Beta Reading Challenge

My writers group just started a new program called Beta Readers Round Table

Five of our members submitted their completed manuscripts to be reviewed by Beta Readers (myself included). Each Beta Reader critiques 2 manuscripts based on content (not line editing). Searching for plot holes, characterization errors, point of view switching, change of tenses, the bigger stuff (not grammar, punctuation, etc). And it’s a challenge.

This is what critique groups are for, in my opinion. Our meeting sessions normally focus on 10 pages at a time. The online critique sessions can be anywhere from a chapter to 5-6 chapters long. This is the first time we’re doing entire manuscripts in one swoop. And two manuscripts at that. This seems like a great opportunity to capture big plot holes and voice, flow, all the big stuff all writers want to know about their unfinished babies. A great opportunity, and a big responsibility.

When all of the beta readers are finished critiquing their ‘assignments,’ we’ll get together in a round table forum and go over everyone’s work. I’m sure this session will take well more than an hour, but it should be with gold-level content. Writers are supposed to walk away from the session feeling good about themselves and their stories. And feel like they’ve carried away a massive ruby or emerald in their pocket of exceptional critiques.

How many opportunities do these manuscripts get before a writer submits them to an agent or editor?

I’ve just finished the first of two, and I’m really impressed with the stories our members create. Truly original and completely new perspectives. But at the same time I’m also hesitant to be too critical. I’m not published, yet. I don’t have an agent, and no experience in what editors look for in submissions. But I’m an avid reader. I know what I like to see. I know the difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ and I’m much more entertained by ‘showing.’ I love the emotion in stories. So those are the kinds of things I look for in manuscripts. When I give critiques, I try to give ideas on how to make something better (not just, ‘I don’t like this scene. Not realistic.”) I give a suggestion on how to make it more realistic, or better for the reader.

Don’t close a door for someone without giving a them a window they can open.

I hope the other Beta Readers do the same for my manuscript.

It’s challenging. Seeing a potentially brilliant story with vibrant and genuine characters in its most raw form- I want to help the writer make it better. I don’t want to ruin it with my suggestions that may not be the best ideas. Its challenging trying to help someone. But if it’s the right idea, I’m proud to say I helped make their story better.

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Read Your Ways

Husband Waiting Area

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

I read an interesting blog discussion the other day about romance writers who have their spouses read their work-in-progress. Their husbands’ or wives’ willingness to read the love scenes (some erotic) made me laugh out loud. I’m not laughing at them- I commend them for having (and using) that luxury. I wish I had that luxury. Because my husband doesn’t like to read. Not ‘doesn’t like to read my stuff”; but doesn’t like to read, period. At all.

Which made me think: is it ironic that I’m an aspiring romance author, writing up a creative storm every day (or most days), and the very man who inspires much of the love scenes I write doesn’t like to read? I quit my day job so I could write full-time (and take care of our son), and he helps me accomplish this by providing for our family so I can pursue my passion. But he doesn’t want to read my passion. (He’d rather leave it in the bedroom).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making any assumptions about my husband’s unwillingness to read my work. It’s not like I’ve never asked him just thinking he’d prefer not to. That was one blog responder’s story. She never asked because she didn’t think her spouse would be interested.

But I’ve asked my husband. Several times. “Just 1 paragraph, please?” He still refuses. But I can’t blame him. As much as he detests to read, I still laugh when I see him sitting in his office reading a text-book (he’s currently studying for his Masters degree). Which, when he told me he wanted his Masters, I laughed again because I knew how much he hated to read. And Masters is ALL READING. But I still support him 100% and get a kick out of watching him read his textbooks.

But I won’t rag on his unwillingness to read my work too much.  He still helps me come up with perfect zingers and one-liners that fit perfectly to my characters and dialogue. My husband is an expert at off-the-cuff comebacks.

And bottom line, I know he loves me. I know he supports me, and he works hard so I can write full-time. And I thank him every day for giving me this chance. So instead of reading my work to help me, he assists me by being my muse and inspiration for the stories I love to write.

What about you? Does your significant other read your work? Have you even thought to ask them?