Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beta Suggestions Needed

So I finished the second draft of my manuscript today, and it's almost time for betas (probably around the beginning of November). I've never done the whole beta-thing before. With The Hamsa's Song I just did self-edits, read through the story once or twice, and sent it off to my editor.

Sigh. If only things were that simple.

With this story I need betas. I can't objectively evaluate my work at this point and outside opinions would be invaluable. Trouble is, I'm not sure how to go about finding betas, especially people who have the time to turn over an entire manuscript in about three weeks. I want readers who I know and trust. A lot of writers find betas through conferences, or networking at various writing events. With not much experience in the conference department, and as a relatively new face in the Utah writing community, my pool of potential betas is rather small. Obviously I'd be willing to do an exchange of manuscripts. Two cousins (ages 14 and 15) have agreed to read my WIP, but I'd really love to get critiqued by other writers.

So what are your suggestions? How do you go about finding betas, and are you picky about who is allowed to read your manuscripts? Do you choose people you've met in person or look for readers online?

I'm going to go eat chocolate now, because revisions always make me crave sugars and saturated fats. Any advice would be appreciated.


  1. That's a tough one, but good job on finishing your manuscript! When it comes to my stuff, I like to share it with people I know and have actually met. My question to you is, do you have a regular critique group? This way you can meet other writers and share what you have as you're writing, making for a fairly clean first draft. If you have other writers read it, offer a trade of each other's work - in PDF format, unless you don't mind having your MS marked up.

    I'd be happy to read your MS, but I don't think I could finish a 109k MS with all the stuff I have going on, but I'd to read it eventually.

    Good luck and go get'em!

  2. Ugh. Missed a word. *like

    And on second thought, while I can't read your whole MS, I could read your beginning, as it is such an important part of the story. If you're up for a trade, just let me know :)

  3. please?

    Actually I'm pretty picky about that sort of stuff. I don't want just anyone reading a draft because I feel so vulnerable. I give it only to people whose opinions I value and trust both writers and non. That doesn't mean people I think will say nice things. My husband can be brutally honest, but usually spot on.

    I loved what I read of yours at WIFYR and would consider it an honor to read your ms. I have the time since husband is traveling a lot right now. You can email me if you want to. sendliesl(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. David - I don't have a regular critique group, but I have an online critique partner, Elizabeth, who I trade chapters with every week. Her advice has helped make my first draft pretty clean. And it's actually a new story, completed at 87,000 words rather than 109,000 (I'm also still finishing up some self-edits, so it might end up at 85,000). Thanks for the offer! I might email you if I need someone to take a look at the beginning.

    Liesl - Thank you so much! You're a life saver. I'm going to shoot you an email right now :)

  5. To be honest, I just got insanely lucky. I posted on the AW forums under "betas and mentors" and managed to snag several awesome people, one of which who's got an agent and a book deal, now, and another whom I'm going to VCFA with.

    Also, every one of my crit partners save one has a BA or MA in English. Totally non-essential, of course. It's just funny how that worked out.

    I'm about to start my master's in writing for children and YA, so I'm also happy to offer a set of eyes and/or form some sort of crit partnership. I'm a compulsive please-read-this-and-tell-me-what-sucks kind of writer, so I like to have several hard-a$$ betas kicking me in the tush.

    Email is slbakhshi (at) hotmail (dot) com if you're interested!

    Also, happy revision! I hate revision. *goes back to cutting insanely long novel*

  6. Haha Shayda! My last novel was like that...120,000 words. I cut it down to 109k, but I'm guessing another 20k will have to go before it's anywhere near ready for publication. This one's about 87,000, which for me is really, really short. I'm so proud of myself for keeping it under 90,000.

    Anyways, I'd love to exchange manuscripts some time, maybe closer to the beginning of November? I'll email you and we can talk :)

    And thanks so much for the offer!

  7. Sure thing!

    And I hear you about the word count thing. Current WIP is YA fantasy and WAS 110K. Ack. It's down to about 103K now, and it's taking me days to go through this thing. I got this response about WC from Jennifer Laughran:

    "Shayda, to be honest, it would have to be KNOCK MY SOX OFF AMAZING sounding for me to consider something over 90k. But then again... it has to be that anyway, right?

    And 105 isn't THAT far off.

    It is when I see 120+ that I really get the shivers."

    I don't feel so bad, now, but my goal is 99K. Just so I can say it's still in the double digits. ;)

    But yeah, I digress. Just shoot me an email whenever!

  8. Hi ya Kate!

    Congratulations on finishing! Woot!

    As for how I find betas ~ mostly I use my CP's, and a few friends I've picked up from conferences. I am insanely picky. If it's someone whose work I haven't read, I go by their blog--do I think they are right for me, do they enjoy the same sort of books as my book, that sort of thing. Sometimes I still don't get it right, but you can usually tell with those critiques and (sadly, because they put a lot of work into it) those are the crits I toss out. But, that mainly only happened when I was a newer writer and didn't know a lot of good critiquers and/or didn't know how to choose them.

    That being said, I'd love to read your MS, Kate. Three weeks is fast, and normally you'd really need to give your readers a wider berth than that. At least a month, six weeks is better. BUT, you know I love you. And you know I love this story since I ask you about it every chance I get. I'm a tough critiquer and I'm assuming since this is your first round with betas you'd want a pretty thorough critique, right? I'd totally make an exception for you. ;) Shoot your MS to me and I'll tear it up! Yeah!

  9. Hey, hey, hey pick me! I'm a pretty good writer - a much better editor though. I realized this talent when I had to rip apart submissions to my school's literary magazine on a regular basis >_>

    I'm also kind of just looking for something to read...I just finished Mockingjay and it feels odd not having some kind of story in my hands ._.

    If you need a sample of my writing or something before you decide whether you want me as a beta, I'd be happy to send something.

    email: hassan.durant @ ars-scriptus .net

    When I need a beta, I usually ask my English and Creative writing teachers for support...while they don't have time to read EVERYTHING I've written, they're pretty helpful with shorter works, or larger works in bite-sized pieces :)

    I'm also pretty picky when it comes to who looks at my one I know is allowed to see my writing before it's done, except for my teachers and my very best writer-friend.