Tag: Feedback

Beta Reader Bliss – Or Not

betareaderblissIf you’re serious about becoming a published author, you can’t be afraid to share your writing with others. It’s inevitable that some of them will hate it. You know some of them will love it (and I’m not just talking your mom and best friend).

Some people use alpha readers. These people would see the rewritten first draft before it is edited. I’m not a fan of having all the picky things about my writing dinged. I want people to read like a reader and tell me what worked and what didn’t.

This is what beta readers do. I gave mine a huge checklist. Some of them followed it closely and others just marked the text and commented with questions or impressions they had. Both methods gave me valuable insight.

This marked my maiden voyage into the realm of beta reading, so everything felt somewhat surreal. Since most of my betas were also first-timers (at beta reading), I wanted to offer some guidance.

How I found my Beta Readers

Two of my beta readers are people I know. People who read the fantasy genre and know what they like, what works and what makes a good story.

My youngest reader was a former student. I interviewed him personally after he read the book. He had honest feedback and didn’t just “love” the book because his teacher wrote it. His was my first input and it made me break out the sandpaper so the other feedback wouldn’t hurt as much (hopefully).

A book group I meet with six times per year also took the book (a pre-beta version) and read it to offer their feedback. Since I consider them friends, I wasn’t really considering them beta readers, but I will consider their feedback. The first thing they helped me do was change the order of the opening scenes, making a stronger beginning.

The other four readers I found through WANATribe. This is a social media network for artists, and I have found tons of insight and inspiration by interacting with people here. One of the readers I found here was a professional YA author, one a writer with years of editing and PR writing and the final two: beginners like me. I figured that would offer me a diverse sampling of feedback.

Why I love my Beta Readers

One of my beta readers sent me updates as she read the text. “It took me awhile to understand the setting but now that I’m into it, it’s moving right along.” Comments that let me know it was holding her interest.

At the end, when she sent me the marked up manuscript she asked, “When do I get to read the next book?” I had heard that before from a member of the book group who read it. A good sign.

Cuddly beta readers - have claws!
Cuddly beta readers – have claws!

These people told me the truth. Seriously. One of the readers had something akin to a “don’t shoot the messenger” warning attached with his remarks. Troubled spots were noted and marked. Thanks to the sandpaper I spoke about earlier, I hardly even felt the jabs. After all, this was a story they slaughtered, not me.

Only a few areas found common dislike among nearly all the readers. These things will garner my full attention when the next round of revisions begin. Other things mimicked my own worries. Many good ideas for changing the areas that didn’t work also came to light. This is the sort of truth I needed.

All this honesty means I have more rewriting and revision to do before I’m ready to move on to the polishing phase. Not the news I was hoping for – certainly. On the other hand, precisely the reason I wanted beta readers in the first place. The outcome for my novel: positive.

Most of these betas volunteered to read the new manuscript or other work from me. In the end, that means they didn’t hate my writing or my writing style, which is good news.

Bottom line: this beta reading experience encourages me on my path to publication. I will use beta readers for my future projects and recommend the same for all of my fellow writers (who might be reading this).

If you are a young adult who loves to read fantasy, please use the contact form on my home page to send me your information if you would like to read the polished version of Daughter of Water. Of course, I will want honest feedback. I promise not to make it look like English homework.

Any other experienced beta readers out there? What do you like the most about the beta reading process? Writers: what sort of input do you want from beta readers?

Perspectives on Rejection

Image credit to mrsec.com

After trying to unsuccessfully integrate with an online writing group five years ago, I gave up on the idea that I could get unbiased feedback on my writing. When I took the writing workshops required for my creative writing minor at SNHU, I had high hopes that insightful critiques would be included in these classes.Overall, I have met four other people who view the critiquing process in a light similar to my own. Check out what Kristen Lamb said about this topic. You might notice I commented (along with 100 other people – if I get two comments I’m in Heaven – maybe someday I’ll have as many interested readers) about the lack of useful feedback from supposed “reviewers.”In my first creative writing class at SNHU, everyone said “I like this” or “you have such a way with words” and that was the sum of the feedback. I’m pretty sure that some of them didn’t like what I wrote, and I know there were things that could have been improved upon.

The only worthwhile feedback I got in my nonfiction workshop was from the instructor and that petered out. When I submitted my final story, he said it had “arrived” at the place he had been guiding me toward, but very little else. Again, disappointing remarks since they didn’t help me determine what worked and what needed work.

I didn’t get much in the way of helpful input in my fiction workshop. This is clearly evidenced by the rejection my “approved” story got from The Manatee, SNHU’s literary journal. One thing the instructor told me to change, one reviewer for the journal agreed upon (I still disagree, but I will do it without italics in the future).

Otherwise, reviewers said things like “show, don’t tell” and “too much description; I lost track of what was happening” and “needs more description.” All of this advice is incredibly helpful, don’t you agree?

What I got out of that is that they didn’t like the story. Other raters said “so much action, it was like I was in the river too” and “this was so realistic, I’m never going whitewater rafting.” How can an author reconcile these statements with the negative ones listed above? Not a single specific reference to lines that needed work or passages that nailed the intensity.

I must say that the thing that really steamed me was the response to my two poems. Both of the poems I submitted had survived several rounds of improvements and constructive criticism in my poetry workshop. They weren’t perfect (none of my writing is ever finished), but they had passed the critical inspection of several respected poets.

Should a poem get a poor review because it is about nature “and that’s been done to death”? What about being considered “preachy” when it’s advice about blogging? (Yes, you’ve seen this poem right here – an early
version and the one I submitted to the literary journal.)

I awoke at 3 a.m. the day after being summarily rejected by this student journal. I had read half of the competition and only found a few pieces that surpassed mine. I’m really trying to be objective here. Most of that stuff needed more polish. Anyone who can’t even spell check before submitting something for publishing doesn’t deserve a spot.

I woke up, questioning my writing ability. My heart and soul petitioned God for guidance. Have I been wrong about my calling? Am I kidding myself? Do I really have any hope of becoming a published author?

I wanted to quit. I started thinking about what sort of “real” jobs I could get when I finished my degree.

Words swelled. Now I’m pouring them on the page. I might only have 60 followers (I love ALL of you, by the way) and I might not have a single publishing credit, but ideas keep growing in my mind. As long as that continues, my fingers will pour them onto the page.

What is your experience with rejection letters? Do you have any critiquing nightmares or successes to share? Maybe you’re looking for some honest feedback and would like to join an online writing group. I’m interested if you can objectively review my writing and not just the subject matter.