Beta-Reader Extraordinaire(s)

Have I mentioned that I have the best friends ever?

I’m sure I have.

But let me repeat myself, just to make sure I get the message across: I HAVE THE BESTEST GREATEST MOST WONDERFULEST FRIENDS EVER!!

You may be asking why? Or you may not care, but I’ll tell you anyway. They are my beta-readers.

Many people dispense advice that includes not giving your WIP to your friends for editing. Although I understand why that may not be an author’s first choice, especially if they only tell you what you want to hear, I’ll tell you why I disagree.

1. They never tell me what I want to hear. When I ask if I look fat, their answer will be yes, especially if I’m wearing those one pair of pants that look better on the rack at Goodwill than they do on me. When I say I’m sorry that my house is a mess, they say “Sweet Jesus, fold some laundry!”

2. They tell me the honest to goodness truth. I can ask if a scene sucks and they’ll tell me yes. But what makes them brilliant is that they’ll then go on as to how they think I can improve upon it. Sometimes I take their advice, sometimes I don’t, but the point is that they’re willing to give me an unbiased opinion.

3. They don’t cry when I hand them a 323 page manuscript. Okay, granted it’s double spaced and single sided, but anyone receiving 323 pages to tear apart can be daunting task to say the least. Instead they take it, tell me to take a break for a little while and get to work.

4. They know what writing means to me. I’ve always wanted to write and my friends get it. They don’t advise me to throw in the towel even after my first draft is such crap that it’s better used as kindling than anything else.

5. They’re grammar nazis. I took Latin in college (even have a degree in it) and enough English courses that you would think I know how to construct a decent sentence. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case, especially when I get caught up in the heat of the moment and the words start spewing from my fingertips at an outrageous speed. Luckily one of my gal pals is someone who is more proficient in grammar than I could ever hope to be. She also doesn’t have that filter most people have between their brain and their mouth. Bonus.

6. They read the genre. I can’t emphasize this enough. They know what I’m going for. They know what readers of my genre expect and they help me deliver. When they read something of mine that sucks, they go tell me to pick up such and such author to see what they did and then try to get back on track.

7. They give me kickass playlists to listen to while I write. ‘nough said.

8. They do all of this for free. This includes designing book covers. And no, they’re not just proficient enough in Photoshop to slap something together. They make beautiful, inspiring, eye-catching covers that depict exactly what I’ve been thinking about all along.

9. They inspire me. They tell me what kind of books they want to read. Then they tell me to go write them.

So now that I’ve handed off edited copies of my manuscript to my beta-readers, all I have to do now is wait. Wait to be handed back shredded pages, mutilated characters, axed scenes and enough red on the pages to make the whole pile look like one big bloody mess. I can’t wait.

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