(Or, Network, Plan, and Wait)
Okay. Yes, I know. I’ve been a smidge absent lately. I’m back in the saddle, reading everyone’s blog entries (so many fab ones!), critiquing for my writerly friends, and editing my own writing. I may even get back to Twitter soon (I heart my goat posse!). I’ve been a bit busy with a stuff going on in my real life, and also writing stuff. Writerly speaking, there’s something that has grabbed my attention and forced me to take a new look at the plots in my WiP, and (cue the shock) the plots of my upcoming WiPs. Now, I’ve been a total Pantser (vs. Planner) when it comes to writing. But I might just transform into a Planner, and I’ll tell you why.
But not until Thursday. I’m interviewing the person who has caused this shift in me, the change that’s gotten me soaked in the Planner mode over the past two weeks.
And? I’m going to give away her awesome writerly advice book on Thursday, too. Don’t. Miss. It. You want this book.
But that’s not the subject of this post. I want to dive into full critiques, since I’m doing a lot of them lately. We’ve already discussed chapter-by-chapter critiques, and now it’s time to talk about beta reads. Not the usual how-do-you-critique in beta reads, since I have a couple of posts coming up that will address this, but how to handle the process when your own WiP is ready for betas. If you are an experienced beta critiquer, please (please!) feel free to add and share.
1. Celebrate. You’ve completed your first draft. Put it away and order a pizza or pour yourself a mug of your best wine. Eat some chocolate (my current fave: Fanny May mint chocolate squares), taking tiny bites and savoring the delicious melting euphoria that only chocolate can offer. Go dancing, sky diving, or some other adequately spirit-bolstering activity. Forget about your draft for at least a week, maybe two. You’re in celebration mode. If you must write, begin a new story.
2. Read your WiP again. Of course, this step comes after the celebratory step with the week’s worth of wait in between. The best draft to send out to betas is a to-your-knowledge-perfect draft. Or, almost perfect. There might be things that you think can improve, but you can’t put your finger on how to fix it. That’s okay—that’s what critiquerly friends are for But, sentences that are missing words or 987 occurrences of the word very in your text? This is not what you want to burn your beta readers on. You’d like them to focus on those things that you can’t see or fix for yourself. You owe yourself one more read-through.
3. Network. Hopefully, you’ve been working on your writerly contacts all along. You’ve visited writer’s group websites, blogs, attended conferences, and you know a group of people who you respect, who like you, and who’d love to work with you. In fact, you’d love (love!) to work with them, too. Even if your WiP isn’t quite ready, you can establish relationships and read/comment on other writers’ completed WiPs. It’s time consuming and a whole chunk of work, but the benefits way, way outweigh the drawbacks. Because now? You’ve got your group of serious-minded writers who adore you.
4. Keep in Touch. When you’ve networked and you’ve done your part in critiquing other WiPs, make sure you keep in touch with these wonderful writerly people until your WiP is ready for them. Let them know every so often where you are with your efforts, and when you think you might need them to beta read/critique.
5. Plan. As you get to know your critiquerly partners (CPs), you’ll get a general sense of their strengths. You’ll want your critiquerly pie well represented. Some CPs might be better with plot, some with character development. Touch all bases with your betas, and try to do so in logical sequence. Maybe you send your WiP to one or two betas to start, so the next set of betas can focus their specific efforts on a cleaner WiP.
6. Ask for what you’d like. CP #1 is great with emotions and character depth, so tell her how much you appreciate her talent, and ask her to pay special attention to this in your WiP. Maybe you think you need extra focus on characters X and Z. Ask her. She’ll be happy to give feedback, especially with the green light you’ve flashed her.
7. Wait. Patiently. It’s a good idea to let your CPs know your overall timeline if you have one, especially if you’re sending beta reads out to phased groups. However, you can’t control what is going on in everyone’s lives. If you haven’t heard from a CP in a long while, check in to make sure they’ve received it without pressuring them to finish. Once you’ve gotten your feedback, wait again before you revise. Let the ideas sink in. The solutions may be utterly obvious, but maybe not. Maybe you’ll come up with a better solution if you let it stew. Put your critiques in the slow cooker and let the ideas waft a while.
8. Drool with profuse amounts of gratitude. Your fantastic CPs have just read your 50,000-or-so-maybe-more word WiP, have focused as hard as they could on open opportunities in the pages, loved your characters almost as much as you do, and have taken the time to write up their thoughts. It’s a hard thing to do, and it takes skill. Love them for it, and then let them know how much you love them for it.
What else do you do when you send your WiP out for beta reads? I’d love to hear your experiences.