Friday, March 28, 2014
Do you use beta readers?
I've used beta readers before, but recently I got them from a difference source. For once, they were readers and reviewers instead of other writers. And they were strangers, sort of. I knew them from review sites, and Goodreads, where I try to at least act like a professional and not the neuroses-riddled approval-junkie that I am. I mean, other writers get that, but with readers I try to act just a little bit like how I imagine a grown up should act. Sometimes I even pretend I'm wearing shoes when I email them.
And there are things you can say to writers when they beta your stuff, that you can’t say to readers who beta. The main one being: Is this okay, or is it absolute shit?
Writing’s a bit like an embroidery. From the other side, it's messy.
And sometimes we writers spend so much time picking at the knots at the back, we forget what the picture looks like. We get so interested in the technical aspects, in all the stuff it took to put it together and all the stuff that threatens to make it collapse into one massive plot hole, that we lose all perspective about the things that matter.
My co-writer and I spent so much time worrying about the little stuff --
Are the chapters too short?
Is using Roman numerals above our tiny little scenes artistic, or is it pure wankery?
Are we trying to hard to push this metaphor?
-- that we forgot about what counts for the reader: the story and the characters.
And the feedback we got about those was solid. It was good. It was enthusiastic.
They liked this character.
They wanted to know more about this one.
Can we put some more back story in?
This villain is a monster!
Feedback from readers is very different than feedback from writers.
Have you used beta readers before? Did it work out for you?