The Things To Ask A Beta Reader

Beta Readers are the wild cards in your deck of writing tools. What I am about to tell you will save you so a ton of frustration.

As you’ve reviewed here, you know a Beta Reader is someone that looks over your work and gives feedback. They often do this for free of for a minimum charge.

However, it is good to know exactly who your beta readers are, and what genre they are most likely to read. Here are a few things to ask before you all get started:

What genre are you comfortable reading?

Are you comfortable looking over a work more than once?

Are you comfortable voicing what you like and didn’t like about the piece?

You may think these questions aren’t important or even silly. But they aren’t, I promise you. They can be used to weed out whom would be a suitable Beta Reader for your work. You want to be able to give/send your work to someone that will value your work along with their time.

Take heart!

If your potential Beta Reader doesn’t want to read your work, or may not have time at present you can still expand your pool of readers. You can still ask people you may not have thought about to read for you.

Cardinal rule: Protect your work. Value time. Keep writing.

The Ears And Eyes: Why You Should Consider A Beta Reader

I love to call beta readers personal superheroes.

Beta readers are the those special group of people whom are anxious to read your work, with no other motivation than to read. It is glorious!

As a writer, beta readers can become your allies and secret weapons! Don’t discount them! They can be the difference between a wonderful revision or a barely tolerable rough draft.

As a writer,  it is easy to think (and believe) that the only person whom needs to read your work is you. It is easy to think that drafts, freewrites only need to be seen by your eyes.

This is a two-edged sword.

On one hand:  there are certain projects you may not want to be seen or read yet. They may not be ready, complete or even read over (Every writer is guilty of drafts that we forget are there!).

Fear Of The Red Pen: The Fear Of Submission (Part II)

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One thing that writers hate is to have their work be seen as horrible. No writer wants to be seen as not being a writer. There is something to be said for the amount of work it take to create something, submit something, and have someone tell you what you worked on is equivalent to snotty Kleenex and should be treated as such.

As writer, I can tell you how hard it is to break out of this cycle of self-doubt and crippling creative anxiety over something your wrote.

As an indie author, I can tell you what it’s like to write and have no one want to read it.

As an editor, one of my jobs is to tell you what I think of your work. And how it can improve. As an editor, I get no joy out of telling another writer their work isn’t good or good enough.

Read:  THERE IS NO NEED TO BE MEAN TO THE PEOPLE WHOM SUBMIT THEIR WORK TO YOU.

There is no need to tell people that don’t have the same talent for writing as you do how horrible they are at it. There is no need to eviscerate another writer.

Just like every writer isn’t a writer, not every editor should be an editor. You have to be able to be a iron fist in a silk glove. You have to be able to do as I call salvage and save. You salavage the writer, this is tantamount. You save whatever part of the work you can. Even if that means you have to tell them what is not good–or unsalvageable. You have to be able to tell what is wrong with a work and how to make it better!

Think of writing like being a martial artist of sorts. You work on the basics. You work on the mechanics. With every critique or criticism, let your skin get thick. Let the chatter fall away until you become deaf to it. You work at your craft. You work it. You hone your voice–this talent, this gift is yours. The strength of it is not determined by a red pen—or a rejection letter.

Write. And keep writing.

 

[Image from Google]

The Fear Of The Red Pen: The Fear Of Submitting (Part I)

 

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I am of a certain age to remember when all grades were scrawled on notebook paper in fire red ink. I remember turning in papers, essays or other miscellaneous homework with the hope that the spillage of ink on those sacrificed papers would be at a minimum. It would be with deep offense when I would see something that I worked so hard on be bled all over.

If you’re honest, this may be one of the reasons why you shy away from (if not outright avoid) submitting work. To blogs. To websites. Even to starting a blog. It is that fear that someone may not like something that you worked on, poured into may not be suitable to their palette.

I am here to remind you to two things:  criticism and critique are invaluable. Here is why:

 

Criticism. Completely suggestive. Helps to build the vital thing you will need as writer:  THICK SKIN.  There are few rules in writing, and I speak of them often. They relate to spelling, grammar and those related mechanics. These are the unavoidables. These are the things you have to master in order to write or speak any language. They are unavoidable. It is the content where the thick of your problem comes. There are those whom will love, hate–or worse yet–not ‘get’ what you’ve written. Any criticism is good–people are reading your stuff! However, in the threads of this criticism, you cannot allow the negative (even hateful) portions of the criticism to take root in your heart. Not every criticism is meant to break you. Some are meant to improve upon what is already there. Constructive criticism builds! It wants you to be better! Malicious criticism tells you want you cannot do, and may never be equipped to do.

 

Critique. These are similar to criticism, but focus on what is written. Not everything is for everyone. The faith of your talent cannot rest in what other people think of it. As a woman, a writer, and a writer whom is a woman of color, I have faced this more than once–before my skin got thick. I had to remember that what I write isn’t for everyone–and that too has to be okay. It must be okay!

Feedback for writers is and will remain a touchy subject! Stephen King almost didn’t publish Carrie! Anne Rice couldn’t find a market for Interview With A Vampire right off. Langston Hughes contended with his aunt about his writing career. Laurel K. Hamilton when she began writing the Anita Blake series was criticized for her work–about how out the box it is and was.

The point being that writing is what you make it. It is art and craft. It will always be of some contention. Someone somewhere will have something to say about it, not like it, not know how to classify it. They may even hate  your manuscript as what happened to JK Rowling. This cannot stop you. The red ink cannot become a grave or a paralytic!

For the people that don’t dig your stuff, there will be someone that will. That wishes they had something newer, fresher to read. Sometimes writers have to be their own advocates. You have to toughen up, sharpen your skills and above all write.

Write. And by God, keep writing!

 

[image from Google]

 

 

From The Editor’s Desk: Why You Need A Beta Reader

There is nothing wrong with having honest feedback.

There is nothing wrong with having someone else look at your work with the sole purpose of feedback.

Beta Readers are the secret weapon in any writers’ tool kit. This army of your own enlisting help you to weed out what works, what’s boring and what you need more of. The best analogy I can give comes from a process my grandmother did while baking.

When she would bake cakes or pies, she would make what she called a test cake. When she would do this, she would like a few taste the cake. The purpose of the process was to figure out if the cake needed anything added or taken away: more sugar, less vanilla, don’t cook it so long.

It was the feedback coupled with her expertise made what she created all the greater!

The same is said for beta readers! These people are the secret ingredient to what you need to make your work–before the prices of editing!–as reader desirable as it can be.

A good rule of thumb is after a draft is complete is have a small group of readers (friends, family, classmates) to look over your work purely for feedback! You can do the mechanics and other clean up later.

As Nora Roberts said, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

[images from guardian.ng and findbetareaders.com]

Submit Or Not To Submit: Do You Dare?

Image result for submitting work to a publisher

 

There is something to be said about writing, and then letting other people read that same writing.  This brings me to the subject of submitting your work.

Hold on. Let me get the smelling salts.

Get off the floor.

Remember, I’m hear to help.

Writing is a great hobby, and is also a competitive sport. The idea of sending off a thought to someone else to get validation (or publication) is horrifying. It’s horrifying thinking someone can read what you have researched, conjured and written–and with a blink call it nothing.

There is so much that goes into writing that submission seems like that last thing on your mind. It seems the scariest thing is to let someone else read your work! However, let me help you again.

Two things:

1.) Writing is a craft, art and a profession.

2.) On some level, all writing is subjective.

 

This means there is an  audience for your work, and you have to find it. And if there is n audience, they deserve to read it. They deserve to read your genius, your suspicions and your recorded joys. Someone wants to see it. What you must confront is why you won’t let anyone to read what you’ve created.

There are things you may be working on that no one may ever see. There may be things you are working on where you may just need the confidence to allow it to be seen. Writers can be some of the biggest control freaks on the planet! We want everything to be perfect. From grammar. To syntax. To content. Asking a writer to submit something?

Man. From writer to writer? It’s hard.

It’s hard enough to be a writer. Having a writer give glimpses to their work? Monumental. It doesn’t make you less of a writer if you don’t submit your work. It doesn’t make you an elitist as a writer to have your work submitted and published!

There is no grand moral. No shaming. No swift kick in your writer’s butt.  I leave you with encouragement. Keep writing, dear ones. The first audience is you, the next is the world.

 

[image from Google]

 

 

The Eerie Infinity: Is It The Death Of Words?

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Genre. Troupes. Ideal. Retellings. Protag. Antag. Plot.

Falling action. Rising action. Climaxes.

It can be utterly maddening and terrifying to be a writer. There are so  many opposing forces at work which would drive you to burn everything in your immediate vicinity which would would lend yourself to writing!

There are certain things about writing which indeed are immutable. Grammar. Spelling. Syntax. Punctuation. Spacing. Margins. Just like with breaking the fourth wall, it can feel sometimes as if writing is less an exercise in creativity and more like a practice in regurgitation. It can be scary to go into a traditional genre, or specific character troupe and feel that you cannot draw an audience.

From that doubt, it is easy (or even expected) that here is where you quit. Here is where you decide whether or not you will trust your talent and imagination. Here is where you will be told that you don’t have what it takes to write, to pursue this as a career. Or, as Anne Rice was told,

“What makes you think you be a writer?”

Let me tell you, it is this fear that kills writers. It rips words and will out of you…giving nothing back.

As a writer, as an editor, I cannot prevent this from happening to you. This is the fear every writer, everyone that desires to write must overcome.

 

Word by word. Letter by letter. Thought by thought. Contend with the doubt, so that you may know it, and overcome it.

 

[Image from Google]

Trying To Break The Fourth Wall

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The trippy thing about writing is when you get sucked into you own worlds.

 

Has this happened to you? I know it has, at least once. In the creating of a story, mastering of a world, you will be sucked in. That’s how you know it’s good. This is the thing you do with a good book–when you have to orient yourself to where you are or even when you are.

This is the goal. This is the high. This is why we write.

This is the fourth wall.

 

Being able to bring the readers into something you have created is beyond amazing. It is a testimony to power, skill and crafting of your story. Margaret Atwood describes it this way in her MasterClass. She says the goal of writing any story is to keep the attention of the reader. Then she gives this saged wisdom. She reminds her pupils that you want to keep the reader enthralled, engaged in a story–‘even though you both know its fiction.’

This is breaking the wall. This is what we all strive for. To be lost in a world you have created…and leave the door open for other people to follow behind you…even when they don’t know what happens.

 

 

[image from Fight Club]

The Five W’s And The One H of Writing

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Writing is one of the only professions aside from acting, I think, where the only authority is your self:  Can you do what it is you are being asked to do?

At times, it can be helpful to examine The Why. Every writer goes through a point where writing seems impossible, self-doubt becomes a religion and the words seem to be mud or muddled. In times like this, because they will come, consider this journalistic tool:  the five W’s and one H.

What.

Who.

When.

Where.

Why.

How.

All the breadth and depth of your talent can be answered and discovered by this tool. It may even help with the dreaded writer’s block! This tool can be used for a specific project as well.

Let’s examine further:

What.  This portion deals with subject matter, content, even a start date for the project you’re working on.

Who. This portion deals with character and audience. Is this going to fiction or  non-fiction? What is the target audience? Is this fiction? If it is fiction, is it age appropriate? Knowing your who will help you to streamline what you’re working on.

When. Is there a deadline, or should there be one? If there is a deadline is a hard deadline (meaning you can’t move it) or a soft one (it can be augmented). These deadlines can be given or issued by yourself or the entity you write for.

Where. Are you aware of the platform this work will be seen on? Is this going to be private or public work? You may think this is a trite question, but it something as a writer you need to consider! In that consideration, you are able to streamline what you desire to do and if you have the freedom to do just that.

Why. Here is where it gets interesting. This three letter word is one that determines the course of a work or a project. Here is your motivation to create, persist or keep going. This is the key to any project, the passion to any work, and a reason to see the end of a novel. If you can determine, capture and harness this–there is nothing to fear from blank pages.

How. This is your booster to your why. This portion compels you to see venues and opportunities to see your work, to finish projects and to collaborate with people just as hungry as you are.

Writing is thrilling, frustrating and also one of the most exhilarating things in the world. I’m glad you’re a part of it.

Keep going. You have an end to see.

Imagination Vs. Creativity

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Is creativity the same as imagination?

Is imagination the same as creativity?

I dare say that imagination is the fuel for creativity. They are not mutually exclusive, and should never be considered as independent ideas. The ability to be creative, yes and use your imagination, indeed is something as a writer you will not forget. Imagination, using your imagination, is something of exercise ongoing as much as the actual process or action of writing.

Imagination and creativity are the engine and fuel which allows you to write. Writing is stale and cold without the fire of imagination through the vessel of your creativity. Think of it this way. Creativity is a car, reliable and steady. However, it is imagination which allows you to travel as slow or as fast as you desire.

Imagination allows you to construct, deconstruct and manipulate the world as  you see fit. All your talent houses, is subject to your command–bends at your will, and awaits your challenge.

Imagination and creativity are the lovers and tormentors of all writers. They allow us to bridge the gaps research or fervent Google searches cannot or may never offer. Imagination allows you to bridge gaps, make past events relevant, perhaps even changing those outcomes. You become the first and last authority for the world, lore or myth of the world you create. No detail is too grand, no detail too small.

Never see these elements which are tiers to your talent and career as adversarial. They are two pillars of the same building. They are both needed to sustain the writing process. Writing, in all its mystic nature, rests and thrives upon the strength of these pillars. They are strengthened, fortified by the ability of the writer to build them: imagination grants permission, creativity gives it direction.

With passion, pursue these virtues as you grow in your writing and your desire to be a writer. You can do it, because you believe you can.

 

Go forth and create!

 

 

Jennifer Harris

Founder, Shekinah Glory Writing Services