Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Importance of Different Kinds of Beta Readers

Can I tell you how much I LOVE my beta readers and critique partners?
I mean, SERIOUS love here.

I'm sure I've mentioned them before, but if not, just know they rock. Today I'm only highlighting two of them, but there are others just as wonderful. Each one brings a different level of insight to help me improve my stories.

Kathy is my first beta reader. And she is a reader, not a writer. She knows how to get excited about the idea and the potential while still pointing out major character or plot flaws. Do you know how priceless that is!! The balance between building me up, encouraging me, and saying "but this is NOT working over here" is perfect. 

She doesn't write notes in the document I send her. Instead, she calls me up and we have a conversation about what she read. She asks questions and I get the chance to explain what I was aiming for with certain characters or scenes. Then we delve into how I can pull it off better, or discuss alternatives. It's really cool. Kathy is a collaborator as much as a reader. And she's mine! All mine, I tell you! *maniacal laughter*

*cough* 
After Kathy helps me iron out some of the big picture flaws, I move to my other betas and critique partners. 

CD Coffelt (AKA Huntress). She just "gets" me. In fact, we might just be different versions of the same person. I love her stories, she loves my stories. We write at the same level with similar styles. She gets into the document and helps me find the details that I'm missing, as well as some of those pesky punctuation issues that I ignore during drafting. She's a saint for putting up with it actually. 

What I love most about CD's critique style is she will comment on "odd" bits, but she will also mark lines and phrases that she feels are especially well written. I'm trying to emulate her in that aspect. Be positive, highlight the great things as well as point out the areas that need work. 

There are generally a handful of other people that get to read my "pre-publishable" works. My daughter(s), hubby, another best friend or two whose opinions I highly value (Laura, Kara), and then there is my amazing writer's group. We've been sparse in numbers lately, but man has that worked to my advantage! All of these people help give me a perspective on how the story is perceived by different ages, personalities and genders. I know I won't be able to please all of them, and I'm not even going to try, but it's fun to see the variety of thoughts one story can provoke. 

All of these people have helped me tremendously with FADE INTO ME over the last two months. It went from a  49K draft of potential to it's current 58K state. It's not perfect yet, but man has it grown. The characters have come alive. The plot is better developed and streamlined. And the coolest (and perhaps the scariest!) thing? This completely stand alone book developed spin-off potential for one of the secondary characters. 

*headdesk* Like I need another idea at the moment! No worries, I've filed it away until I finish revisions on Search For Knowledge.

Do you have betas and critique partners? Who do you want to shout out to today?

10 comments:

  1. I have a great crit partner Anita Saxena--reader, writer, and confidant on all things writing and publishing. =)

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  2. Both are very important. You have a great partner in Carol.
    My test readers aren't writers either. They help with the overall story. My critique partners find the writing mistakes. And both Cassie and Rusty make the funniest comments.

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  3. @E, Yay for Anita! It's wonderful to have readers that can help with multiple areas of the story.

    @Alex, I love when the comments make me laugh! It really helps with the "stop taking yourself so seriously" problem that makes critique hard. I feel very blessed to have the people in my life that support my writing.

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  4. I'm aiming to let my first novel out of the playpen by Easter. I have three readers lined up, two of them writers. I am very excited to hear their comments and just a little bit terrified!

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    1. So exciting! Good luck with it and keep us posted.

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  5. Speaking of crit partners, you may have a novel of mine to look over very soon...

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  6. I'd like to give a shout out to a few people...my hubs, Adam, who is always the first to read my manuscript; my friend with a great eye, Charity Bradford; my sister who is more encouraging than helpful; and a couple other hand-picked friends/editors. Love my beta readers!! :)

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  7. I realise I'm coming to this post a bit late, but I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed it. I don't comment much these days but I'm still here in the background. Beta readers are wonderful people - they give up their own time just to help you. I love my betas too! :-)

    PS Can't wait to read Fade Into Me. :-)

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