Whew! Muddy Waters has finished my round of initial edits and has been handed over to my beta readers for their critiques. This is always an exciting/scary stage for me. I feel like the story is polished enough at this point to share and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people have to say.
For those of you that don’t know what beta readers are…well, it’s usually a handful of peers or voracious readers that can provide solid feedback. When I started getting serious about my writing, I realized that while I LOVE having my parents read my work, they generally aren’t the best at giving a critique. Why? Because they were happy when I learned to use the toilet properly. They cheered when I learned to tie my shoes and during every sports game I ever played, regardless of whether I was any good at said sport. Did you get that? Even when I was totally, completely and utterly inept at, say, softball, they still cheered with enthusiasm. While that certainly made me feel good, it didn’t help my batting or catching abilities improve in the slightest.
That’s not to say that I don’t love having my parents cheer for me and read my work. I do. They were my first readers, after all, way back when I was writing about nonsensical things like magic creatures in the woods and backyard adventures with my dog Marmaduke. I still love hearing their opinion, but it’s also nice to get impartial feedback.
Which is where betas come in. I used to just ask for feedback and I’d get the nondescript “I liked it” or “it wasn’t really my thing,” neither of which was particularly helpful. So this time, I’ve armed them with a set of questions like “are the characters believable” or “does the title work” or “is this what you’d expect from a young adult novel?” All of which will give me a better idea of what works in the story and what doesn’t, while at the same time giving them a direction to go in when critiquing. I also add the caveat that if they love to catch misspelling or grammar usage or love talking about character arc or theme, that I welcome those responses as well.
I liken it to handing your child to someone else for the first time and asking them to grade your parenting.
As much as I loved writing this story, it’s also an all-consuming process and this will be a welcome break to brainstorm new ideas, write for the joy of writing instead of edit for the need of editing and give some attention to things I’ve been neglecting, like laundry and exercise.
If you’re interested in being a beta reader, please let me know. I’m also more than happy to reciprocate, because nothing is better for procrastinating with a good book. It’s part of my job, after all. To be a good writer, one must read.