Writing 101: Beta Readers Process

If there was one piece of advice that I have seen over and over in my quest to find a publisher it is to not get too attached to your story.  Of course that sounds impossible!  It’s always terrifying when you ask someone to review your work, even if it’s a family member or close friend.  But any trepidation you might feel is multiplied tenfold when you give your work to a stranger for review.  

Earlier this week I sent my “baby” (first manuscript) off to a beta reader.  I have to say that the process of working with my beta has been very enjoyable.  We have talked via email several times during the course of the week and although I have not yet received a full report, I feel absolutely confident of one thing.  I will HATE, LOATHE AND ABHOR any changes she suggests because she is trying to change my baby.  However, I want my baby to thrive and succeed in the world.  This means I sometimes have to let go of my own selfish desire to keep my baby unchanged and perfect (IMHO) and instead be willing to step aside and ask what is best for the work.

What I like about being the author is that a beta reader has absolutely no say in whether I choose to accept or reject her changes/comments.  In the end as the creator of the work, I decide what is best.  However, that doesn’t mean I won’t have to make difficult choices.  I may struggle, wrestle and throw down with things I hate to lose or change but if it makes the story better and gives me a better chance of getting the work published and doesn’t change the story line or emotional impact, then in the end I have to seriously consider them.

So if you will allow me a little tiny bit of vanity (I promise I’ll not do this too often), the following is a message I received from my beta reader today.

It really was a pleasure, regardless of sick toddlers, to read __________.  As I said before, I loved it so feel free to smile. . . .  But know this: I don’t tell everyone I love their work. The few I have it’s cause I really do. Fantastic unique story. Truly. 

Thank you for your patience!  I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry!

Once I receive the report, the difficult work begins.  I can’t wait.  When I’m stuck on a story, I like to talk to my brother, Bryan.  He has a canny ability of finding the crux of the issue even when I’m dancing all around it.  Thanks to him, I’ve learned that even if I hate one of his suggestions, there is always merit in what he has to say and most of the time in hindsight, I have to admit he was right.  The day he starts writing books I’m in trouble!  Not really.  He has a unique way of looking at the world and if he did start writing books, I’d be first in line to beta read for him.

In speaking with my beta today, I was very happy to learn that my association with her will not end upon my receipt of the report. 

I’m not going to lie, you have some work ahead BUT I’ll be here if you need to brainstorm or need help with any little thing (no extra charge), I’m so freaking excited for this story, you have no idea!

(*sorry for that additional vanity item).

Once I am farther along in the process with my beta, I will gladly share her contact information.  However, I have 2 additional books I need beta read and I want to make sure I can schedule her in before setting you all loose on her!

One last thing.  I’ve been working at a garage sale all weekend – so boring!  But today I had the privilege of reading a couple chapters of my latest manuscript to my sister-in-law, Lisa, and my nephew.  I cannot highly recommend enough reading your work out loud.  Issues with phrasing, word choice, grammar, missed words, etc. all show up so much more clearly when you read your work.  It’s not a bad idea to record yourself reading the story as well.  Then you can play it back and hear it outside your head.   I think it’s easy as an author to know things in your mind that you think you’ve incorporated but hearing it outside your head without those crazy voices chiming in (unless that’s just me in which case please ignore this comment), gives such a great clarity to your writing.

I’m dead tired but really wanted to say thanks for following me and your comments.  You have no idea how uplifting it is to hear that there are others taking this journey through the wonderland of writing and publishing.  I’m not Alice, but I could . . . B


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