Happy Tuesday, folks, Doris here. Today’s thoughts are on the need for beta readers, critique partners, call them what you will, as long as you have one. And, really, if you’re serious about this writing business, whether you’re an aspiring author, a newbie author, or have a hundred plus books under your belt, you need that extra pair of eyes.
I recently read somewhere that some authors with the big five have a clause in their contract that they don’t need edits.
Oooookaayyy then. Putting aside the over inflated ego bit there for a minute, really? I mean, REALLY?
You think you’re that good that you don’t benefit from a critical eye cast over your story.
Do me and the rest of the world a favor and get out of here.
That’s the biggest load off bull crap I ever heard! For starters, we’re blind to our own mistakes. As Authors we know our characters inside out (or should do, more on that later), we know what we meant to say, read what we want to be there, and of course the story makes sense. It’s an entirely different thing to the reader. They’ll be left scratching their heads in wonder. At best they laugh, at worst they give up on what could have been a good story, and quite possibly won’t bother to read you again.
While this can happen to any author, some stories just don’t resonate with even the most loyal reader of your work, you can avoid that by making sure you have your fail saves in place.
Long before your story hits the editing stage, and whether you’re traditionally published or self pubbed, you should have had someone else check your story.
This can be an in-depth ‘redit’ as the lovely Raven McAllan and I call our beta reading, or simply a read over by someone you trust. What it must be is honest. Brutal honesty is required, as the title says, because otherwise… What is the point?
I was reminded of this over the weekend. As I mentioned on here in a previous blog, I’ve spent a few days with Raven and my oldest daughters in Scotland.
We had a lovely time and among other things I asked her to read over a ms that I wasn’t enthused with. I kept stalling on it. I would have little flashes of inspiration, and then it would fizzle out and well… something clearly wasn’t working, yet I had no clue what.
I did like the story, knew what needed to happen, but.
That BUT kept niggling at me. I mean I had 28 K of this damn story, so why couldn’t I finish it. Raven had previously read bits of it, and loved it, so I was stumped. What she hadn’t done was read it in one with a truly critical eye, because we normally don’t do that until we’ve written the story and typed those magic two words.
Well, the way I was going The End was never going to happen, so I e-mailed those 28 K to Raven, grabbed the Gin and braced myself.
Let me tell you, the feedback Raven gave me within the first few paragraphs alone made me cringe and want to hide. What hurt the most was this comment.
“Doris, I want to shake you. I’m disappointed in you. This is a good enough story, but you don’t write just good enough. You write great stories. Make me feel. Make me care. You’re not doing this here…”
I shan’t bore with you the rest of what she said, but those 28 K came back to me with one recurring theme.
EXPLAIN. EXPAND. DESCRIBE. WHY? EXPAND. EXPLAIN. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
I make Raven sound a right nag, but, you know what. That was the kick up the jacksy I needed. From the first comment she made on the first page, I knew she was right. I just hadn’t been able to SEE it.
Even now when I just read it, I don’t see it, and then I look at her comments and it’s like yeah. She was and is so right.
Did I like being told, I was short-changing not only myself but also any potential reader of this story? Hell no.
But I knew Raven would tell me the truth, and that’s what I needed. I know she worried about her blunt delivery, but sometimes you need to be blunt. Raven and I know each other inside out, and I knew for her to be this cruel to be kind, I really messed up with this story. That’s why I wasn’t happy with it after all.
To prove the point, I added over 1 K to that story just in the first few paragraphs.
This, for instance:
If only she had the courage to go up on the auction stage herself. However, the mere thought of anyone bidding on her, gave her palpitations…
She wiped her clammy hands on her barely there skirt and frowned. In truth the itty bitty floral concoction she chose to wear to the club was far too short for a woman her age, but so the fuck what. She was done with conforming and wondering what other folks thought of her. Besides, if you couldn’t be yourself at a kink club, where could you be? Not that she had the courage to truly let herself go. If she had she’d be up there on that stage. The amounts subs went for in these Auctions never ceased to amaze her. She so wanted to be one of them. However, the mere thought of anyone bidding on her, made her already far too fast heartbeat reach dangerous levels. She could see the headlines now.
Woman gave herself a heart attack in sex club.
I think you can see the difference, right?
As Raven quite rightly pointed out, I needed to delve deeper, much deeper. Show, not tell. That last one is a classic newbie mistake, and, heck, I know better.
Why did I skim the surface on this story? Who knows. I haven’t got an answer to that one, but I do have a Raven, who helps to keep me on the straight and narrow, or should that be kinky path. 😉
Either way, the point I’m making is this one.
Swallow your ego, your pride, your whatever you want to call it, reach out and ask for help. Even if you think all is going swimmingly, and you’ve written the best story you possibly could…
Trust me, you won’t have. There is always, ALWAYS, room for improvement, and no, you won’t see it. But your beta reader will.
I hasten to add the above scenario is not the norm for Raven and I. I get the odd comment along those lines all the time, and I do the same for Raven, as we usually write fairly clean and coherent, but every once in a while, either one of us goes off on a tangent, doesn’t write to the best of her ability, and the other one is there to go, “Oi, Missus. This is not on. Do better.”
And that, in a nutshell, is what all us authorly types ought to strive to do. Write better with each story, not, as I did in this instance, think to myself, “Oh, this will do.”
Yeah, it would do, but that’s really not good enough. Do the very best you can, or don’t bother.
Brutal honesty, always, that’s what you need when you send your ms off to your beta reader, and thank the lord, Raven gives me that, and vice versa.
So, the moral of the story, so to speak.
You all need your own Raven, but you can’t have mine. I’m not sharing her, nope. Find your own.
That’s all from me today, folks.
Do stay naughty,