Beta Reading. I’ve talked about this before, on my other blog, but since this is a new blog I figured I’d touch on it again. You can not underestimate the value of betas. Seriously. And I’m not talking about your mom, or your spouse, or your sister. Not that they would lie to you, but those people love you; therefore you can’t really trust their judgment with regards to your work.
The best beta readers are going to be the ones who know so little about you that they aren’t afraid to tell you if something sucks. It’s hard to hear, sometimes (believe me…I know!), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial. As a writer, that’s exactly the kind of feedback that you want, because it’s vitally important to know what works in your story and what doesn’t. And why.
One unfortunate tendency I’ve noticed while beta reading is for some authors to bite me back. Now, I’ve done my share of defending certain things in my work, but I try to keep an even keel, especially with someone who I have asked for honest critique and/or suggestions. What I’m talking about are the angry comments like “Well, you just don’t understand…” or “You missed the importance of…” etc. etc. Please, please do not do this. Betas are there to HELP you get better. They are trying to help you understand how to make your work more appealing. Snapping at them over something they don’t like is foolish and will not earn you any points, now or in the future. If anything, it will make that person less inclined to help you at all.
A good, bluntly honest beta is a valuable resource for writers, both published and unpublished, and should be treated with respect. Remember that the next time you feel like jumping in, fists swinging, to defend something in your book that your beta doesn’t like. Take a deep breath, and think…really THINK…about the part the beta stumbled over. Is it done poorly? Is it necessary to the story? Does it make sense? Another important consideration is this: Is the point of contention important to the story, or is it important to YOU? The two are not the same.
On that note, I would recommend a book called 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published….and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh to any aspiring author. There are a lot of things in there to look at and ask yourself. Buy it and read it; it’s good info.
Anyway, I’ve got to get back to (pretending to) work. Coming soon, more info on my chapbook, as well as the Creature Feature anthology coming out in June with a short by Yours Truly. And maybe some other good stuff. You’ll have to check back to see what.