Monday, October 19, 2009

The values of beta readers

Word of the day: fugacious - Lasting but a short time; fleeting

Huzzah for getting my word of the day email today, is fickle in the bestowing of favor, I guess.

Bad weekend. As in: family drama, no sleep, and doggie destruction. Ready for new weekend. Do over?

So there are many blog posts expounding the benefits of very good, very critical (constructively, we promise) beta readers when you are writing your Great American Novel. This is very true, and very important, and if nothing else helps inure you to the inevitable pain of an agent or editor ripping your baby apart and flinging it to the wolves. (What's that you say? Editors and agents aren't evil people whose only joy in life is to suck the joy out of yours? They're just trying to do their job and make money so they can feed their kids and maybe buy a pair of rollerblades? No. I refuse to believe).

But I've recently realized another benefit of an alpha beta reader (the first beta reader, yeah I know my greek alphabet, so what if I learned it from frat parties): keeping the ball rolling. My partner in crime has been acting as my alpha beta reader on the current WIP for several months now, and handing over my manuscript chapter by chapter to him has kept me on an unofficial deadline track of sorts. But even better than that, it's kept me interested in the project. When I get comments from him, positive or negative, it spurs me on to think even more about the story and the character development, and it's nice to see someone outside of the creative process give their take on a character or a plot line. I know I seem all full of confidence and self-assurance here (I do, don't I? Does this blog make me look fat?), but writing can easily and quickly become very self-defeating. You start to question every move you make, and when a story can go in a hundred (million billion) different directions, it's hard to know that you're following the right path. But with a good beta reader asking the right questions I stay focused on where the plot is supposed to be going. No Frostian detours for this blogger.

So if you're feeling down about a story, or lost, or tired, or a little hungry, hand your work over to a friendly beta reader to spark that interest again. If nothing else, you can boast a wide readership amongst family and friends on your query letter. I hear that goes really far with agents.

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