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*

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?