December 20, 2010

Beta reactions

(For the purpose of this blog, the terms beta and critique are used interchangeably.)

PRODIGAL MAGGIE is my first novel, so I'm still new to the critique process, both as a critiquer and the critiquee.  Heck, I didn't even know what a beta was until about a year ago.

And let me tell you, I had so many fears:

I worried my betas would think MAGGIE was total garbage, or they'd say it was good while secretly detesting it.  I worried they wouldn't get my book.  I worried they would tear it to shreds (deservedly or not) and I would be left devastated and discouraged.

But I have awesome betas, and my fears were completely unfounded.

I've received preliminary (good) feedback from several betas already, but today I received my first full critique in the mail. I read the summary sheet Sarah so kindly included, flipped through my manuscript, page by page, taking in her thoughts, and then set it aside to let the information stew (I'm waiting to tackle my next set of edits until after the New Year).

First, I am so impressed and appreciative of Sarah's thoughtful and thorough critique. MAGGIE will be a better book because of her feedback.

Second, I was pleasantly surprised. According to Sarah's critique (and this may change as other betas' feedback trickles in — though I hope it doesn't), I have a lot less to fix than I thought. It seems most of the problems are fairly minor. They will require hard work to fix, but there's no ohmygoodness I hate this entire subplot or, your main character is unrelatable or, worst of all, this book is boring.

The majority of the issues she raised, I either sorta knew it was an issue but was hoping it really wasn't, or I didn't realize it was an issue but completely agree it needs fixing now that I'm aware of it. I finished writing the end of MAGGIE in the middle of the night and was incredibly uncertain as to the effectiveness of it. But, there didn't seem to be much of an issue with the ending, which makes me go whew!

Sarah also allayed my fear that MAGGIE was not strong as a stand-alone novel. I've got a basic plot for a sequel drawn up in my head, but I think I'd rather explore other ideas before jumping back into Maggie's world. And assuming I do ever get published, I'm not sure if I'd rather go the Kiersten White/Andrea Cremer route and debut with a series, one book published directly after the other, or the Jackson Pearce route, in which she writes one stand-alone at a time.

And, on a slightly different note, you know how you sometimes read something you wrote and are happily surprised by how good it is?

Well, since Bear's been reading MAGGIE, every once in a while he'll burst out laughing and point out a phrase or sentence that is completely bizarre. As in, if I read the phrase in someone else's manuscript, I would think they were on something. I can't recall examples at the moment, but next time he happens across one, I'll try to remember to share it.

It's funny because with some sections of my book, I recall very specifically where I was and what I was doing when I wrote it, and with others, the words feel alien and apart from me. And these bizarre little phrases feel very alien to me. Not because they're bad — heck, I know I'm capable of bad writing — but because they're just that darn strange.

What about you? How have your recent beta experiences (as the author or the beta) gone? Do you ever find phrases in your own writing that surprise you?


Sarah Enni said...

YAY MAGGIE! I am so glad my feedback didn't devastate you!! Maggie was so fun to read, I seriously sat in my leather armchair for like 6 hours on a Friday night and could not put it down. I can't wait to see where Maggie takes you :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I think when we write, we go 'into the zone' or something. I know I've read things I've written after the fact and am totally messed up that 'I' wrote it. It just doesn't feel like me, you know?

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Remilda Graystone said...

My recent beta-ing experience (as the beta) wasn't so great, and I haven't gotten my story beta-ed in about two years. I don't share my stories very often. But I'm really glad and happy you've gotten MAGGIE finished! It's wonderful, wonderful news! I can't wait to see where you go next.

And I have also had that strange, very alien feeling thing happen to me with my stories. It's an interesting feeling, to say the least.


Amber Cuadra said...

How did you find your beta readers? I've only been in the writer blogging world for like... a couple months, so I'm new to all of this. Before that I had friends I wrote with, but never a critique parter. I keep hearing things like you have to be part of a forum or befriend a bunch of bloggers, but it seems like most bloggers have their own group of critiquers already. How did you go about finding critiquers you could trust?

Rachel Bateman said...

Good to hear your other betas are liking MAGGIE as much as I am!

Actually, as soon as I finish typing this comment, I am pulling the manuscript back out for my second read-through and to take notes. It's only been a couple weeks, but I am already excited to read it again!

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