Tag Archives: writing groups

#MondayBlogs How To Find Beta Readers

12 Dec

Beta reader (n): an avid reader/critique partner/superhero who looks over your novel/baby/everything before anyone else sees it in order to improve language/characters/grammar/basically the whole package.

Okay, but really, beta readers are necessary, because they are an extra set of knowledgeable eyes on your work. They’ll see those plot holes you understand (but accidentally forgot to add) and they’ll call out your purple prose or tell you what’s working where. Most writers know they need a beta reader, but finding a beta reader? That’s a whole different story.

Beta readers probably shouldn’t be your best friend from high school, but hey, look at it this way, they might become your best friend overtime. In fact, it’d be ideal to get quite a few beta readers on your team. That way, they can serve various purposes on top of general advice. Example? I recently rewrote the beginning of one of my novels, but all of my beta readers had gone over the original already. I needed a fresh pair of eyes. One that hadn’t seen the original. That way, I could know if the beginning was just as clear as the original version. If I had a beta reader who already knew the story, it wouldn’t have been an objective opinion.

beta readers

So, who should be your beta reader? Like I said above, they *probably* shouldn’t be your best friend or sister or parents or a lover or or or. Why? Because people close to us generally tell us what we want to hear. Plus, just because they are close to us, doesn’t mean they are writers, and even if they are avid readers, it doesn’t mean they are experienced in your genre or the market. Beta readers are generally best when they are fellow writers working within the same genre at the same level of experience (or even better, more experience). Of course that doesn’t mean there are exceptions. If your mother is a college professor who teaches young adult literature and you’re writing young adult books, duh, go for it. (Maybe ask her for some contacts, too, you lucky bird.) Also, toward the end of writing, I like to have a few non-writer friends of mine read my work. It’s still a fresh pair of eyes, so friends and family don’t hurt. Just don’t rely on only them.

You might be thinking beta readers sound like mythical unicorns by now, but trust me, they are out there, and they are definitely willing to help. Remember my little example above about needing a new beta reader last minute? Guess what? I found her on Twitter, and she’s awesome. Now how can you find beta readers?

  1. Local Writing Groups/Events: Look up your local chapters of RWA or whatever organization your books fall into. See if anyone is close. Check out your local libraries or bookstores to see if they have writing groups. Join. Pay attention to local events, too. Writing conferences often have writing classes available throughout them, and it can be a place for feedback as well as connections. But for those of you who have social anxiety like me (or work a nightshift like me), I have online solutions for you.
  2. Online: Remember all those agent-pitching contests I’ve shared before? No? Here’s the Pitch Calendar. Join those online and meet fellow writers. Follow writers who are writing similar materials and befriend each other. Overtime, you might find someone who needs a beta reader just as much as you do, and you’re both headed the same direction. That being said, I have one stipulation for online connections: research, research, research. There’s no need to pay thousands of dollars for just a beta reader. Also, as much as I love Wattpad for finding other writers, do not post manuscripts you’re trying to publish. Posting can be considered published, and that will make it harder to find an agent or publisher. Instead, I suggest posting short stories or a sample chapter to try to connect with others in order to find beta readers to work with elsewhere.
  3. Colleges: If you’re in college, colleges often have awesome resources for students. Take advantage of those.

These are three places to start. Good luck in finding your next best friend…er…beta reader.

~SAT

Chocolate and the Metaphor

23 May

Shannon here to announce our guest blogger of the day. 

Ron Estrada

Ron Estrada

Ron Estrada runs 8.187. He shares his short essays that “contemplate the order and clutter, thrust and drift of the human condition in this great, big, hopeful world.”  Today, he’s discussing metaphors, similes, and how writers should approach them.

Now, onto him:

I was in a writing workshop five or so years ago and we were reviewing a short story or a portion of a longer piece of prose written by someone in the workshop.  The workshop setting, if you aren’t familiar, works like this: a story/poem/essay is distributed by the writer to each of his or her classmates during a meeting session.  The piece is taken home by each person, read, considered, marked with suggestions and reactions, and then brought back to the next meeting where everyone discusses aloud their impressions of the piece in hopes of enlightening the writer about their work.  I’ve seen this both work and fail.  Sometimes the counsel is beneficial and illuminating, will fuel, like coal from the hopper, will push the writer’s thoughts forward, which, in turn, pushes the story forward.  And then there are times the suggestions don’t offer ideas for polishing but take the form of an adolescent movie review–thumbs downthat was neatI don’t like that character’s name.  At times the writer will get defensive and respond to a remark with a counter argument and the discussion moves away from within the borders of the story and starts to focus on whether the story can live in the real world—someone may comment on the palpability of an event and the writer will respond with, “I know it can happen because it happened to my aunt.”  The intention and hope for the discussion of the work has now been guttered.

So during this one meeting the writer described a character in her story as having fingers like Milky Way bars, which was supposed to inform that they were brown and thick, tempered, masculine. But the comparison was too far off. Many of us said that the association didn’t fit; the sensual evocation gave us smells that we’re wrong and visuals that were surely wrong. But the writer defended their metaphor and the rest of us shrugged and continued along.

The issue here wasn’t so much the association of fingers to chocolate bars (actually, it was, yes, but, first, and more, there was a comparative step that was missing). The path from hand to Milky Way was absent of important intervals of ribbon. It’s natural and common for us to use simile and metaphor in our writing; they are useful tools in our creative relaying. But many writers, often young writers, will over-rely on these elements so much that the focus, the thing will get lost in description and details will sort of just lay out there on their own instead of blending and harmonizing. It’s important to remember that the “thing” must first be the “thing,” by itself, before it can be something else, before it can be a simile or a metaphor. Chekhov talks about the writer getting worn out when reading too many modifiers. And writers so much want to transcend their subject —good, that’s what art should do—that they get crazed in describing everything in their story as something else. Eventually, the modifiers will not only be applied to things but, more dangerously, to moments and to what should be quietly shared between characters, to something naturally artful, to something real and heartbreaking.

As writers we need to consider the thing first and use the right words to deliver it, all the while recognizing that it’s easy to strew leaves and over-dirty our pathway, pushing the reader to focus on the crackle and brush and not the direction, the walk, the right way.

Connect with Ron by clicking here, and tell us about your experience with metaphors! 

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