Week 11 Report: Prepare for Beta Readers (And write write write)

writers-blockBy Ani Johnson

We have left the stages of lectures and discussions and hit the home stretch. The realization that we need a lot of pages, and possibly not enough words to fit those pages.

With all the partials getting turned in soon, we discovered just what we need to work on this week, which I think ended up being different for every person in the fishbowl. And will probably be different for those of you outside it.

Overview

Have you been writing? Did you find the place you need to write? I sure hope so. Sometimes you need to realize that your writing time is the most important part of your novel. This week we start Beta Groups, and I’m the second story we’ll be critiquing. While most, if not all but me, in our class are handing off the start of a novel, I’ve continued one that I have been working on for a while. I started “Part 2” of it this semester, and it’s all coming together today.

This is the moment where I think you need to learn to appreciate having a beta reader who will know your work from start to finish. I discovered that there was a lot of exposition in Part 1 of my novel, and I don’t know if I got it all in a synopsis.

I would highly suggest taking the time to write your own synopsis for your story. It makes you look at the really important parts of a novel – I had to pick and choose what was important, so that I didn’t overwhelm my beta group with pages. I needed 20 to 40 pages of Part 2 – the synopsis of Part 1 couldn’t count for any of them!

Readings

If you find a beta reader who is also a writer, give them the courtesy of being their beta reader too. There were two more stories I read that will be sharing critique time with me, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. They aren’t polished – but neither is mine. However, reading someone else’s work has given me a chance to think “Oh yeah, this needs work… And I do that too, I should remember to work on that.”

I think reading rough drafts of other authors probably help me in my writing as much as reading published books.

Learning Activity

Take a look at the genre you like to write. Personally, I love creating Fantasy. I’m a world builder – I think in big pictures. Working with my beta group – all of us creating fantastical and not of this world stories – has been an interesting experience, because it is really rare that you find a classroom that actually has that happen. For the most part, you get paired up with whoever.

When searching for beta readers, and fellow writers, find those who have a similar genre to yours. They understand the tropes, the clichés, and the problems of your writing more than someone who writes a different genre.

No offense to my writer friends who don’t write fantasy, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to dump world building into a story when you don’t have to do it very often.

Takeaways

  • Find a beta group
  • If possible, those beta readers should be on a similar genre to your writing.
  • Remember to return the favor and be willing to be a Beta Reader for someone else.
  • Try writing a synopsis for your story to see where the important information is.
  • Let your beta readers start from the beginning – not Part 2.

What I learned

  1. I think, once my story is complete, I need to find friends who would be willing to be beta readers. I am dubious of how well of a critique I can receive when I’m missing major character developments from part 1.
  2. Having a novel being critiqued is a lot more nerve wracking than any critique I’ve been through yet.
  3. Beta Readers who are also writers is great, because I can share the really bad writing days with them.
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2 Comments on “Week 11 Report: Prepare for Beta Readers (And write write write)”

  1. Leslie Bales says:

    I have been a silent outside of the fishbowl participant since the onset. At 53 years old, this is my first attempt at writing a novel. I have learned a lot to improve my writing skills by what the instructor has shared, as well as how the inside fishbowl participants share their experiences. I appreciate being able to share this experience with you. The idea of having a beta reader to share feedback with is something that interests me and sharing with someone who writes in the same genre makes sense.

    I was not blessed with the creativity to write fantasy. In fact, I’m not even sure I’m blessed at all to write, but I sure have been inspired to tell my story. It’s not about overcoming some major life obstacle or how I climbed the tallest mountain in the world, or anything like that. My story is simply called the Wedding Pearls.

    I started writing last July when my sister and I were sitting together discussing with our mother the upcoming weddings of three of our children. The discussion of the wedding pearls again surfaced. My father purchased the pearls while stationed in Japan in the 50’s. What I didn’t realize is that the pearls had only ever been worn in weddings. As we went over every woman that had worn the pearls, we realized there was not a single divorce. While my niece was married at 18 and then divorced, she did not wear the pearls. There are nearly 200 years of marriage combined from the women in my family who wore the pearls. I wanted to tell their stories. Because my father served in the Army, my brother and I served in the Air Force, and my sister and I married Navy men, there is a lot of military woven into this story. I talk about the impact the sinking of the USS Thresher had on my father and how the USS Seawolf sat off the coast of Russia stealing government intelligence for nearly a decade during the time my husband served onboard the 2nd ever made nuclear submarine. I also talk a lot about my travels across the world as the first female certified C5-A Loadmaster in the 301st Military Airlift Squadron at Travis AFB, CA before meeting my husband in a Marine Corps bar. I’ve completed nearly 40,000 words to the story and I’d say I’m half way done. While I created an outline for the story, I really just jumped in and started writing. My biggest challenge is figuring out how to end the story. I’m hopeful it comes to me once I get there.

    If there is anyone interested in being my beta reader, I would welcome the opportunity to receive your feedback as well to read your story and provide you with feedback. I will warn you that I am far from being a skilled writer, but I love to read and feel I can offer constructive feedback. All I ask is that you don’t sugar coat anything on your feedback. While the feedback I’ve received thus far (from my sister) has been inspiring, I feel she is too close to the story. I could really use an unbiased opinion and someone who would offer suggestions on how I can improve my writing.

    • Cathy Day says:

      Leslie,

      The story you’re trying to tell sounds fascinating. I have some suggestions for you about finding readers. Because–to be honest–this comment may not be an effective way to get someone’s attention. The other people following the blog are not alerted when a comment is left.

      All of my suggestions involve “putting yourself out there” a bit more. Signing up for and commenting on this blog are all steps you’ve been taking toward a goal of making writing this book “real” to you. These are just some more steps!

      1.) if you use Facebook, join this group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/iamnovelingoutside/ so that you can more easily communicate with other writers.

      2.) Join an online writing community.

      3.) Join a face to face writing group in your area. Try libraries and community centers. Any place that offers writing classes.

      4.) Go to a writers’ conference like the one here in Muncie, Midwest Writers Workshop. http://www.midwestwriters.org.

      5.) Take an online writing class. I recommend the ones offered by universities like Stanford and by well-regarding literary centers like Grub Street.

      It’s important for you to get feedback from other writers, but feedback from a friend who reads can be useful too.

      I will put a note in the FB group to let people know you’ve left this comment, but won’t be able to do that from this point on.

      Good luck!
      Cathy


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