You know that phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well, I don’t have any non-furry children, so I don’t know how true that is… but I know it’s pretty accurate when it comes to books.
I mentioned in an earlier blog post that, as a kid, I had this idea that being a writer involved sitting in a romantic garrett and plugging away at a typewriter and then shipping a manuscript off to an editor. Then it would magically become a book–voila!
Which is very, very far from the truth.
Granted, the initial part is fairly solitary.
But once the draft is done, and polished the best of my ability, there’s an important step before sending it off to be read by strangers.
That’s where beta readers come in.
In my case, my beta readers are people I’m very close with, who I trust to tell me the truth. Other authors I know get their betas from critique groups or fan pages. There’s really no wrong way to find a beta. So long as it’s someone you can work well with.
Once I’ve done a couple of passes for basic grammar and editing, I message my betas to let them know I’m ready for them, and what kind of turnaround time I’m looking for. (Waiting to hear back is one of the hardest things!)
But what exactly does a beta reader do, you ask?
In the case of my amazing Beta Team Voltron, they do a little of everything. They read my stuff and tell me what works and what doesn’t, whether something is true to a character, or doesn’t make sense. They catch typos and grammar issues.
They make my writing better. Stronger.
I am incredibly lucky in that four of my very best friends are willing to beta for me. I refer to them as ‘Beta Team Voltron’ because they work really well in tandem. Individually, they are awesome, of course. Any one of them on their own is worth their weight in gold. But together, they are priceless.
(I’m not even kidding. If another author tried to poach them, there might be murder.)
One of BTV is really great with the emotional tone of the story. C will let me know if something is out of whack, and helps me make sure that the emotions I am trying to convey are coming through.
Another is exceptionally good at keeping me honest on character logic. Stories that violate their own internal logic are one of my biggest pet peeves, and without T, I’m afraid I would fall victim to it myself. She questions the characters’ motivations and makes sure I have reasons beyond expedience for their actions.
K doesn’t think like me, which is very valuable. My other betas and I tend to think alike. Which is good in some ways, because it helps them understand where my writing is coming from. But K’s mind works differently, her thoughts and experiences are nothing like mine. I love her to death, but we are very different people. Which is great, because she brings that different perspective to the work and can call me out on things that I assume are universal because they are the way I feel. She challenges my complacency.
A is the master of technique. Word choice, flow, pacing.
She beta reads my stuff like a surgeon with a scalpel, helping me carve out the strongest possible story from my rough drafts.
Each time the 4 of them read something of mine, they cover their various areas of expertise, giving me the widest range of comments and critiques. They also occasionally note the same things, which gives me multiple points of view on trouble areas, and lets me know when something really needs to be fixed.
Beta readers aren’t the same as editors, but thanks to my amazing Team Voltron, the work I send off to the actual editors is tight and requires much less work from them.
If it wasn’t for BTV, my work would be considerably poorer. (They don’t beta this blog, to give you an idea. Hence why I ramble too much and meander in my topics.)
My betas are total rockstars. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be without them!
With extra special thanks to my Beta Team Voltron: T, A, C, & K. Love you ladies!!
PS: My friend and fellow author Scott Roche was nice enough to have me over on his blog today for a little interview about writing erotica. Check it out!