Hold Me Closer, Beta Reader…

Not sure if tying an Elton John song to this post was necessary, but I felt like it. Anyway, for the five of you already in the know: I’m currently going through my Beta Reader phase with my novel.

For the rest of you: what the what?

When writing, it is imperative that you have a Beta. What’s a Beta?

Author = Alpha Reader

Anyone else reading what the Author recently wrote: Beta

Let’s be honest, you can reread your own work until your face turns blue, but the fact the of the matter is this: you will always need at least a second pair of eyes.

Or in my case, three pairs of eyes.

That’s right, I have three Betas. A lot of writers like to have an odd number because it helps to have a tie-breaker on certain passages/ideas that may or may not need fixing. You should have a few, but not too many. It can easily turn into a “too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen” type of situation. You don’t need that.

Usually you can accomplish this by finding a local writer’s group in your area. It really does help having a race to face conversation with people going through your work. It also allows for both quick feedback and quick talks in case there was some kind of misunderstanding. Unfortunately for me, writer’s groups are few and far between here in Germany. So I have to go online.

The important thing is to get constructive criticism and to take it as such.

I know the idea of handing over your baby to someone to literally rip apart is scary, but it’s necessary. If you want to make it in the industry (or really any industry that requires writing – I will expand more on this shortly), you have to take criticism knowing that these people just want to help you improve it. That requires putting your ego aside.

Make it bleeeeeeeeeeeed…

I will admit that I have never had a problem with constructive criticism. Most of the people that I have worked with have always done so with the intent of helping improve my work. Therefore, I have never had a reason to get angry with them when they redline the hell out of my work. I also try to be the same way with other people when I critique their work (in my case it’s people correcting my German vs me correcting their English).

But I will never forget the one piece of advice my boss gave me, which has helped me the most when being critiqued:

I struggled a lot in the beginning with writing lab investigations in German. I was so focused on trying to write everything grammatically correct that the content was severely lacking. My boss was getting frustrated and I was, in turn, also getting frustrated. But then we sat down and my boss flat out told me:

Work on the content, everything else can be fixed.

She was right. My biggest problems with German are the genders and prepositions. They also happened to be aspects of the language that are easily corrected. My current level of German vocabulary is also limited (when compared to a native speaker) but I have never had a problem making myself understood. Once I finally got over the fear that my grammar wasn’t going to be perfect, my content improved immensely. My investigations improved and eventually so did my grammar.

Going through the Beta Reading process has been a similar experience (except being in my native language). So far I have been getting great feedback on character development and overall big plot, but my grammar (use of passive vs active voice) as well as helping the reader see the action more by expanding on what I have already written (‘cause it makes sense in my head, but not in others, or because my main character is not reacting to the major truth bombs exploding around her THUS WHY I NEED BETAS!!!). Regardless, I am super happy 😀 I have the best kind of Betas.

Beta 1: is an old friend of mine. She is rather new to the Beta scene so she tends to read the whole piece before commenting. But she is my target audience.

Beta 2: I have also worked with before. She has read a previous version of this so she knows how much of an overhaul I have done (as well as all the plot turns and how I am going about with setting up the pieces for my big payoffs).

Beta 3: is another friend who has never seen my work before so it’s so much fun watching him try to guess where I am going. Also having a dude read my work has been so helpful!

Anyway, I could literally go on, but I wanted to write about how happy I am with the process and if you haven’t already, you should do it!

Also, you don’t have to be a writer to be a beta reader, there are plenty of writing groups through Facebook or Goodreads where writers are desperate for feedback and if you want to help out in the process, those are the places to go!

Anyway, bis nächste Woche!

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2 thoughts on “Hold Me Closer, Beta Reader…

  1. OMG Mari, I want to read this book that you are writing so badly. . You probable don’t know this about me; I AM AN AVID READER, I belong to two different groups, always looking for a good book to read. I have been known to stay up all night reading a book. Crazy to others, but to me, it makes total sense ! When will you be publishing the book? Maybe when you come back to the States you could make a cameo appearance at one of my book clubs?. We just invited a writer last week. Janeth

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    1. I would love to publish ASAP. My Betas are giving me plenty to work on at the moment, but hopefully by the beginning of next year – I can start looking for an Agent. Most big publishing companies won’t even look at you unless you have one. Then after that, the waiting game. At least I’ll have book 2 to work on in the meantime.

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