Dang it all, pull your pants up writers! (Yeah, I mean me, too)

This is about the separation of writers, critique partners, beta readers and readers.

Prepare yourselves. I’ve had another thought.

Long before writers become authors, they are listeners of great stories and then joyful readers. Those with writing in their souls go on to write. (Yes, I know you still like to read) but those who love to read without a need to write … read, hence the separation. Make sense?

Just go with it.

If you have good taste in books, it takes a long time to translate that into your own writing, but for beta reading, I still believe in my heart I can separate good, quality work from the meh works to the crap. There is a lot of crap. Some of it’s been written by moi so put down your torches and pitch forks, okay? The point is the ability to differentiate comes from early exposure and grows.

In the separation of the initial list above, I want to focus mainly on the relationship between beta readers and writers. Writers? This is where you’ll need to man up and get your grown up panties on.

Yes ma’am, you in the back, thongs are fine. Oh, it’s sir? My apologies, Mr. Jones.

Anyway …

A beta reader came to me recently concerned she’d hurt the feelings of someone she’d read for. She gave her honest, critical opinion and was met with crickets.

For shame writer, whoever you may be.

If you ask someone to read for you, you thank them and treat them like the little bundle of beta royalty they are. Unless you paid them (and I hope you didn’t) they just did you a favor. If they didn’t love it, that’s okay, they might have just done you another one, and saved you some serious embarrassment.
I don’t know how many times someone has read my work and made suggestions to make it shine. If they tell me what they loved, I’ll do it again. Likewise, they’ve pointed out the bad stuff, like when my main character was being a jerk. For example, when I first started writing, a beta reader said this … and I quote:

Beta Reader:  “Ugh your heroine is a big fat jerk. I want to smack her.”

After my eyes quit watering I answered: I need her to be a twit so everyone can see her lovely character arc and how much she changes throughout the story. You’ll love her in the end. Trust me.

Beta Reader: You’re so dumb, lady, if your readers hate your main character this much, they won’t read past the first chapter to see the arc grow. So fix it, woman, or watch your story go down in flames!

She was right of course.

Regular readers are not betas, they are not reading because it’s a favor they agreed to, or for money, or a commitment based on a manuscript swap. They will put a poorly written book down. So down! That is why I rewrote my heroine and made her flawed, but not jerky.

My betas told me when I did too much telling, when my writing was unclear, when my plot had a huge hole in it, when the back-story bored them to the point of zzzzz. Sometimes I had tense issues, head hopping or points that dragged.

Betas fix these things people! God love them, we need these folks in our lives!

 *cheering commences*

On my blog tour and during my book signing last week, many asked what might make them better writers. My tongue swells when people ask me this because I will tell you right now I am no expert, and I don’t pretend to be. What I can tell you is you need to get your humble on. Adapt with a teachable spirit or (unless you are a genius, and if so, congratulations, I’m jealous) you may doom your own writing.

As writers, we have to learn to take a hit; it’s what is best in the long run and what truly makes us better. We won’t grow, and eventually get good, if we don’t allow our betas to say what’s true. I don’t mean it’s okay for them to insult you or be heavy handed, it’s not. You also have to use your own common sense. But if we get to the place where we are so huggy- kissy-writer- family-friendly we can’t be honest anymore … we might as well get married and disband. Ya’know?

I know critiques hurt. Believe me! I always feel like I got slapped with a dead Mackerel. I tried so hard, what do you mean it didn’t make you weep with joy?

In truth, many of my beta readers are far, far ahead of me skill wise. They shred my work, but I try to be grateful, even if it hurts, because they’ve earned my respect and thanks. As a good friend pointed out …  “Remember beta readers have their own insecurities, too. They’re just as afraid of upsetting the author unnecessarily or offering bad advice or wording their criticisms in a harsh or unclear fashion or being called out for forgetting what the author wrote just one paragraph earlier.”

True dat.

I still give it my all when it’s my turn to critique. I’m polite but don’t sugar coat much and writers either listen or they don’t. Let me just say if a writer wants a writing career of substance, and ‘body’ of work, at some point, they’ll have to humble themselves, suck it up and listen.

… though he slay me yet will I love him…   Job 13:15

I’m suggesting just because you don’t understand something, and it stings a bit, that doesn’t make it wrong. Consider carefully. Sometimes it’s right.

Betas: on behalf of writers everywhere, we thank you! We are lucky you’re willing to spend time on our work, whether we always show it, or not.

So … What do you think? Let it all out, baby.

About Julie Antonovich Reece

Young Adult Author - Epic Tales of Romance and Adventure View all posts by Julie Antonovich Reece

18 responses to “Dang it all, pull your pants up writers! (Yeah, I mean me, too)

  • kford2007

    Honestly, I would be completely lost without my betas and critique partners. They are worth quadruple their weight in gold. I have a few I use regularly because they are beautiful, shining little gems. Sometimes I reach out for new eyes, new minds to rip my W.i.P to pieces. I’d rather them do it than an agent or a publisher. At least I know my betas want to see me succeed. Agents and publishers don’t care. they’re just looking for a reason to reject. Betas help to keep me floating on the surface just a tad longer. I love my betas, more than words can express.

  • slytle

    Love your post! Now that i know how much it improves my writing there is nothing better than getting shredded. Now I dread those who don’t shred it properly, there is nothing worse than getting a sweetheart review!

  • char

    Definitely agree with you and Jenny’s comments. Honest, insightful beta readers are priceless gems that help any author make their dull stone shine like a diamond.

  • Brooke DelVecchio

    Honestly, I am impressed that you can take their critique so well. It shows what a great author and writer you really are. I like that you appreciate what they have to tell you and take it to heart. I have only beta read a series of children’s books, but I did enjoy doing it and the author was appreciative. I would love to do this more because I really want to help authors put out their best product!

    • Julie Antonovich Reece

      Yea! I’m glad you are willing to help authors produce better stories 🙂 I happen to know you devour books, so your opinion is so vaulable because you can point out problems reviewers will punish us for if not fixed! lol 🙂

    • Stephanie Judice

      Look out, Brooke. Be careful what you wish for, because you’re #1 on my list to request a beta read for book two in my series. (I found out from Dvora that you were an English major like me, and I need someone like you.)

  • Terri Rochenski (@TerriRochenski)

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I normally write ‘Remember, I’m just one reader’ after my crits / betas because let’s face it – we writers can’t please everyone all the time.’ Contrary feedback can be quite frustrating. We need to chew up the meat & spit out the bones.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephanie Judice

    Julie, I haven’t ready any of your books yet, but I can guarantee you that you’re now at the top of my TBR list. Knowing your value of a well-edited book makes me like you instantly. I find too many indies rush to the finish line.

    The most frightening moment in my first creative writing class in college was the day I had to go in and hear what the class thought of my short story in round-table discussion. I had to listen like a silent mute (hmmm, maybe all mutes are silent) while my heart beat just about out of my skin like a frightened rabbit. Maybe one too many similes, but I hope it gets my point across. It’s terrifying, but my professor understood more than me. (Go figure.) Writing without editing is like cake without the icing. (Man, am I into similes this morning. Sorry.) The “cake” might be good, but hell it ain’t great.

    Thank you for your wise words. I’m a rather new indie with just one book out, and while I had several editors for my first, they weren’t exactly “beta readers” per se. I definitely will have a few for this next one in progress.

    Love your blog and sense of humor. I’m following now. 😉

  • Kastil

    Very good verbage! The beta and critiquers I enjoy the most are the ones that beat me over the head with the preverbial red pen. What didn’t work for you? Why?

    I’ve had the harsh and embraced it. I’ve dealt out the harsh and had myself verbally attacked because of it. Welcome to the real writing world is all I got to say. If you can’t take criticism from a friend, I’ve got some bad news for you.

  • emaginette

    It is the most difficult telling the people you care about the hard truth, even cushioned in a pillow can’t take away all the pain. I think it proves the worth of the friend, trusting you’ll understand.

    Critter, Beta Reader, etc., it is a tough job, and being kind to save the feelings of the writer is the easy way out. It shames both of you. 🙂

    • Julie Antonovich Reece

      Well said, Emi.

      Writers and betas work together best when egos are checked at the door and everyone is working for the good of a future published work. We know reviewers don’t pull any punches when it comes to less than great work. You are right, much better coming from a friend first.

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