If you’ve been hit by a bad beta reader you’ll know it. Emotionally, at least. You’ll feel panicked, anxious, FULL of self-doubt, and lower than low. However, your rational mind will try to talk you out of it. Writers need to be thick-skinned, it will say. All feedback is valuable in some way, it will add. But your gut will feel otherwise. Deep down, you’ll know that something is off. Something is wrong.
And then, if you don’t find another outside party to confide in who can give you that reinforcement and validation you need to trust your gut, you can quickly spiral out of control and lose all confidence in your book.
There is a difference between a Critique Partner and a Beta Reader.
A Critique Partner is someone who approaches a manuscript from the point of view of a writer.
They are prepared to hone in on the nitpicky stuff, be blunt with their criticism, and give ample notes on where the story just doesn’t work.
For a writer lucky enough to find an awesome beta reader, the payoff can be like striking pure gold. Good beta readers force you to level up. They clearly see the story when you’ve lost all perspective. And if they’re really good, they remind you why you started writing in the first place.
In today’s writing culture workshops, critique circles, and beta-reading partners are the norm. Writers are so focused on feedback—any feedback—that they frequently rush through writing two or three pages of the beginning of a story and then immediately hand it off to their writing buddies for comments and suggestions.
This July I’ve been following along on the progress of Camp NaNoWriMo through different writers’ blogs. The impressive word counts, surprising ideas, and creative ways to push through that I see coming from all these writers are really inspiring. It’s exciting how the everyone’s-in-it-together energy becomes contagious and encourages writers to stretch their potential in ways they never would have before.
It’s also made me think a lot about motivation.