Ok, the time has come to share the Beta Love!
No, I’m not referring to those little fancy blue or red fish that are kept in small bowls in offices and classrooms. They are very pretty little fish and yes, I have owned some in my time.
No, the betas I’m referring to spend their nights reading our unpublished novels, critiquing, advising, correcting, laughing at us, or with us, and making us feel like maybe we’re not crazy to think some agent out there might see this book and want to represent us one day. Yes, the beta reader.
Beta readers come in all shapes and sizes. Most of my beta readers are not on facebook or twitter, don’t read my blog on a daily basis, and don’t have some degree in writing. They focus more on the reading side of books than the writing side, and I like that about them.
My earliest betas were family members with open minds and closed lips. (Not everyone in my closest circle knew I had written books or now considered making a publishing attempt.) My earliest betas were my cheerleaders. They loved my writing, they loved my stories, they loved my characters, and I loved them for that. They gave me lots of pointers as well as love and encouragement. I learned about parts that didn’t make sense, or wording that confused the issue. I learned what excited them and what they weren’t sure I’d get away with. I collected their questions and opinions and did some good editing of the story. They wanted more, and I was encouraged to continue in my writing journey.
One of my earliest betas, before I even knew she was a ‘beta’, was Laura Mudge. She’s the person that I will always consider my biggest fan. Everyone needs a beta like Laura. She knows my genre, she’s read a lot of the same books I have and so she knows and likes my writing tastes. But what she gave me the most was confidence. I hadn’t set out to become a writer. Writing found me, bit into me, and wouldn’t let me go. Laura’s reading took me from, ‘I’m thinking maybe I need to do something with all this writing’, to ‘I have something here worth publishing.’ She would never let me give up, because she’s the one who wants to see that first book with my name on it more than even I do. Without her support and critiques I doubt I would have much more than the rubber band bound stack of notepads that started this writer’s journey.
My next betas were the ones that came to me. They heard about my writing from the praise of my first betas. They were interested and they wanted in on my little publishing quest. They helped in a lot the same way as my earliest betas. More refining, more honing the story and the wording. More appreciated help along with lots of amazing encouragement.
But then, cha-ching, I hit the beta jackpot! I was following twitter and blogs. I had discovered a lot about the publishing world, the agenting world, and the writing world. I was putting this knowledge to use by doing a final pre-query round edit/revision on the manuscript I had started querying. I was polishing everything up and getting ready for a real round of querying (now that I realized my first query was an attempt but not quite the real deal.)
I had a completed revision, a refined and critiqued query, and I was ready, or so I thought. Then I read a blog post by Julie A Lindsey, in which she introduced her blog readers to one of her betas, Nikki Brandyberry. In reading Julie’s interview with Nikki something clicked in my head. This beta reader is good! This beta reader I need! This beta reader is right up my genre! (Check out that interview here: http://blog.juliealindsey.com/julie-lindsey/beta-readers-are-an-amazing-resource/ -hey, Nikki and Julie are both on Twitter too… follow them.)
I got in touch with Nikki and my manuscript has never been the same. Nikki was amazing! I can’t even imagine the ability to read like this girl can read. Her critical eye and attention to detail never detract from her ability to take in the story details. She follows the whole plot, while simultaneously scanning each word. Every writer needs a Nikki! I still don’t know how I got lucky enough to find her, or blessed enough that she agreed to read my manuscript. I just hope, on a daily basis, that she’ll be willing to read the next one, and the sequel to the first one, and then the four other ones that are currently begging me to finish writing them! Nikki’s expert reading eye found these glaring repetitive nuisances that I still cannot believe all my other reader’s didn’t scream at me about. (Honestly, she should consider pursuing an editing career, this girl is so good! – But don’t tell her I said so or she might do it and then what?)
By the way, Nikki also reads a whole (WHOLE) lot of actual published books along with all her beta reading. She posts book reviews on her blog and even got her first author requested book review recently. So check out her blog for some honest, accurate, book reviews. (Maybe someday she’ll even get to review one with my name on it!!) She has an eye, I mean it. Check it out here: http://nikkibrandyberry.wordpress.com/about/
Sorry, my other betas are not online, as I mentioned. They are mine, all mine. My personal little stadium filled with fans! Am I a lucky writer, or what? Yes I am! And with a great group of betas like mine, who knows, I may just become a real live author someday?!