Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beta reading part three - What I do as a beta

It all started here, as I was rambling about how it feels when changes I suggest make it into a manuscript.

Then I thought about the importance of beta readers and blogged about it in my last post: what beta readers have done for me, how their feedback improved my writing. I also asked the question: Why would someone want to spend at minimum four hours to beta read?

Today I decided to blog about what I do as a beta. All betas have different strengths and different pet peeves, and I think it's important to have varied opinions for a manuscript. My strengths can be found in plot and vocabulary usage.

There are so many times I read a book and am dissatisfied with the way the plot unfolds. A lot of those times, I rework the plot in my mind or extend some scenes. My mind isn't exactly wired in what would be considered normal and I think that helps me to catch small things in a book. For example, in the first chapter that floor was hardwood and now at the end it's carpet. That is so simple, could easily be missed, and overall is so unimportant to a book, but that is the kind of thing that sticks out to me.

There are several things I ask for up front, before I beta. What is expected of me is at the top of the list. I let the person know that I do not line crit, may or may not catch grammar and I'm a very positive beta. My notes that come back will probably be rambling as my mind works through what it wants to say. I don't mind, and in fact prefer first round, I'll even take it rough because I'm best at plot. Sometimes I read through something two or three times. I know my limits and don't ever want to sell something I don't have.

That is what I believe the key to successful betaing is: knowing up front what is expected and what the beta can do. Also, what will be reciprocated, since most betas will reciprocate. I have a list of people I've beta read for that have offered to do the same for me, one day I will probably ask that of them.

So why do I beta read? Is it to have someone read my stuff? Yes and no. I beta read because I love to read and feel I have something to offer. Having a reader available for me is just a major perk. So, what kind of beta are you?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beta reading part two - what betas have done for me.

Why would a person want to beta read? Seriously. I've been thinking about the amount of time it takes to not only read, but make comments in an entire manuscript, and I've only beta'ed YA so I can't imagine a book over 100K words. Not that I would mind that, just haven't beta'ed anything that long, ever.

Why would someone want to send their work to a complete stranger, or at most, someone met in a chat room?

What responsibilities does a beta reader have to the person who's work they're reading?

First let me sum up what a beta is for someone who isn't in the writing community and stumbles on this blog. A beta reader reads an unfinished manuscript (by unfinished I mean not published) and gives feedback.

I remember the first time I had someone beta something of mine, it was scary. I was afraid that my book sucked and was about to be told I suck. (You do realize that my self-worth is wrapped up in a book, right? Yeah, not.) And guess what. The reader told me how wonderful so many parts were, tore it up completely with line crits and then told me it really needed to be in first person. The other beta reader said I should drop it to MG. I realized that book was no where near ready to be unleashed on the world of publishing. It was technically the first book I'd written since the drivel from middle school and needed a major overhaul.

Since that first book, which is patiently waiting to reveal it's voice, I've gone on to complete another book that was so much better than the first. A beta pointed out a habit I had that was bad and gave me examples to fix it. I went through the entire mani and fixed it. And for the next mani I worked on - the problem was gone and I now write better because of it.

Another beta I have constantly replaces verbs with better verbs, plus she adds description to some characters. Her feedback makes my work stronger. I never think about what the character may be wearing and adding a simple, "tapped her pointy heel" tells a lot about a character.

Another beta lets me know when I switch to passive voice and leaves great comments about showing instead of telling.

If those betas wouldn't have pointed out those problems, I wouldn't have improved as a writer. With every manuscript I write, I get better and I will continue to get better. I am grateful to these betas for being honest. I am grateful to all of my betas for the feedback they give. And I've never had a beta that I would not ask to beta again, even though some of the feedback was hard to take. And some of the feedback needed to be ignored, but that is what betaing is about.

All of my betas have opinions and those opinions may differ from my vision of the book, but that is great. What would the world be like if everything was red? It would get old fast. The next few posts I do will be on betaing, because I believe it is an important part of writing and has been on my mind a lot. Tomorrow I blog at GotYA, don't know what about yet, but I'll pick up these thoughts on Wednesday and share with you what I do as a beta.

If you want to leave a comment about what your betas do for you, please do. have a Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - A LITTLE TOO LATE

It's time for Teaser Tuesday and since I haven't written anything in weeks I decided to post a scene from A Little Too Late when Lil, the MC, meets Danger-boy, aka Elijah. Elijah becomes an integral part of Lil's life. I also noticed the LI always gives the MC a nickname in what I write, just a weird fact.

Don't forget to check out yesterday's post for my book giveaway. I shamelessly want more followers and I love, love, love all you new followers. :) Even if I had to bribe you to be my friend.

I remember the first time I met him, first day of Senior year. Elation filled me as I dressed in a preppy skirt and polo shirt, cornflower blue, to bring out my eyes. Grabbing a pop-tart, I raced to my boyfriend’s car. I'd never had a guy pick me up for school, seemed like a summer of firsts for me. Sitting beside me was Adam, my boyfriend of two months. Not only the hottest guy in school, he was also popular and included me in everything he and his friends did.

Unfortunately he wasn’t the brightest guy in the world so we would have no classes together, but we would share lunch. Butterflies fluttered behind my ribs as I thought of lunch. Never before had I sat with the popular crowd, instead I sat with my friends at our own table. Sometimes I looked at the popular table with all of the smiling, pretty faces and wondered what it would feel like to belong.

I knew I would have to choose: my friends or Adam and his friends. Although I’d been going to all of the parties with Adam, I managed to find time to see my other friends during the summer when I wasn’t working. They didn’t understand my relationship with Adam, and I was never able to voice it. I just knew that he was it for me.

When we arrived at school, Adam got out of the car and grabbed his bag leaving me behind as he went to his friends who occupied a picnic table in the quad. I wrestled with my satchel that was tangled up in the seat and stumbled out of the car, catching myself on the door before I fell. Lame way to start the year. I felt as graceful as a possum.

Waddling up the sidewalk, I made a decision. I would ignore Adam and get to my first class, AP Chemistry.

As I was about to pass their table, Adam called to me. “Hey Lil, where are you going?”

I stopped and changed direction until one of his friends opened her perfectly-lined-and-lip-glossed mouth. “Come on, Adam. You know Little Miss Brain has to get to class," she sneered. "Did you think she’d continue to be a party girl once classes started?”

Heat rushed to my face. Before I could convince my tongue to tell her where to get off, I noticed him. Standing back from the group, leaning against a tree he looked dangerous. Shaggy blond hair fell in layers around his chiseled face and lips a girl would kill for smirked at me as if to say, Are you gonna let her win?

Super-de-dooper book giveaway

I have 50 followers which means I have to do a book giveaway to celebrate. Obviously, this is a monumental achievement since I don't blog much! So here's what I'm offering:


The Reckoning - Kelley Armstrong
Gone - Lisa McMann
Burned - PC Cast
Kiss of Death - Rachel Caine (paperback)

Non sequels:

Fallen - Lauren Kate
Beautiful - Amy Reed (this is one I picked up used so the dust jacket has some wear on it.

All you have to do is be a follower and comment to be entered. There will be extra points available. The goal here is to get MORE followers, even though I don't blog a whole lot, I've followed a ton of blogs to win books. I love books!

+3 for being an old follower
+1 for being a new follower
+1 every time you tweet
+1 if you link in any way on your own blog.

Please tally your points in your comments and also link when you tweet and blog. I will choose two winners using a computer generated randomizer. The first winner gets their top three picks and the runner-up gets the three that are left. This contest will close Friday, June 18 at 12:00 est. It is open to Internationals. Good luck!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beta reading

It's Summer and I'm going to try and post more. The other day we were discussing beta reading over at Absolute Write on the OPWFT thread. I compared it to being an aunt. Why? Because these manuscripts feel like part of my family and I get so excited when they find agent and publishing house homes.

My crit partner, the lovely Veronica Roth, became my partner when we were both at the same point in our dystopian manuscripts. It was almost like fate put us together. Where I am weak, she is strong. Where she is weak, I am strong. When she got her agent I was so happy, jumping up and down happy. When she got her deal, I was over the moon and actually scared my kids.

The same thing has happened over at GotYA with my group blogging buddies. I have been privileged to watch many of them get agents and for some I have been there since the beginning of their babies. When I read a later version of these mss and see something in there that I suggested I think, oh look, it's got my eyes.

Maybe I'm nutty. Well, actually I know I am kinda nutty, not stalker nutty of course :) but I do get invested in what I read. And quite frankly, some of the things I have betaed have been just as good, if not better than pubbed books I've read. I love watching an idea grow into a full-fledged book. It makes my heart full, probably because the process still amazes me. I find it amazing that someone can take an idea or a dream and write an entire book about it. Yes, I have written two and am working on two more, but that to me still seems surreal. I still consider it an honor when someone lets me read their work, a high honor because they are trusting me with something important.

Do you get attached to your beta reads?
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