Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Importance of Being Beta-Read...

Been working on setting up my Twitter account and checking some other blogs.  I'm always trying to find out more about the publishing business.  There are a lot of great sites out there and I'll be adding more links soon. I strongly recommend looking the Guide to Literary Agents that I've already posted a link for here on my site.  You get the most up to date information and pieces of solid advice from sites like this one.  I've also found a lot of good advice and suggestions at my local library as well.  You can find some good books like Writer's Market, How to Become a Writer.... etc.

One of the best pieces of advice I've run across is recruiting some Beta-readers.  They can be family, friends, or if you're really lucky a friend of a friend who may actually be in the business.  Ask them to read what you've written and get back to you with their thoughts, opinions, and concerns about your work.  You can wind up avoiding a lot of embarrassment and frustration this way.  Perhaps your grammar wasn't what it should be.  Or maybe you repeated certain plot points in more than one area.  Or 4-5 times in my case (Damn you Inebriated Monkey--see my first post for more about him).  I'm just glad I caught those before I gave it to my readers.  Remember, very few if any writers get their piece done in one shot.  Rewrites are a fact of writing life.  You may think your work is fine or even perfect as it is.  In fact you go so far as to sport an eyepatch, while brandishing a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other saying, "Say one word against me treasure and I'll cut you from stem to stern."  Yeah I know odd reference, but I LIKE pirates.

Choose your Beta-readers wisely.  Don't just look to best friends who'll stand there and tell you how perfect it is, while nodding like a bunch of Bobble-heads.  They don't want to hurt your feelings and may try to be nice by not telling you where you might have gone wrong.  Your feelings may wind up getting hurt a whole lot more when the form letters, or endless silences, arrive from people you've sent your work to for representation or publishing.  You may decide to give up on something that actually has serious potential that will never see the light of day.   Stephen King, the master of modern horror, nearly gave up on his first novel "Carrie" and had tossed it in the trash.  His wife Tabitha (a fine author herself) fished it out and convinced him to keep working on it.  Result: it was made into a movie twice and he is one of the biggest names out there.

Now, when you do hear back from your readers and they tell you what they felt didn't work, there will probably experience some annoyance.  This is understandable.  Your writing is your child.  You got it dressed, gave it a good breakfast, told it to play nice with the other stories and sent it out into the world.  Now it has come home with a few bruises, maybe a scraped knee, and a bit muddied.  If you must be annoyed, do so for like half an hour, 1 hour max.  Then think about the points your readers brought up.  Maybe you didn't make things clear enough.  It was obvious to you, but what about the reader.  You want people to fall in love with your work.  Mind you, don't go overboard if only one of your Beta-readers didn't get something.  If the majority of them got it, maybe it was that person.  However, if more than one says they had a problem, then it's back to the old word processing program for some re-working.

Which brings me to a very important point.  Even when you get an agent that says, "I'd like to represent you..." or that publishing deal comes your way (you lucky stiff), you're not done.  There are going to be even more rewrites and edits up until the day it goes to print.  Be prepared!  These folks are in the business and have been for quite a while.  They know what they're talking about.  They want to put out a product the public is going to want to buy and fall in love with.  And that product is your story and they want to help you make it perfect.

That's all I've got for now.  Time to check my e-mails and whatnot.  Maybe I've got a book deal coming through at this very moment...  And since I'm daydreaming, I'd also like a pony...