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These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

Entries in beta reader (10)


Why Your Mama Doesn't Count as a Beta Reader


As I was watching American Idol this week, I realized that the contestants on the show are much like writers trying to get agents or publishing deals.  We all have a dream, we all believe we have some level of talent, and we want to impress the people that can help us realize our dream.


These people go on the show, wait in impossibly long lines (slush pile) then present what they've got to the judges (agents) for about a 1% chance of being successful.  So when I'm watching the show and see contestants walk in so hopeful only to open their mouths and sound like a dying cat, I always wonder why these people went through so much trouble?  Don't they know they're terrible?  I mean this guy seems honest in his surprise (sorry this is not from this season, couldn't find a good one yet on YouTube).

But time and time again, we see those contestants break down in tears, exit the room, and run into the arms of their genuinely astonished friends and family.  Inevitably, the mother is murmuring, "They don't know what they're talking about, honey, you're wonderful!"

And herein lies the problem.  If the only people you ever sing for are your family and friends, you're not getting any true help.  They aren't lying to you necessarily--they just love or like you and are looking for the good in you.  This is the same thing that happens if your only beta readers are your mom/friends/co-workers.

ANYONE who has any obligation or loyalty to you in real life is going to see things through rose-colored glasses.  You have to look at what the person has to lose by giving you a harsh feedback.  For instance, if you're writing YA and your friend's teen daughter offers to read your manuscript, she is already set up not to give you a negative opinion.  You are her mother's friend and an adult.  She's going to want to please you.

So, I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but do not send your work out to agents before you've found  unbiased beta readers (including people who are writers, not just readers) or joined a crit group.  (I'm speaking from experience with novel #1 here.)  Otherwise, you may end up getting the same reaction from the agents that the judges gave the guy in the video above.

Yes, there are some people who are born with some amazing innate talent and nail it the first time with no help.  BUT they are the exception--and if you've watched the movie He's Just Not That Into You--remember that most of us are the rule, not the exception.

So give yourself the best possible chance for that agent to fall in love with your work.  Getting a crit can be terrifying the first few times, but wouldn't you rather hear negative feedback from a fellow writer than blow your opportunity with your dream agent or publisher?  Your manuscript might just be a few critiques away from amazing--give yourself a chance to reach that.

*steps off soap box*

--Alright, you only have until tonight at midnight (central) to enter the "win a crit" contest (are you getting tired of me reminding you yet?), enter here if you haven't already.--



I've noticed a few of you have left comments this week that you are looking for a crit group.  So in addition to regular comments, feel free to leave a "personal" ad for what kind of crit group or beta readers you are looking for and leave your email address so that others who may match up with you can contact you.


So am I the only one who jumped the gun on her first novel and queried before I had unbiased beta readers?  When did you decide you needed to join a crit group?  Who would you want as your literary agent--Randy, Simon, or Cara?  


**Today's Theme Song**
"I Honestly Love You" - Olivia Newton-John
(player in sidebar, take a listen)



What Makes a Good Crit Buddy?


I'm a lucky girl. I have kickass crit group, a great beta reader, and friends (bloggy and otherwise) who have generously read for me and offered feedback. And what is always interesting to me is how different people can see such different things. That's why it's important to make sure you have a wide variety of people critting you.
Types of critters:
--This person invests in you as much as you invest in them. You exchange equally and you offer the entire gamut of feedback: line edits, plotting, characterization, story, pacing, etc.
--This is the person that you also go to for advice on writing career things
--I think having one of these is vital, but not everyone can fulfill this role because it takes a lot of time investment
--This person is further on the path in their writing career, maybe they've already been published. They can offer you guidance along the way.
Proofreader (Grammar Nazi)
--The detail-oriented English teacher type. She can spot a dangling modifier or misplaced comma from twenty yards away. She focuses on the trees, not the forest.
--This reader sends your crit back with lots of smiley faces, lol's, and positive comments along with the negative things. They may not be as detailed as the proofreader, but they give you the confidence keep going. This is the person who will talk you off the ledge when you're ready to give up.
--This person doesn't let you get away with anything. If you have deadline, she's poking you until you meet it. If you get lazy in your writing and try to sneak in a little telling, she will call your butt out.
--This person is not a writer but is a voracious reader. She is looking at the forest, not the trees. This is also invaluable because SHE (or he) is your customer. This is who you are ultimately writing for.
Looking at this list, I definitely have each of these in my beta reading ranks. As for my own style, I hope that I am a partner to my crit group and regular beta readers. If I'm just critting somebody as a one off--then I'm more of a tactful whipcracker and reader (<-this is fair warning for any of those who take me up on the offer at the bottom of the page.)
So, how do you know you've found the right crit buddy?

A good buddy...
Listens to your suggestion and even if they don't always take them, they give them serious consideration.
Makes an effort to understand your writing and where you are coming from.
Gives as much as she gets.
Is honest--even when she knows it might be hard for your to hear
Doesn't just point our problems, but offers suggestions
Appreciates constructive criticism
Takes the time to point out what she loves, not just what's wrong (that smiley face here and there can go a long way when you've received a rough crit)
And beware the toxic crit parter, this person...
Throws up the defenses the minute you say something negative or suggest changes
Has a million excuses as to why your suggestions don't work--you don't understand their genre, you're not "getting" their point, etc.
Rarely implements the changes you offer.
Tells you what's wrong in your manuscript but doesn't offer help on what they think would fix it.
Only wants accolades. When those don't come, they get angry, pouty, or generally difficult.
Doesn't put forth as much effort on your work as you do on theirs
Tears apart your work without tact or helpful suggestions and if you get hurt, tell you that you need a thicker skin.
--There is a huge difference between "this sucks, I'm totally lost" and "this chapter may need a little reworking to make the plot points clearer"
If this toxic buddy is in your life, fire them. You don't need that in your life. Writing is hard enough--don't add to your stress. Find good critters and move on.

**Okay, so in a few days I may be looking for a few "readers" for the first fifty pages of my romance, Wanderlust. As I mentioned, I'm entering a few contests, and even though it's been through detailed critting already, I'd love overarching opinions on those contest type questions (i.e. Do you want to read more? Does the voice shine through? etc.)

You don't have to be a writer, just a reader (preferably of romance). But if you are a writer, I will offer something in return: either a detailed crit of your first chapter (up to 15pgs) or an overall opinion of your first 50pgs.

If anyone is interested, email me (click on the email button at the top right of the page). If I get more than three offers, I'll just pick three at random since I won't have time to crit more than that. (Warning: my story contains some four letter words, so if you're offended by that, please don't apply.)** REQUEST NOW CLOSED--Thanks to all those who offered to read for me! You guys rock. :)
Alright, so what kind of critter are you? Do you recognize any of these types in your circle? Have you ever had a toxic beta reader?
**Today's Theme Song**
"Lipstick and Bruises"-- Lit
(player in sidebar, take a listen)



WIP Wednesday & Thoughts on Beta-Reading


So I'm cruising along the editing train. I've made it to the halfway point in first round revisions with my romance. Woo-hoo. :) I will have a lot more to do once my critique group goes through it, but progress is progress. I did not meet my goal of writing a query letter for book two. I started, got frustrated, then put it away. *sigh* Why are these letters so darn tough? I'll keep it on my goals for next week.
For those of you not in a critique group or a beta-reading exchange, I highly recommend it. Even a few weeks in, I find my critical eye strengthening. Things I would have glazed over and not noticed before are not popping out to me as I read through my manuscript. In addition, I've learned a few new rules that I wasn't aware of (more of that in another post.) It also means I'm getting tougher as a beta-reader/critiquer for others. So those of you who I'm beta reading/critiquing for, don't take it personally if more comments are popping up on your chapters than before. It's not you, it's me. :)
I've also found that each beta-reader has their own pet peeves that they consistently point out. I think I'm obsessed with flow. The comment I find myself making most often is "awkward, reword". I hate making this comment because it sounds vague. There isn't one thing I can point out that's wrong, the sentence just makes me stumble when I read it. It's a rhythm thing. My rule is I make note of it if I falter on the sentences in both read-throughs. Hopefully, I'm not pissing off my buddies with this incessant comment, lol.
*Note: I'll be heading to Louisiana tomorrow to visit family for a long weekend, so I won't be around the next two days. I'm going to try to figure out auto-post, but you probably won't see me commenting on your own blogs for the rest of the week.*
So how is your WIP going? Do you have beta-readers or critique group? What pet peeve do you always point out when critiquing?
**Today's Theme Song**
"Cry" - Kelly Clarkson
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)
**This song doesn't match the post, but I saw Kelly in concert this past weekend and loved this song. Thought I would share.**



Got Awesomeness?


Agent Janet Reid recently linked to an article about confidence by Toni Causey. This article really hit home for me. I suggest you read it, but the gist is that confidence is a choice. Many writers feel that we won't have confidence until we have (insert appropriate goal--an agent, a publishing contract, a best seller, a second book, a series, etc.).
The hole in this plan is that there will always be something else we can tack on to that goal. "I have an agent, but what if my book doesn't sell." "I have a book published but what if everyone hates it." You see, we can always come up with something else to postpone confidence. Part of this is good--it drives us to continue to improve. However, it can also be detrimental.
If we lack confidence, it will show in our writing. Just like if you show up to a job interview and you don't believe in yourself. As a management recruiter, I saw this all the time. People would be so nervous and would start apologizing in the interview. "I don't have a degree, but..." "I know that company I worked for isn't top tier, but..." "I know this position is a little beyond what I've done, but..." It would drive me crazy. If you don't act like you could do the job, I'm not hiring you for it.
So if our writing says to the reader "I'm not sure if you're going to like this or if this story is worth reading", the person will shut the book and fire you. Now, I do want to say that overconfidence will show too. Nothing is more annoying than someone who talks about how awesome they are all the time. (Usually, these are the people who are decidedly un-awesome.) But a little confidence goes a long way.
I will say that I struggle with this all the time. I'm not confident by nature. My mother used to tell me all the time that if you walk into a room thinking you look good, other people will think you look good too. I'm not sure if that always works, but I see her point.
I went into my new crit group with that lack of confidence. When they selected me to join in the first place, I was surprised. Like, really, me? You liked my writing? Then I started reading their chapters and was like, darn they're good. They are going to tear me apart!
To my relief, I started getting feedback from them on how much they are enjoying my story (along with valid criticism, of course). I was shocked and so excited. But then after reading that article I realized, I shouldn't only feel good about my writing when I receive outside validation. I need to choose to feel good about it. I work hard at what I do. I try to improve my writing skill every day. And for that, I have the right to be proud.
So don't apologize in your query letters for not being published, don't send your chapters to your beta readers with disclaimers on how you "know this isn't great, but", and pat yourself on the back when you write a scene you're proud of. It's okay.
So how do you feel about your own writing? Do you have confidence or are you constantly apologizing? How do you push through a crisis of confidence?
**Today's Theme Song**
"Self-Esteem"-- The Offspring
(player in sidebar, take a listen)



Work In Progress Wednesday #4


*wipes sweat off forehead* Hallelujah. I just fixed my internet. After spending my entire evening on the phone with Time Warner (fun times), I went to bed and still had no internet. This morning, nothing had changed. So I've spent the last two hours playing with buttons and functions I shouldn't touch and lo and behold--internet! I have no idea what I did to fix it (something about DNS servers and IP addresses, who knows), but I'm not complaining.
Okay, so now for good 'ol WIP Wednesday. The one benefit of having no internet yesterday was that I was able to finish the rough draft of Wanderlust. Woo-hoo! It's a thousand words shy of where I wanted to be, but I'm a layerer. When I revise, I add words vs. cut, so I don't doubt that it will get to where it needs to be during revision. Therefore, I'm going to focus on the fact that I was able to type THE END. :)
As for the other manuscript, it is now with two agents. I sent out my newly revised query letter a week or so ago and received a request for a partial! :) So that means one agency has a full, the other a partial. I'm sure it will be a decent wait to hear back from either of them, but I'll let everyone know when I have more info.
This week has also been a good week for contests for me. I won a three chapter critique from Once Upon a Crime, so I'm excited about that. I'll let ya'll know how it goes. And I also was selected for a spot in a romance critique group, Rumored Romantics, over at Lynnette Labelle's site Chatterbox Chitchat. I'm really happy about becoming a member because I have been wanting to join a critique group for a while. Hopefully, all these things will help me grow as a writer.
So I think that's it for now. I'll be spending my day doing some beta reading and critiquing since I was sans computer yesterday.
How's your WIP going? Feel free to leave a link for your WIP post in the comments.


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