Tuesday, May 17, 2011

About Betas

My editing is getting close to the end. Well, a week or so away (if the world doesn't end, first). I've fixed the beginning (a few times), the end (a few more times), and now I'm going through the middle. (Why is it that the beginning and the end need so much more work than the middle? There's so much more to the middle!)

Beta-Readers should have pretty fins.
Once I've finished polishing all the flaws my wonderful writer's group found... and the ones I found myself, while going through their crits... I'm sending it out to beta readers. Some of you have already volunteered (so excited!) and I have a slew of non-writer family and friends and people-who-just-met-me-and-were-foolish-enough-to-mention-they-like-to-read lined up. I'll be handing out questions to help focus the reviews, and then will have a few weeks to breathe... which I'll probably spend reading through it again, fixing more problems.

So anyone have any advice on beta readers? How many should I have? Is more better? I'm hoping this will be my last round of revisions before querying, but if there are major issues that pop up, there might be more--should I hold some in reserve for the next round?

I'm keeping the post short today, so I can have more time for editing (Ummm. Editing.) Before I go, though, a reminder: Elana Johnson will be critiquing queries on her Authors' Advisory call on June 23rd. We're collecting queries for her to review until June 1, after which she'll be too busy reviewing them to collect any more. See this post for details.

23 comments:

  1. Don't read it again while it's with your beta readers - you deserve a break after all your hard work. I would take that time to do something completely non-writing related and re-charge. When you get comments back then you can hit the final revisions with all your energy.

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  2. Yeah--lots of people say the same thing, and I'll probably be able to put it down for a week or so at least. :)

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  3. I love watching your progress! I'm excited to see how it all turns out!

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  4. I agree with JD, Robin. Otherwise they'll be reading something you've changed--and maybe changed a lot. Get their feedback first. It will also give you some distance from it to look at with your own fresh eyes.

    Betas can be wonderful and troublesome--all in the same person. If they're too close to you, they may have a hard time not hearing your voice in your writing. They may also not be able to be honest with you.

    On the good side is they can give you feedback for just a regular reader. Orson Scott Card uses what he calls 'wise readers'. These are people who aren't telling him how to fix it; that's his job as the writer. Their responsibility is to tell him when things don't work for them--which characters did they like, and why (if they don't like someone you want to be likeable, that's a problem); was there anywhere they were confused, bored; was there anyplace where the reader had an "Oh, yeah. Right." moment.

    Good luck! My hubby really wants to read your book. =D

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  5. I have no beta reader advice, but I'd love to be one if you need any more. :)

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  6. Heidi--oh, good! I was waiting for someone to be all "dude, this girl only posts about what she's writing."

    Donna--I'd love for your hubby to read my book! :)

    Ru--awesome! I'll add you to the list! (It can use another set of nit-picky lawyer eyes that can spot where my logic goes all pear-shaped.)

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  7. Hey! I was just listening to your interview with The Six (I love how cheerful you are while you host, btw), and I think I heard you say that you're in Idaho. It's nice to see a fellow Idahoan in this Utah-based market. (Okay, sometimes it feels like we're just Little Utah, but we know better!)

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  8. My biggest worry, like Donna said, is that someone I know will read it and they won't be honest about what is wrong. I want to know what's wrong! And then there's the whole insecurity issue that they'll read my stuff and forevermore look at me like I'm a weirdo.

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  9. Heidi--yes, I am in Idaho! Email me and we'll have to see if we can get together IRL someday!

    Ruth--It's frustrating having others read it because you want to say "hey! Whatever problems you find, I can totally fix them. 'Cause I'm THAT good." But that sounds all prideful and stuff. But you can't have people thinking that what they're reading is the best you can do, right? It's not your best until you're DONE!

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  10. I think a small number of trusted betas is the way to go. Of course, I learned this over a long period of time, but I now use 6 betas on my MS. 3 in the first round, 3 in the second. Then I'm done. (Right. Ha! But I send it to my agent.)

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  11. Hey, everybody! Elana Johnson commented on my blog! I HAVE ARRIVED! :D

    Also, totally easy for those with agents to say--I'm still trying to make mine good enough to attract an agent! :) Still, I think there's a lot to be said for the benefits of many eyes (the "trusted" is always implied).

    Oh, and Elana, if one of your betas dies, I'd love to be a replacement. I have very pretty fins! :)

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  12. I didn't realize you were still taking volunteers for Beta readers. If you want another set of eyes I'm always willing to read a friend's work.

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  13. I think the stars are aligning for you. My word verification for my last comment was "Bless"

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  14. (Also, awesome word verification!)

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  15. Does anyone who writes YA or MG use teens/kids as betas? Just curious!
    I love attorneys who also write. I'm married to an attorney/poet, so I ought to know.

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  16. Jenny--I'm totally hitting up the girls in my church's youth group. Several of them have already (often under duress) agreed to read it. Also, I happen to have a teenage niece. :)

    You are so wise to marry so well. :D

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  17. I am not certain that a questionnaire will work. Every time I tried this with my readers, they ignored my questions and said what they though anyway. Hopefully your readers will be not be that way with you.

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  18. LOL--Eric, if I didn't want to hear what the readers thought, I wouldn't give it to them! :)

    Still, it is frustrating when you ask a reader to tell you what parts of the plot were boring and all they want to talk about is your constant use of sentence fragments. (I LIKE my sentence fragments!)

    I think (THINK) the trick is to keep the questions simple, like "where did you get confused" and "where did your attention wander" and "was the ending satisfying?" Stuff like that. I'm not asking for writing advice this time around. Ditto on the plotting and characterization advice. I just want general reader reactions and where they get completely lost.

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  19. I have seven betas (four of those are my critters). It's taken me about three years to get together that group of readers. I don't think the number of betas is important, just that you trust their skills as writers, or their input as readers (make sure they like the genre you write in). Good luck! This is the exciting part! :)

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  20. Anita--I completely agree... unless you can filter out the "good" advice from the "bad" advice. I'm giving my WIP to a few who I fully expect to get an "I liked it" or "I didn't like it" and some who don't know much but might try to give advice. (I want to get some reactions from a wider "audience.") Here's hoping I can filter!

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  21. Robin, good luck on getting your betas! I wish I was to that point in my writing. If it were me, I would say the more betas the better...but that is just me:)

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  22. Deana--thanks! I do like my betas! :)

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