Welcome to My Official Web Page!

Welcome to My Official Web Page!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I love being a beta.

I've beta-ed three full manuscripts over the past two months along with a couple smaller writing projects. I love it.

It's a little daunting to offer someone feedback on their novel or other work, but I love getting my own manuscript back from a beta, dripping in virtual red ink. Some pages get massacred and others get comments like, "Great word choice!"

I don't care either way. Pointers on what I can improve rip the blinders from my eyes so I can see what I'm doing wrong. It could be something major like a character conflict or something small like opening too many scenes with a knock on the door. I'm as blind as Homer. (Yes! Another comparison to a cool dead dude!)

Being a beta gives me the opportunity to practice, to find stilted dialogue or paragraphs that show instead of tell. It's easier to spot issues in someone else's work than my own, but then when I go back to my novel it's like a giant spotlight is lighting up all sorts of new errors I've made.

Thank you to everyone who has let me beta for them and another thank you to everyone who has looked at HATSHEPSUT. I can't wait to get a book deal so I can list all of your names in the acknowledgements!

What about you? What are your favorite/least favorite things about beta-ing?


Gary Corby said...

I'm looking forward to your deal too Stephanie!

Being a beta is a very tough job. Maybe the toughest in all publishing because giving criticism even when it's asked for is such a delicate thing. I appreciate every word I get from my betas especially the critical words.

Matthew Delman said...

My favorite thing is getting to see these stories as they develop from the raw material into something that glistens in the sun.

My least favorite is probably having to juggle my comments with the "I-would-have-done-it-this-way" impulse. It really doesn't matter how I would've done it ... what matters is how the writer plans to fix it. For that I can only give suggestions.

Michele Emrath said...

OOOH! Give me a red pen and let me have it! I am an editor at heart (and by training, really)! Great post! Also, you have an award at my blog in yesterday's post. Sorry I didn't make the blog rounds yesterday to tell you.


Michele Emrath said...

Oh durn it! I just looked back a couple posts and saw you just got the award! You don't have to post it again if you don't want! Sorry to bug you!


Jemi Fraser said...

You're right - nothing like anohter perspective to help me make the next step forward :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

The thing about real community is people help each other. That's the best about being a beta.
Lovely post. And what is that fish!

Dominique said...

It's a sad fact that I don't know that many other writers, so I don't really get to beta for other people. This thought is saddening.

Bane of Anubis said...

I agree w/ Gary's sentiment, and the point you make about seeing things in others' work more readily is spot on.

Vincenzo said...

Re: the fish, it's a Siamese Fighting Fish, AKA Bettas or Betas.

Critiquing others' work helps your own. And I appreciate hard criticism of my own work. Praise is nice, it's encouraging, but it doesn't help me improve.

Amalia T. said...

I can't wait to see you get Hatshepsut sold! I will be buying a copy for my mother, who will loooooove it.

I definitely know what you mean--betaing keeps my editorial brain sharp, and that can only be good for my own books. And Comments? They are better than Christmas! I can't even restrain myself.

Thanks for beta-ing for me!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Amalia- You can beta for me anytime. I loved beta-ing for you.

Vincenzo- I agree. It's nice to hear I've done something nice, but I need the criticism. That's the whole point!

Bane- I hadn't anticipated that side effect, but it's a good one.

Dominique- I only know writers online. Just keep at it and you'll find a beta group!

Tricia- It's a beta, one of the only fish I don't kill. :)

Jemi- I never knew how many eyes it would take to write a book. Those perspectives are important!

Michele- I love awards! Thank you so much!

Matt- I have to resist those comments too. I do make them sometimes though if I need an example to make my comment clear.

Gary- Thanks! I agonize over comments sometimes, but then I remember I would want brutal honesty. I just hope others do too!

Julie Dao said...

I like beta-ing too. I've always had a good eye for grammar and spelling errors and I really love helping people polish up their manuscripts. It's nice to have fresh eyes look at my work too!

Voidwalker said...

I've yet to be on any side of the Beta-train. :P

One day.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I enjoy beta reading but it is tough being "critical" of others writing.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I need to get on this beta bandwagon. What a fantastic concept. How did I miss this? Feeling not so clever...and woefully out of the loop.


Tamika: said...

I need to get on the beta bandwagon too! Hopefully in the coming year. I still have some writing to do!

Susan R. Mills said...

I love beta-reading too. I learn so much from reading other's work. Like you said, it helps me see my own work in a new light.

Elana Johnson said...

I love reading other's manuscripts. It helps me realize I'm part of a larger community, and we're all striving for the same greatness. Oh, and that I have friends. That's nice too. :)

Terresa said...

My favorite things about it is that it helps me see things I wouldn't never seen before. It's like seeing through a blizzard. Love it. Appreciate it. Helps both the reader & writer improve.

Happy beta-ing!!

V. S said...

I just joined a critique group recently with some very talented ladies.

Favorite part?

Reading. They each have a great story up their sleeve.

L. T. Host said...

I love beta-ing period. I love being able to read cool stories by talented writers and helping them make it better. And getting to lavish praise about how cool and talented they are.

What do I hate? Feeling like a jerk for saying I'd do it and then not having time. But hey, I've got it open right now! Right this minute!

Daisy Whitney said...

I have 2-3 core critique partners and the best thing is just knowing they'll read quickly, give honest feedback and root root root for you! But the honest feedback is key!

laurel said...

I'm an editor by trade and I love reading others' manuscripts. There's something incredibly energizing about being part of a collaborative process. As we bounce around ideas about someone else's work at crit group meetings, I often discover solutions to my own problems.

I also have more ideas than I could ever write (or even want to write) so it's fun to share and see someone else run with them.

Katie Ganshert said...

Question: Is beta-ing in all intensive purposes the same as critiquing? Or is there a difference? I've always been curious about that.

I also enjoy getting feedback from my critters. I always learn a lot! I also learn a lot by critting, because it forces me to put into words what works and what doesn't.

Lisa and Laura said...

I LOVE getting feedback--our beta readers always make our manusripts stronger and who doesn't want that? I worry that I'm not nearly as good a beta as I wish I was. I think it has something to do with accepting what is written? Or something like that. I really have to push myself to find constructive feedback to offer.

ann foxlee said...

Reading others' work IS fun... I just have issues with the part where I have to tell them what I think.
I gotta work on that part!