When I was going through draft after draft of Lharmell last year I had so many people reading it and giving me feedback. Mostly friends, friends of friends, family, randoms that I'd meet at my favourite club, an author, my YA teacher, classmates. Several of my friends gave it to their fathers quite independently of one another too, telling me they thought their dads would like it, and they did! (Am I writing for the wrong market?!) Two of my friends read it very early on and then told everyone else how much they loved it, and it went almost viral in my circle. My book club even chose it one month. (But I don't recommend that as it's the most nerve-wracking experience having fifteen of your nearest and dearest picking apart your baby all at the same time. One at a time is the way to go!)
Because of the generosity of so many, I've felt like I needed to repay the universe in kind by doing some beta reading for others. Beta reading is common amongst book bloggers. Being a beta means proving feedback on an unfinished project. It's a vital part of the creative process because as anyone who's ever created anything knows, it's possible to be so close to your own work that you can't get any perspective on it. I imagine this is the way for most writers.
But beta reading can be a fraught activity. First, it takes away from your own precious writing time, as well as from all the delicious books in your TBR. Second, there's the actual critiquing. Whether you're close to someone or not, framing a tactful response can be challenging. I had the good fortune to have a lot of my preciousness knocked out of me during a writing course (oh that first week, when someone circled all my adverbs in red and gave it back to me; I nearly died...) and I understand the value of good, honest criticism. I can't stand it when people are blowing smoke up my ass. I want the truth! I'm truthful when I beta read and I've had some wonderful experiences helping other writers. But some others...If you are honestly ready to have someone critique your novel, it's vital to understand that they
a) might say something you don't want to hear, no matter if they're the Tact Queen or not (not that I am, but hey, I try) and
b) You don't have to listen to a goddamn word they say. It's your choice whether you take that feedback on board. And thank them for their efforts. They just read your book.
Probably the best way to be a beta is to approach the person who is doing the writing and offer to read it. I've practically hounded a few fellow bloggers for their novels. "Write and I shall read! I think you'd be amazing! I want to help!" You guys know who you are ;)
And dad, if you're reading this, finish your bloody sci-fi novel. I'm waiting!
Do you beta read? What has been your experience of it?