One of the honors of being in a circle of authors is the opportunity to beta-read for each other. Writers bare their souls, sharing their precious stories -- sometimes in raw, unpolished format -- in hopes of receiving feedback that will help them improve their craft. And, in exchange, they will read your own hatchling tales and provide constructive criticism for you.
My husband was not familiar with this process. To be honest, I only learned about it when I started a blog and heard about it from other bloggers. But the value is real.
It's so easy to be wrapped up in your own head when you read your own story. You overlook misspellings. You fan-girl over something clever that you wrote on page 9. You weep over the scene on page 14 because it was a scene you promised your grandmother that you would someday write. And you think everything you have written makes perfect sense because you understand what you wrote.
But someone else might see your story in a completely different light. And if you are planning to be published, you need to write for the world and not just for yourself. Which means you need to learn how to hone your craft. A fresh pair of eyes will see flaws in your story, gaps in your narrative, holes in your plots, incongruencies in your characters, lack of logic in your motives, and complete boring flatness in your most exciting scenes.
But you need to know those things so you can go back and make your story say what you really intended it to say. Did you want this scene to be exciting -- How can you make it more so? Were Sherlock's motives meant to be logical -- What clarifiers can you add to show that to the world? Had you envisioned Juliet slowly falling in love with Romeo -- Could you add more scenes to build the progression of her affection?
Don't get too narrow of a view, though. Beta-reader feedback doesn't always instigate painful corrections. Sometimes a beta-reader merely wants to express their faith in your story. Does that mean your story is flawless and will never need editing? No. It just means that your writing so captivated that reader that she truly believes in the merit of the tale. Raw and unpolished as your story may be, there was something more powerful than grammar and sentence order that captured the reader's attention and made her know that your story has great potential and that nothing fundamental needs to be changed.
And that has value, too. As artists, we are often tough on ourselves. We know that we are partial to our stories, but we doubt that anyone else will be. Or we read the story so often that it no longer sounds interesting, not even to us. To have a fresh pair of eyes read it and recognize its potential will send us back to the story with renewed vigor. Possibly with tears of joy in our eyes.
I recently had the opportunity to beta-read the first chapter for one of the Rooglewood contestants. It was indeed an honor and a privilege. And let me tell you, folks...I was totally captivated. I love her writing style, and I like the creative twist she put on this tale. If the rest of the entries for this contest are like this one, you guys are going to love this next collection.
I'm gearing up the courage to send my first chapter out for beta-readers. I want to make this story the best that it can be, and the best way to do that is to have a little constructive criticism. If you are interested in beta-reading for me, let me know in the comments below.
Have fun with your writing! And if you get a chance to swap beta-reading with someone, take the opportunity!