Thursday, November 19, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: Slow But Steady Beta

I’m obviously a day behind with my blogging schedule, but I simply can’t skip this week’s “Whimsical Wednesday.” This is usually the day that I muse about my non-food/travel/movie interests, so I thought I’d chat briefly about beta-reading – a newly adopted interest in recent months.

Over the summer and after much soul-searching, I realized that my first novel, Hollow Souls, was far from ready to be seen by agents, editors, and other publishing professionals. Although my husband was confident that I could revamp the book on my own, I felt that it was necessary to have a few fellow writers look at it first. Not only does that seem to be standard operating procedure for writers these days, but I had also reached a point where I could no longer see my story clearly. In other words, I knew it needed to change, but I didn’t know how to change it – and I thought other writers might be able to see what I no longer could.

Thus, I embarked on the beta-reading process, and so far, five amazing people – Weronika, Bridget, Kristi, Elaine, and Chazley – have read my novel. While their comments have made it clear that I have a long road ahead, I’ll be forever grateful to each of them for their perspective and insight.

My only regret in this is that I have yet to return the favor to all but one (Bridget), and I feel incredibly guilty about it. To be fair, two of my betas – Weronika and Kristi – aren’t ready for me yet, but I definitely owe the other two a critique, not to mention others (like Bane and Mary Jo) whose work I’ve promised to read. I’m not, as a rule, such a slow reader – nor are these extremely varied manuscripts a chore to read (‘cause they’re not!) – I just never expected to have so much to do this fall. Between moving from Michigan, maintaining four blogs, hosting a film festival in New Orleans, and working on my latest travel-writing gig, I’ve literally been “meeting myself coming and going,” as Maw-Maw Deanne would say (yes, that’s right, we call our grandfolks “maw-maws” and “paw-paws” down here).

But I plan to spend the next week attempting to finish my beta-reading duties, and I’m really excited about it. For one thing, it’ll delay my own revision a bit longer, and for another thing, while I know that I’ll learn a lot from my beta readers’ suggestions, I find that I’m learning even more from reading their stories, which range from literary fiction to middle-grade fantasy. Though I have no doubt that they’re all miffed with me for taking so long, I hope they know that it’s my busy life that’s gotten in the way – not their talents – and that I’m really enjoying (and grateful for) this peek into their worlds. I’ve learned so much already – about plot, dialogue, showing versus telling, etc. – and I only hope that my own insights will be worth the wait.


jbchicoine said...

Laura, I'm not miffed at all! I'm only amazed at how much one young woman is able to take on and actually accomplish—and I might add, keep a positive attitude! Besides, the feedback list you did complete was so worth the wait!

Matilda McCloud said...

Hi Laura--

Not miffed at all. My novel has changed a lot since I sent it to you, so you should probably contact me before reading. No rush at all and don't feel guilty.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Bridget! I'm glad you're not upset with me. I finally have a breather between the film fest and the travel guide, so I'm looking forward to reviewing the chapter you sent me. And I appreciate the compliments indeed! :-)

Hi, Mary Jo! I'm even happier to hear you say that because I've had your ms the longest. I was half-finished with it when my betas started sending me their critiques and life got even crazier. I'd like to finish the version I have because I'm enjoying it, but I'm more than happy to read the new version if you haven't lost complete faith in me yet. :-(

Donna Hole said...

I reached that point a long time ago in my first novel. I knew it wasn't ready for publishing, but I'd gone as far as I could alone. For a long time, I was the only writer I knew, and as for readers - they were friends and family who's only comments were that I was a good writer and they enjoyed the story.

Not to be concieted, but I know I'm a good writer. Creating a "good" story, one people want to read for the content itself, not just because they know me, is a whole nuther ball game. The craft of putting together a novel is much more difficult than stringing together some words on a page.

Since I've joined the writing community - both online and with a writer's group - my story telling abilities have vastly improved. I can measure this by the amount of honest, constructive feedback I now recieve.

Beta readers are essential to a novelist. They see whats missing on the page that is so obvious in an Author's head. And as an aspiring novelist, I think its good to be a Beta reader for other's, even if it is on a novel out of your writing genre. For me, it helps me see where the holes in my own writing is by noting the concepts in another person's work.

Hmm, that didn't come out like I "thought". What I meant is that if I see it as an error in another novel, it's easier to spot those mistakes in my own. Still not coming out right, but . .

How about, I'm willing to be a beta reader because I think critiquing another's works helps me see the flaws in my own writing technique.

Anyway, the offer stands to anyone desiring a reader, and constructive feedback.


Laura Martone said...

I fully agree, Donna. Being a beta reader for others has already improved my ability to tell a story... at least, I think it has. I guess I won't know until I have the same patient betas read my revised novel. Of course, first, I have to finish critiquing their work!

P.S. Thanks for your comments!

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

I have a lot of fun following you around. People get things done when they can.The day job(s)and real-life, have to take priority.