D.V. Sheppard

The web-log of a duck-herding author.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Those Coveted Beta-Readers

Heya ladies and gents!

You probably don't remember me, after I fell off the face of the map and all, but I still exist and I'm coming back with a vengeance. I had a crazy few weeks of building stress, followed by three weeks of crazy busy, and finished off with a week or two of recovery (ie., being sick as dog, cleaning my filthy house). To show the extent of damage this whole series of events caused: I wrote under 300 words in May, and in June I desperately wrote about 1700 words the last week, just to prove I couldn't go a whole month without writing. This in comparison to better months like April where I pulled out 16,000 words. I know 16,000 doesn't shine too bright compared to many writers - but, I'm proud of every little word (even if half of them get scrapped in the end).

But! That is all a diversion from the real topic today. As it's time for my IWSG post, I have a new quandary to inquire about. You see, I read posts by authors and authors-to-be in which they talk about beta-readers. Lately I've been thinking more about these blessed beings. I have two beta-readers currently. One is my husby. He rocks. He gives great feedback and is my biggest fan. My other beta-reader is one of my very best-est best friends who also writes. She's fabulous. Great writer. Also gives fantastic feedback. The sad news for me, is that she's had wonderful news that's going to take her away from me for almost two years. I'm losing one of my precious generous bundles of feedback and support. 

This leaves me feeling even more sparse than I did previously, but by-golly what do you do about it? I know it should seem kind of obvious, but I mean it. I've had people ask to read my work -- people who seemed intelligent and supportive and interested! So, with bile in my throat, I handed over this precious work  ----- and!!! Well, more often than not, they never got around to reading it, or didn't give any real feedback, or professed interest in more, then seemed to lose interest all together. Obviously it might simply be that they weren't a fan of the work itself, or the genre, etc., but more often, I've noticed that because I was giving them a WIP, they'd grow away from it, forget pieces, and re-reading was more trouble than it was worth just to read another partial. I'm rambling.

My questions are: How have you found success in this department? Do you only give beta-readers finished manuscripts? Do you just keep asking people? Do you get really selective? How many beta-readers do you have blessing your piece? How'd you get that help? 

P.S. Pardon my shotty writing :p I've lost brain cells and vocabulary from watching T.V. *Word - verb- that I can't remember* that currently. ---- Remedying! Remedying that currently. That's it. Wait. Is that a word?... Should that have been, "Currently remedying that bad habit"-? Geeze. Excuse me while I eat peanut butter with a spoon and stare out the window.


Hi :)

Just popping by from the IWSG :)

I haven't gone down the Beta Reader road yet, but have had my work critiqued by my writing group.

We had an agent visit my writing class last week and her advice was to select Beta Readers who AREN'T writers. That was a bit of a shock, but ok, I can kinda see where she's coming from. The second thing she said is that people like to feel important, so rather than just give them the manuscript, give them a job. So, ask 1 to look at the dialogue, is it realistic? Ask another to look at say description, ask them to think about whether they can picture the things youre describing etc etc.

I think that's excellent advice :)

Good luck honey, sorry to hear about your friend :(

Thanks, Vikki - that's really helpful.
Would mind telling me a little bit about your writing group? How many people are in it? How you function as a group? How you got started? - Things like that.
The same thing has happened to me. I've given writing to people and they've still never read it. Oh, well, I say.

Perhaps try a critique group where you can trade pieces of writing every couple of weeks. You help them, they help you. Keep each other accountable.

Most of all, though, keep writing.
Oh yes - Amen to 'keep writing'. I feel like such a noob - but tell me, Brent - how do you find yourself a critique group to join? My friend once tried to form one, because she knew people who wrote - and it never got off the ground. Do you find them in the community? Online? What's your experience
Hey DV!
I have two test readers who are friends. I've used them for the past few years. I also have three critique partners who are all published authors. My critique partners see a pretty good version of my manuscripts, but I make changes and adjustments after that based on their feedback. My test readers get to see it after that. So far everyone's input has been really good, so I've no fear letting them see my work.
There are several sites that match up critique partners if you need a new one. Or you can do what I did - just put out a call for help on your blog!
Oh, and did you know word verification is still on?
I suggest you forget anonymous betas (or friends), and find yourself a permanent crit group, one that's about your level of expertise, one with dedicated writers. Try: writing.com, Verla Kay Blueboards (if you write for kids), or there are a number of other online forums, too. Good luck!

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