm still motivated to continue writing my current projects is that I think the plot and characters will be epic once I polish them.

    As for the best critique related advice... I think the best thing someone ever told me was that I pad my writing too much with unnecessary details. I never was aware of it until he pointed it out, and now I think my writing is improving because of his tips.

  8. I love my critique partners. They are the essential key to me maintaining my sanity. : )

    Great post!

  9. This is one of my favorite parts of the novel writing process. Yes, it's hard to take the criticism, but it's also rewarding (IMHO).

    When I give critiques, I always try to give positive and negative criticism. I don't want the author to feel attacked or discouraged. I'll mark up their pages but then highlight the things they did great. Nobody wants to hear only the negatives.

    Oh, and p.s. your WIP "The Temper" sounds awesome! :)