From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why beta readers are angels who renew my faith in life

I forgot how disconcerting it is to write your first blog post after the A-Z challenge. I'm brushing my teeth thinking, okay, so tomorrow I'll blog about...oh, anything. It feels a bit like going to college after a high school that required uniforms. Wait, you mean I can wear things besides plaid skirts and navy blue cardigans?

Anyway, I wanted to talk about something that has kept me sane lately. The thing is, I'm not very good at asking people for help. I was raised with a very 'by-your-own-bootstraps' philosophy, meaning we worked for our allowance and whatever else we wanted. In a family of eight children it kind of has to be that way. If you don't fight for attention and what you want you don't get it.

There are many fabulous things about this philosophy. In 99.9% of cases it really does take sheer determination and work to get to where you want to be, and I'm very accustomed to that idea and ready for it. However, I focus so much on the 'There is SO MUCH one person can do' that I get pretty de-winded when I come up against 'There is only so much one person can do.'

I'm not backing out on my bootstrap philosophy here, I really do believe that its the determined hard workers who make it. But what that philosophy needs to remember is that a person can make it so much faster and further if they have help.

I thought you were going to talk about beta readers, Sarah.

I am. I've started to get some beta reader feedback lately. Quite varied, actually. Very intense, very helpful, very kind. But I have this thing where as soon as I put something I created in front of someone else I start feeling like I have to apologize for it, like it's stupid, and I think "Gah! This sucks and I suck and I'll always suck and I'll never make it as a writer."

That is me (and you, maybe?) being ridiculous and forgetting that I'm not doing this by myself. Once I get the feedback from betas, the intense, the helpful, the kind, and start incorporating it, I see the project with new eyes. I see how it's awesome, where it is terribly flawed but also how to fix those flaws. Then the ball gets rolling and I think of new people to send it to once I put in all the current edits that can give me more edits that will make it even better and maybe this project has the promise of awesome I thought it had in the beginning.

And now I'm going to pause for a moment of self-congratulation and post a text conversation I had with an angel beta reader/bff last night.
Moi: I got hazel wood unicorn core, ten inches :)
Oh, wait, wrong one...
Angel beta reader/bff: Your novel is brilliant. I read 35 pages today.
Moi: Seriously you have no idea how good that makes me feel. Seriously, like i said I always think its crap and its so nice to hear it might not be, especially from you.
ABRBFF: Um trust me, it might be the best thing I've read this year. It's making me hate you a little bit while aso feeling incredibly giddy and proud of you.
Moi: Ah! That makes me feel so good. I really need that. I've been editing it so I hope its getting better.
ABRBFF: I promise to lavish praise on you. Don't think my feedback will be wussy though ;) I intend to be honest on all points--as usual.
Yeah, that's why I'm loving beta readers right now. Also I say seriously a lot in texts, apparently.

Don't forget you're not doing this alone, even though writing itself can be a very solitary process. Get help where you can, it makes things so much nicer.

And guys, I'm talking about all you all. Every comment, every new person stopping by, reminds me why I love this. So thank you.

Sarah Allen


  1. Ah, yes the "I'm rubbish, please forgive me for all the mistakes you're reading" feeling! I know it well, and it's horrible! But, as you said, it is worth it when you get feedback which will help make your work stronger. :D

  2. Yay for beta readers! No matter how hard we work, we always need that second pair of critical eyes, don't we? Such a sweet conversation!

  3. I have to ask, where do you go for a beta reader or do you just depend on friends? I have a friend who has finished a novella of hers that shes been working on for a few years now (she has two very high maintenance girls so they've completely occupied her time the past few years) and shes trying to get some feedback and help with editing. shes been posting stuff here & there on Goodreads for some feedback, but i think she needs more technical then that. lol & i'm good for reading and giving input, but definitely am not a person to edit for spelling or grammar. ;)

    also, I love reading your blogs. they make me giggle all the time. :)

  4. hmmm i am not sure if i am at that point---good post

  5. Without my beta readers, I would be lost as to where to go with my work in progress.

  6. A good beta reader is better than ice cream. And yes, I use seriously all the time in texts as well. Kudos to you on impressing your beta reader. :)

  7. Sarah, you must be doing something right to get that kind of feedback! Take a moment to wallow in it! And then, keep on, with a renewed spark. I find that a little goes a long way. It's been fun "getting to know you" during A to Z and I will keep on visiting!

  8. You should sign up for Insecure Writers Support Group (Alex Cavenaugh's site). This would be a great IWSG post. I am in the mode of believing I completely suck. Maybe I should just get a regular job. Like that. Confidence definitely comes in waves.

  9. It sounds like you have a great circle of writers around you. :)

    Sometimes I wish I had critique partners--then I remember I don't have a fully-edited novel. :P

  10. Just wanted to say thanks for dropping by The Storialist!

    Very happy spring writing to you.

  11. Yay! For beta readers. The people who help writers polish up to a perfect read!

  12. I'm HERE!! lol

    Oh man, the first few times were awful, now I just hope that people realize - if I thought it was done, I wouldn't be sending it to you...

    No apologies needed, just tell me what's working and what isn't.

    BUT - it took me a LOOOONG time to get to that place.

  13. I get that feeling every time I send some writing to a friend, or submit an assignment. I have to stop, take a few breaths, and force myself to hit the 'send' button. It's terrible isn't it? But I love the good feeling you get when someone likes your writing. That has to be one of the best feelings ever.

  14. Yup. Love your blog and your spunkiness.

  15. I read this post yesterday, and wrote a comment, but it's disappeared and I can't remember what I said! Um... I'm sure it was full of advice and insight lol

  16. How wonderful to have a beta reader like that. I think we can love a story from our critique partner, but still find lots to nitpick to make it better. I can't imagine writing a story and submitting it without a bunch of eyes helping me first.

  17. Oh that's lovely feedback,well done. I'd be jiggling away if someone said they were hating me a little bit hehe :)

  18. Beta readers rock! I love mine - they give me a kick where I need it and a boost, too. :)

  19. All of this makes complete sense to me. I started getting feedback from fellow grad-school writers in my first workshop and it was terrifying and exhilarating.

    I am ALL ABOUT getting feedback from other writers. And it's definitely not about "not doing it yourself." That's what I thought at first, too, but really we all need feedback in order to get the necessary different perspectives to figure out what the heck is/isn't working.

    P.S. if you need fresh eyes after you deal with the comments from your current beta readers, I'll totally volunteer.


I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

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