Friday, September 30, 2011

The Revision Process: Beta Readers vs. Critique Partners

When you are new to the writing game, there are a lot of terms that are thrown around like beta readers and critique partners. Not everyone knows what these terms mean, or think that the terms are used interchangeably. But they have very different (and important) roles in the writing process.

Critique Partners: Critique partners are a close group of writers who share their works in progress with each other. The purpose of them reading your manuscript is to give you an in-depth critique. Line editing usually falls to this group. (Although YOU, as the writer, should have line edited that manuscript within an inch of its life before submitting your work to your critique partner for critique). Critique partners are SUPPOSED to find things wrong with your manuscript. Things that need to be fixed, things that don't work, plot holes, voice, characterization, etc. Any issues with your manuscript that an agent or editor would consider a deal breaker. They are not there to catch your typos or grammar issues. YOU should catch those. Read your manuscript out loud (BEFORE sending to your crit partner).

If you've got a critique partner and their only comments are "I love it, it's AWESOME!" for your work, that doesn't really help you grow as a writer. While comments like this, of course, feel wonderful (especially when they mean it), it doesn't do anything to help you polish your manuscript. You might want to consider adding another critique partner.

But, having multiple critique partners brings up a whole new set of problems. What if each partner has different comments? What if the comments contradict what the other one says? This is the point where you, as a writer, must take all of the comments, consider them, ponder them, and decide which is right for your manuscript. If more than one person points out the same issue, then chances are there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Beta Readers: These are your last line of review before calling the project "done". The main difference between these and critique partners is that these are READERS. The key word: READERS.

These readers read your manuscript after you've polished it until your eyes bleed, after your critique partners have ripped your manuscript to shreds and your polished, revised manuscript has risen from the ashes. These readers give you their overall opinions.

While they might catch a typo/missed word/etc now and then, their purpose is to give global comments with regards to character, plot, voice, etc. The global stuff. Anything that worked, or didn't work. Questions that they asked along the way. Things that they questioned. They are your "big picture" readers. They go into the project not as a writer, but as a reader. Think of them as your first real readers. Don't rely on them to critique your work. In order for them to have it in their hands, you should have already critiqued that bad boy within an inch of it's life.

As with critique partners, it helps to have multiple beta readers so that you can compare and contrast the comments. Again, if multiple readers bring up the same issue, then you potentially have a problem. But ultimately, it is your book and you must do what you feel is right for the story.

I have both critique partners and beta readers for my work. Some writers produce such polished work that they skip the critique partners and go straight to the beta readers. Some have critique partners but don't have beta readers. Personally, I feel that each type of reader has their strengths and bring that to the table when they are reading my manuscript.

On that note - thank you so much to all of my critique partners and beta readers. I love you dearly (even when you make me cry) and would not be at this point in my career without your valuable (yet sometimes painful) feedback. 

Writers - What about you? Do you have one, or both types of readers? What do you do about conflicting comments?


Shelley Watters writes romance for young adults and adults. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and two dogs. She loves listening to music, reading good books and letting her imagination go wild as she creates new worlds and torments her characters in delicious ways. She is an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Book Week ... Win a copy of The Secret of Spruce Knoll by Heather McCorkle

 The winner for a copy of Heather McCorkle's THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL chosen by is Donna Weaver. Yay! Please email me your address at brenleedrake(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll send it out to you.

It's Banned Books Week. So I thought it would be a wonderful idea to celebrate a book from one of my fellow bloggers, Heather McCorkle. Check out what she has to say about it and her giveaway here. Heather's newly released novel The Secret of Spruce Knoll was banned by one of her local bookstores.So I'm giving a way a copy of Heather's book to one lucky follower of this blog. All you have to do is leave a comment and be a follower. Simple.

Check out a recent interview with Heather McCorkle at Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuch here.

Here's something about Heather's book ...

Following the tragic death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with “channelers”—a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.

Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they—and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charm convinces her that being a channeler may not be all bad.

If you don't win a copy here you can buy it here:
Barnes & Noble
The Book Depository

So, other than Heather's book, what is your favorite banned book? Don't forget to leave a comment below and follow this blog for a chance to win a copy of Heather's book.

You can find Brenda on her blog: 
or on twitter:!/brendadrake

Here's a video of Judy Blume for the Virtual Read-Out for Banned Book Week...