“So, what did you think?”

So, I’ve been thinking about alpha-reading lately.

Not doing it myself, though I have done it before.

I’ve been thinking about the friends who will be reading LASER as soon as I get it typed up.

I’ve been thinking about critiques and feedback, too. (Not sure what the difference is there, honestly.)

There are few things I think you need when you are preparing to get feedback for your writing.

First, you need the readers themselves.

This is fairly obvious. I was fortunate enough to find my beta-readers for TCF easily. I had a few good writing friends already. One of them was someone who was offering beta-reading as a service (I beta-read for her in exchange). One was someone who had seen the pitch for TCF and offered to beta-read. One of my betas had to hint at me to ask if he wanted to beta-read akin to prying that manuscript out of my cold, unconscious fingers (I did want him to read it, really. It was just rather nerve-wracking and I wasn’t sure what he was saying with all his encouragement for me to find critiquers.) A couple of these are going to be alphas for LASER.

But it may not be that easy for you. If you are just dipping your toes into finding writing friends, then this could be rather intimidating. You may not know any writers, online or in real life. So what do you do?

Find a writing community. Go Teen Writers is a good place. So is NaNoWriMo YWP. (Assuming you’re a teen for both of those, that is.) I actually found mine through their blogs. Commented on their blogs, got to know them, they got to know me. Eventually, we decided we were friends (not literally…) and the rest is history.

Some places occasionally host a critique partner match up. Go Teen Writers did not too long ago. And I think Maggie Stiefvater is actually doing it now.

Second thing you need is to let go.

Let go of your fear. Let go of your desire for perfection. Let go of how terrible you think this story is and how awesome it is at the same time.

 

Your readers are doing this to help you find the bugs in your work. They expect bugs.


If they’re the right kind of people, they won’t be mean about it, either. (If you get a mean critique, you may want to consider how important the feedback is and whether or not you should ask them for this anymore.)

Third, realize that feedback hurts no matter who it comes from.

When a writer writes a story, they put a little of their soul into it. Not consciously, it just happens. So hearing something is wrong with the story can feel like they’re saying something is wrong with you.

What do you do about this then? Let go. They aren’t attacking you. Don’t defend the story (if you have to defend it, chances are good that you didn’t include all the information that was necessary and that’s a good thing to know). If you are getting feedback via email, don’t answer specifically to the feedback then. Go ahead and thank your reader for the feedback and maybe ask if you can talk about this in depth at a later time. But when you first get the feedback and see the difficult stuff, go ahead and cry about it.

It’s okay to be upset or frustrated (don’t tell said reader that you’re crying or frustrated). Writing is frustrating. Have some chocolate and take the day off. Once you’re calm, go back to the feedback.

Fourth, be willing to alpha or beta read for them.

They’re doing this for you, reading a less than perfect story and then telling you what’s wrong with it. That’s time-consuming and occasionally difficult. Be willing to do the same for them or pay them back somehow.

Fifth, realize that the story is yours.

This is your story. You don’t have to take any of the advice you were given if you don’t agree with it. But do consider the feedback carefully and always be gracious.

Sixth, editing is not as terrible as it seems.

I promise.

 

Good feedback will not just tell you the bad stuff. It includes some of the good stuff, too. Be sure to notice the good stuff because it’ll help keep you motivated and encouraged. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your readers for clarification or specific feedback. One of my friends just wants my reactions to the story. I plan to ask him for specific stuff when I send him LASER which I really need to hurry up and type up…

Any other advice that should be added to this list? I hope this post is helpful!

DFTBA!

 

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21 thoughts on ““So, what did you think?”

  1. Thanks for all the tips! I haven’t yet had an alpha/beta reader or a critique partner mainly because none of my work is edited enough for me to be ready to show it to a critique partner. However, I have made some writer friends, and I think it’s been a really gradual process for me. I commented on other peoples’ blogs consistently, they commented on mine, and all of a sudden they’re contacting me about doing a writing event with them or something like that. I love GTW, too. And also, I so agree that editing isn’t as bad as it first seems. Two days ago I started editing a novel for the first time and I was dreading it. Now I’ve realized that editing is actually fun. Even though my book is a mess, I know how to fix it, and that makes editing awesome.

    • You’re welcome!
      My alphas see my work mostly unedited. But everyone has their own preferences for how much editing should be done before feedback. 🙂
      Yes. Once I figured out how to edit, I was much happier doing it.

      • Oh gosh. I would be so embarrassed if people saw the first draft of my first novel, which I’m editing right now. It’s horrible. I could see how you might want to give it to them unedited, though. I think my second novel’s first draft is a lot cleaner, so I wouldn’t mind letting someone read it, although I would prefer to edit it beforehand.

        • I understand that. 🙂 I’m having trouble keeping myself from editing too much while I’m typing this up. But I also figure two things: One, what if there’s a large problem I’m blind to? Then I would’ve spent a lot of time decorating a house that’s about to fall down. And two, I think if I start really editing, then I won’t stop. 🙂

          • True, true. Those are really good points. I try to edit my stories structure wise first, but it’s actually a good idea to get feedback from readers about the structure first, too. I probably wouldn’t stop editing either, unless I had a non-self imposed deadline. Hmmm…I think you might have just changed my mind a little about alpha readers.

            • 🙂
              Personally, the only reason I’m editing at all before feedback is because I handwrite my first drafts. I have to type them up before my alphas can even see them. So, I have a chance to edit a bit. I’m not editing anything large or anything I have to brainstorm solutions for; just stuff that I can fix by changing some words or adding a sentence. 🙂

  2. *applauds* Excellent post! I have nothing else I add, except that please do tell me if it makes you cry or you’re frustrated…I shall attempt some kind of distraction for you to help you feel better until you’re ready to come back and work on it. 🙂

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