Mostly about Beta Readers

I had hoped for a big weekend of writing but decided that naps were important, too. I managed to clear the 70,000-word hurdle, with 5 days left to reach 80,000, though. Yah. No problemo.

One of the harder parts of writing the first draft of a mystery novel is fighting the temptation to go back and forth to make sure all of the clues tie into each other and make sense. I’m trying to write the first draft straight through, and will use the first full reading to tear it all apart and fix the links and leads and herrings, both red and green.

Many writers find themselves working on one manuscript for many years because they can’t write forward when there’s fine tuning to be done. I won’t say that any one method is better than another, because each writer must walk their own path, but for ME, I am pushing to write the first draft hard and fast. The second draft will take almost as long, as I tighten it all up. Then it will go to beta readers (who are already picked, thanks), who then take a shot at tearing it apart and showing me what doesn’t work where or make sense at all. MY beta readers don’t get to read and say “That was nice. Thank you.” They get to beat the manuscript into a bloody pulp so that it can rise again like Wolverine, stronger and ready for battle.

IMG_2685.jpgBut again, that’s specific to me. If you’re ever asked to be a beta reader, please ask the writer what kind of critique he or she wants. Not everyone wants a full out attack on their darling manuscript. I do. That’s how I improve. That’s also why I am very picky about who I get to beta read my work. We need to be on the same wavelength. Even a dear friend can be on a different wavelength. Also, some beta readers are all about showing the writer how smart they are, when the only real goal is to make the story better, tighter, more vibrant.

The other key thing about the writer/beta-reader relationship is that the reader has to be willing to happily accept when the writer doesn’t take their advice. Sometimes the writer has a deeper cause they’re working toward, and suggested changes just don’t work.

This is not the same as the writer/editor/publisher relationship, though. If a writer has signed a contract and the publisher’s editor has said “You need to do ‘A'”, it behooves the writer to either do ‘A’, or to clearly explain why they they can’t. It’s a relationship, and the editor has to trust the writer’s vision, while the writer must trust the editors experience.

And that is my short, one-paragraph summary of the weekend’s writing.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

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