Risk Points ~ Beta Readers

Today I’ve got jitters and it isn’t from too much green tea. I gave my manuscript to a Beta Reader.

Only one person has ever read the entire manuscript before ~ my daughter. Before you cry Foul!, you should know that just because I’m her mama didn’t stop her from giving me an honest critique of my work. If you want the brutal truth from a reader, she’s your girl. I think she’d make a fabulous editor, but right now her heart is with a bunch of preschoolers. Ah, well.

Still, having a family member read your work is different from having a Beta Reader go over it with red pen in hand.

While I hope she loves the story and thinks it’s amazing and awesome, I also hope she’ll rip it apart and point out where the flaws are in my story. Kill my darlings, please! Why am I such a sadist? Because she’s a true reader, not a writer, not an agent. She’s my target audience and if I can’t charm her, then I’ve got a lot of work to do before I can charm an agent or editor.

It took me a long time to garner the self confidence necessary to hand off my work and hope for criticism. I finally realized platitudes and empty words will not make my book better, nor will they help me as a writer to understand my weaknesses.

And so, with a dash of trepidation and a scoop of humility, I gave my novel to the reader. Geez, even typing that made my tummy flutter with excitement and terror. What if she really hates it? Am I just fooling myself into thinking my fragile ego can handle the disappointment? Time will tell.

Until then, I’ve got more work to do. Now that the MS is off to be critiqued, I need to come up with a query and synopsis. Two words that strike fear into the hearts of even the greatest writers. Not to mention I need a dazzling pitch and log line.

Earlier this week, Myndi Shafer blogged about coming up with a log line for her novels. The comments really got me thinking about my book and the fact that, after 300,000 words, I didn’t have a log line. O.M.G. I have to break down my novel into 25 words or less? Kill me.

Actually, I think I’ve got one, but I want to ruminate on it a bit more before I unveil it. In the meantime, share with us how you came up with your log line! Do you enjoy writing query letters? What about that dreaded synopsis, how did you tackle that little beastie. As I enter into this new phase of the writing world, I’d love it if you share with us your adventures in publishing.

Happy Friday!



50 thoughts on “Risk Points ~ Beta Readers

  1. Way to go!! That was the scariest thing for me when I decided to take my writing seriously – letting someone read it. I still get a little nauseous when I hand over a piece of my novel to someone. (And by someone, I mean fewer people than I can count on one hand).

    Hope you get some great feedback (the good and the not-so-good – it all helps you have a better book).

  2. Big step! I hope you get great feedback. It’s so valuable to a writer and such an important part of the process.

    I don’t have a log-line for the book I’m currently working on and I’m right now working on one. I’ll let you know how it goes. Good luck!

    • I just happened to pick up a book yesterday and in the back it had ads for other books in that genre (historic fiction) and there were log lines for each book. It gave me a great idea of what I needed to have in mine. I think I kept trying to make my log line more of a 2-3 sentence pitch. See if any of your books have that in the back… it was fun to throw out crazy sentences that sound like movie trailers!

      ‘Young woman must save the world before she explodes into a puddle of goo.’ Okay, that wasn’t really for my book, but it was one of the ones that made us laugh a lot. They got sillier and sillier as my pain meds took effect. (Root canal = no fun).

  3. Tameri, congratulations for getting up the courage to take that all-important step; I think you should take a moment to pat yourself on the back and have some green tea! I’m still in the writing stage of my book – one more chapter to finish the first draft, then my first read-through and big edit – so I still have a very long way to go. I’d be interested to read what others have to say in response to your questions, though. Way to go! ~ Julie πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Julie. You’re in a great place, too! When you finish that last line and then get to go back and revise ~ I actually like that stage. Most folks I know don’t like editing and I didn’t at first, but after awhile it was fun to tweak and change things. When you do write that last word, make sure you take your own advice and pat yourself on the back and celebrate with a nice cup of green tea!

  4. Query letters suck… and so far I’ve only written them for picture books. My manuscript is only 606 words and I STILL have a hard time making a super short pitch. (I can’t even imagine what it’s like yet for a novel. I haven’t gotten that far in one!) But alas, the queries are a necessary evil. If you have a crit group or anyone who helps you edit, let them look at the query too. I know my crit group was very helpful in making sure mine didn’t sound completely mindless. I even had at least one of the girls edit the query before she ever read the manuscript. lol

    But in other news… CONGRATS on being at the beta point! That’s great! Eventually you reach a point where you’ve done just about all you can do to a manuscript without somebody else prompting you and saying. “Hey. See this sentence? What were you thinking? Great concept, but you might want to reword it…” I’ve never had a beta look over anything, just one author/editor and several writing friends. You’ll have to let us know how it goes!!!

    • Even picture books need a query letter? Oh, man! I’m going to a conference in a few weeks and it’s my plan to bring the query with me to workshop it. There’s an amazing woman who leads a query seminar, so I think I’ll have to buy her a drink or two… ; )

      Crit groups and betas are fabulous for finding the things we overlook. That’s why I love them!

  5. Congratulations! It is a big step and you should pat yourself on the back for getting there and maintaining the cojones to send it out. I’m still thrashing about in the fledgling pool here, so I look at your accomplishment with awe and a tiny smidge of envy, because I know how stinking hard it is to get to that point!

    Let us know how it goes, but I’m sure it will be wonderful!

    • Thanks Callene! I’ll keep you informed on the feedback and you keep thrashing in that pool. Sooner or later you’ll look around and think, ‘hey, I can swim!’. That’s a great day when you get to that point. Keep writing, my friend.

  6. Good luck!! I’m at the same step as you right now, and it’s nerve wracking and very difficult to do! Isn’t it? I just sent my first part (not the entire MS) to two Beta readers, so you have more strength than I do!

  7. It is a big step!! Congrats on being at that point! It’s awesome. I think writing a book is a bit like raising a child. You try to make it the best you can, then you have to send it out into the real world. Where some people are going to love and and some people might not like it so much. It’s funny, you can get hundreds of great reviews, but it’s the two bad reviews that stick with you. But this is just the start of something bigger. I’m sure you’ll get great feedback!!! Good luck going forward!!

    • It’s totally like raising a child. Sometimes the kid listens and sometimes not, but in the end you have to let them go out on their own and stand on their own two feet. Don’t let the bad reviews stick with you. Like you said, not everyone will love it and that’s okay. Write for the ones that do love it and don’t worry about the others. I’m so glad you get to be along for the journey!

  8. Congratulations honey!!! This is wonderful news. It has to be the most amazing feeling, albeit scary, in the world to be at THAT point! What I wouldn’t give…I can imagine the fear and the anxiety but to be at this stage must also be exciting! Whatever she comes back it will only enable you to write stronger to your target audience so it’s win win! I am sure of it!
    Good luck with query letters and log lines! I have little experience with either but if you want someone to bounce ideas off, just email me!!! I am here to help!
    Woot woot – rocking out the beta reader – love it!

    • Amazing and scary, yes! I’m nervous for her feedback, but I also know the next step is the editor and that REALLY scares me. Thank you so much for all your support and confidence! Love you, doll!

  9. Holy crap – you got 300,000 word novel? Yikes. That’s huge. I don’t blame you for being uneasy about the query letter.

    It is a huge step to give your manuscript to the beta readers, and then get ready for a critique. It is a necessary action though, and I’m sure you will benefit from it. Actually you are very lucky to have Alexzandra as your beta! πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, I know. I had to cut about half of it (which I’m still trying to do, hence the beta reader). I’m super lucky to have Alexzandra. She really is an excellent reader/editor. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, my friend.

    • I don’t know why, but I’m surprised you have to write them for picture books! Well, I suppose it makes sense that you have to condense a story, no matter how long or short. Thanks for the well-wishes, I’ll keep you informed on what happens.

  10. Yay for getting it out there! I remember the fear the first time I did it too, but I’ve come to LOVE feedback. Especially if it’s delivered in a constructive way (I’ve experienced the mean kind). Just this past week I rewrote two chapters based on some critique, and they are way better than they were before! I love watching my novel grow. πŸ™‚

    Ah yes, summaries and log lines and queries. Been there, done that. Many, many times. It gets easier with practice. The hardest part for me is crafting the summary to read as entertaining, and not as a summary. It takes me several rounds before I get to that point. It helps to think about what a movie trailer of your book would show and what you need for that “pow” effect. If you need some helpful guides, I found author Anne Mini’s website to have some good how-to blog posts. And she includes examples! I love examples. (AnneMini . com) Good luck!

    • That’s the key word ~ constructive. I love getting feedback, positive or negative, that can help me improve. Ah, summary as entertaining. Yeah, my first summary read a bit like a term paper. I’ll keep practicing. I’ll check out Anne’s website because I need all the help I can get! Thanks for being super fabulous and all your support, Angela. I really appreciate it.

  11. Congratulations on finishing your book and getting it out there! That’s half the battle! Loglines are the essence of your story. Here’s one from the movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — “Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.” You can get more momvie logline examples at imdb.com
    This blog post has the best method I’ve seen for writing a logline. check it out. http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2011/12/writing-killer-loglines.html Good luck!

  12. That is so awesome Tameri! Congratulations at taking the next step. The first step is always scary at first, no matter what it is you’re doing. I have my family critique first as well. My mom’s a softy, but my husband rips it to shreds. That’s okay. That’s what I want. He is always constructive and has great feedback. It helps being married to an ex-screen writer with a sharp mind.

    • My hubs gets to see the final draft before it goes to the editor since he’s more of the technical guy. He’s also pretty brutal in his reasoning, so I need to make sure all my loose ends are tied up. I figure the softies get to read it when it’s published. ; ) I didn’t know your hubs was a screen writer. That’s so cool.

  13. I am shaking in my boots at the thought of a novel synopsis, and I only have to condense 82k, not 300k! Of course, it doesn’t help that it has to be done by this next Wednesday, but rest assured I will make a blog post all about writing a synopsis when I’m done :D.

    And in one aspect, you and I are definitely complete opposites – I’d totally rather give my MS to a beta-reader than a family member.

    And now that I think of it, I guess I do kind of have a log line . . . I just never realized what it was before! As for how I came up with it, well, it’s what the story is, lol. Mine is: “What if you were never supposed to exist?”

    • I think synopsis, whether 500 words or 500K words are all hard. At least, that seems to be the consensus! Wow, you have a deadline? That would freak me out, but I know it’ll happen for me at some point. We’re rather spoiled on our first novel, aren’t we? We can take all the time we want for writing, editing, queries, etc. Once you’re published though, you’re on a publisher’s timeline with hard deadlines! You’ll get it done, I’ve no doubt.

      You and I are exactly alike. I would much rather give my MS to a beta than a family member. The only reason I like my daughter reading it is because she’ll tear it apart.

      That log line gives me chills. I have no idea what the book is about, but my mind is spinning with all sorts of ideas. Very cool!

      • well, I have a deadline because it’s for a contest, hehe. The criteria is “beginning of a fantasy novel with synopsis, 25 pages or less”. The only part of this thing that’s getting done is the prologue, which is in it’s 4th round of edits now, but the rest of the novel will have to wait until February.

        You’re very lucky to have a family member who can critique for you, I am definitely not that lucky!

        hehe, I promise you’ll get to read that story sometime πŸ˜€

  14. Ooh… Exciting, Tameri! I so relate to those jitters. The fact that you have them is a great sign, I think. If I don’t want nerves and just want hugs, I can give my work to my mom. (She’d give my 4th grade report on lady bugs a Pulitzer if she could ;)). Simon Cowel-esque readers are best for our careers, if you ask me. Good luck! I have a feelingβ€”call it intuition??? ;)β€”that you’ll get some awesome positive feedback.

  15. It’s a bit like taking your clothes off in public, don’t you think? That’s how I feel when I first show my work to someone. But really Tameri, this is the best time. I think you will love this part of the process and will meet the challenge of addressing any issues mentioned with great enthusiasm … and your awesome sense of humour. It will only make your work even better! As Angela said … Holy Crap! 300,000 words? How did you do that? I’m already in line to buy it and I know we are all eagerly awaiting your next update!

    • Yes! I’m running nekkid through the town hoping no one will notice. I am loving this part of the process because it gets me to look at my MS through someone else’s eyes. It’s all new and sparkly again. I know, 300,000 is way too much. I didn’t have a plan and just wrote by the seat of my pants. You can bet the next books will have some sort of plan so I don’t end up cutting half my novel. Yikes, that hurts. You are so sweet. Love you so much, Patricia!

  16. Yeah, Tameri!!!! I know what you mean about turning over your manuscript to a reader. It’s hard and exciting. Fingers crossed for lots of helpful comments.

    I think Kristen has some excellent posts about creating a logline. And James Scott Bell has a nice form in his appendix of Plot and Structure. They’ve been great tools when I create a log line.

    Two posts from Kristen that I have found useful:



    • Thanks Bridgette! Yep, I had to approve the comment, but no biggie. At least WP is looking out for me. : )

      Kristen’s post was great and I have the James Scott Bell book, but didn’t think to look in it for log line advice. So many craft books, so little memory. Kristen’s post is what originally got me thinking about log lines.

      Thanks so much for your support! Fingers crossed and I’ll keep you updated on everything.

  17. WOW! That’s a HUGE step. I remember the first time I did it, I was sick to my stomach too. It’ll be good, I promise. I know for me, some of the stuff was hard to hear, BUT that was the stuff I needed to hear.
    Betas make you stronger. Good for you for taking the step! Can’t wait to read it. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Elena! I feel exactly the same way, it might be hard, but it will be good for my story and my writing. I can’t wait for you to read it! Thanks for your enthusiasm and support. It means the world to me.

  18. Congrats πŸ™‚ I can relate to the jitters. I actually have a more difficult time letting a target reader read something I’ve written than I have letting another writer or an agent read something.
    Very smart to keep working on your submission materials while your WIP is out with a beta reader. My co-writer and I tried to start putting ours together before we even finished writing the book, and I think that ended up doubling our time πŸ™‚

    • Isn’t that weird? You would think letting a reader read something would be less stressful, but since they are who you ultimately want to please, well there you go. Oh, my! You tried to write a query before the book was done? Yikes. What if you changed a major plot point? I get chills just thinking about it. I can’t wait until your book is published, you have the best log line ever and it’s got me very intrigued!

  19. Wow, congrats! I sent mine to beta readers about 3 weeks ago. Two are friends who are also writers. One is a reader. And the 4th is a friend…and a pro-editor. Urk! Already got notes back from the reader (very positive, whew! with a few good questions to resolve), but waiting for the others.

    Yep, it’s like tossing the baby out in the world without a life jacket to see if it’ll float.

    • Wow, you have a lot of beta readers! Four people might put me in a straight jacket. I’m so happy you already got good feedback, that makes the process so much more enjoyable. And it also sets you up for the other three to be just as positive.

  20. Congrats Tameri. It’s always tough to send your work out for honest feedback so I’m wishing you good luck.
    I dislike query letters and despite writing synopses. They’re both necessary evils however and something we just have to get on with. Plenty of tea and some chocolate can help the process along πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Emma! Yep, they are necessary evils and I’ll muddle through ~ with plenty of tea and chocolate as you suggest. Like Mary Poppins said, a spoon full of sugar… πŸ˜‰ Thanks for stopping by!

  21. Pingback: Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper:What stupid writing thing did your Beta Reader find this week? | Jennifer M Eaton

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