I’m looking at the January calendar of my blog and I see that, aside from the recurring features, I posted very little. That sounds like lazy, but believe me, it wasn’t.
The entire months of November through January, I worked on the revision of my novel, a version meant for my beta readers.
Beta readers are the bones and blood of a writerly relationship.
I believe it. I truly do, even if I had never had betas before. But I’ve been member of the Critique Circle for seven years now and I know the value of a good crit. On CC, I’ve received hundreds of critiques and I’ve given more than one thousand. Every single one of them was valuable, and I mean every single one, even the ones I’ve given.
Writing a critique means looking into the deep workings of a story, trying to understand how style and content relate to and enhance each other, and once you’ve done it, that’s a conquest. Whatever insight you offer to your critiquing partner is an insight you had to give to yourself first and it will remain with you, even when you write your own stories.
But there’s a limit to the workshop system, in my opinion: you post your novel chapter by chapter, even if you have the option (like I have on CC as premium member) to post the entire novel at once. Critters who read the entire novel straight, one chapter after the other, are very few. Normally, some time passes between reading a chapter and the next one and this causes critters to lose sight of the whole novel and concentrate on just the one chapter. Which, good as it is, is not really what I’m looking for after seven drafts of the novel.
So, after posting the first three chapters and seeing the kind of crits I was receiving weren’t exactly what I was looking for (thought they were all good per se), I decided to try this new adventure of beta reading.
Finding beta readers might be hard job.
You’re asking to read an entire novel and to give feedback on the entire structure of the novel and the story. That’s no small ask.
Who would you dare asking?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong has a very good article here on how to go about looking for beta readers. Luckily, I didn’t need to start from scratches, because I had already done a part of what is suggested. I had already pinned down the places where I’d ask.
Critique Circle was a given. Of course, exchanging critiques on the workshop is something I’ve done many times over the years and with some of these critters a bond of trust has develop. I don’t hesitate to call of few of them friends (I’ve been even fortunate enough to meet a couple of them, even if we live so far away from each other). I trust their judgement because I’m lucky enough to have enjoyed it before. Besides, some of them have been hearing about Ghost Trilogy since it was jus tan idea in a nutshell. Some of them have even helped shaping up or sorting out part of the plot. Asking these friends came natural and I can’t wait to hear their reaction.
Then there’s the dieselpunk community. Contrary to CC, I’m very new to it. I’ve been part of it for roughly one year, so I was more hesitant to ask. But I have to say the truth, thought still quite small, the dieselpunk community is a very welcoming place. I soon felt at home, I soon started reading stories from these writers, exchanging comments and feedback. I’m already comfortable with a few of them, and so when it came to the matter of beta readers, I naturally think to them, especially to the ones whose work I enjoy and to the ones I’ve already exchanged comments with. And then, hey, they’re dieselpunks, they should like my story, right? (Here’s hoping)
I did the ask and a few of them agreed to beta read my novel and I can’t express how grateful I am. It’s a very big gift I’m receiving and I hope one day I’ll be able to reciprocate.
So actually if you’re part of a writing community (or a few writing communities) finding beta readers isn’t going to be that hard. Most of us write for the love of it, I this is why cooperation is such a common currency in this business. We should be aware of its value.