An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Need a Beta?


At the beginning of my writing career, my ego said I could write a novel without help. After I faced facts, that I could not become a published author without aid, I asked for betas. I found something more than like-minded writers wanting to improve their skill. I found a fantastic community.

Betas spoke the truth I didn’t want to hear; that my MS stank like spoiled milk.

Thank heavens for them and their honesty. And their friendship.

Find a beta, someone who clicks with your style. Their advice is priceless. Critique groups like Unicorn Bell are a part of the process. Use them. 

Check our archives for the survey Charity posted at our startup. It gives guidelines that help to match a critique partner or beta.

I’ve noticed one thing, that folks who do not read fantasy, cannot critique fantasy. They have no patience with the genre. To that end, I highly recommend that fantasy lovers (whoa. That sounds vaguely pornographic) segregate from mere fiction lovers. The marriage does not work.

Different skill level can cause a breakup also. A lady once told me in the nicest way that she was light years beyond me and needed to find someone closer to her abilities. Yeouch. But she was right. She might help me but I was not helping her. It wasn’t an even trade.

Here are some questions for a potential critique partner:

What genre do you write?

Are you comfortable critiquing in a different genre than you write?

At what stage is your writing?

  • Beginner-no completed manuscripts or agent submissions.
  • Intermediate-several completed novels with extensive research, Unpublished.
  • Advanced – Published, agented, or with a successful E-pub track record.

In comment section of today’s post, I will submit my answers to the above questions and encourage others to do the same.

10 comments:

Tara Tyler said...

I have the best beta! she tells me i stink but in a positive way =) My question is, when you finish editing, is it common to ask the same person to read again?

I write and read sci fi, thriller and fantasy. I am intermediate!

Huntress said...

What genre do I write?
Fantasy. All flavors.

What genre are you comfortable critiquing?
Any genre but I am unsure of my ability to crit MG.

What writing stage am I in?
Intermediate. 2 completed novels. 2 WIPs. Lots of research behind me. Lots to learn in front of me.

Regarding fiction vs fantasy readers:
A critter once told me I had spelled ‘demon’ incorrectly. But I ignored that advice since in the world of fantasy ‘daemon’ is suitable.

Another person said that dragons could not be a part of an adult fantasy. Hm. Really. Well I’m an adult, mostly. Anne McCaffrey would probably disagree with that critter’s assessment also.

Huntress said...

@ Tara
I burned out my very first CP by *sending, re-writing, sending, editing, sending* rinse and repeat the same MS.

It was my niece. Looking back at it now, I wonder that she even speaks to me. Heaven knows, she declines anything I write LOL.

IMHO, whether you send the revised MS back in its entirety or in bits and pieces, it is up to your relationship with your partner.

Charity Bradford said...

Great post!

I write a sci fi fantasy mix. I'm comfortable reading those, most YA, some mysteries/detective novels, and romance if it isn't graphic.

I'm finally calling myself Intermediate. Huntress pegged it with her "Lots of research behind me. Lots to learn in front of me."

Angela Brown said...

*taking a deep breath, and dive*

I'm pretty new here, but wanted to share my info as well:

What genre do you write?
Fantasy, paranormal (mainly YA), also dabbling in some steampunk and dystopian

Are you comfortable critiquing in a different genre than you write?
The only genre I'm not good for is "unnecessarily" gory and horror.

At what stage is your writing?
For my genre(s) of interest, Intermediate (self-pubbed a suspense romanica several years ago to make it available to friends)

Brooke R. Busse said...

What genres do you write?

YA and some New Adult. I enjoy contemporary subjects but fantasy or paranormal elements are always present in my stories. Some horror. I'm still experimenting with genres so don't have anything definite pegged down.

Are you comfortable critiquing in a different genre than you write?

It depends on the story, but I'm pretty game for anything.

At what stage is your writing?

Somewhere in between Beginner and Intermediate. I have two completed first drafts that I'm working on revising, but haven't done a ton of research on agents yet.

Abby said...

This is great and so true. I'm scared of what I will find out from my beta's but I know their advice in crucial. So glad I found this fun site - thanks Tara!

mshatch said...

I write fantasy, historical, romance, paranormal, magic realism and YA.

I read almost everything.

I have written book one of a trilogy, plus four other novels. I am currently outlining/plotting.

Probably intermediate; I'm probably a bit older than most of you :)

My primo cp has read one of my manuscripts twice, god bless her, and I'm about to read one of her's for the second time. She's ahead of me in the game so I consider myself fortunate to get her advice.

mshatch said...

and yay for new faces!

defcon said...

A lady once told me in the nicest way that she was light years beyond me and needed to find someone closer to her abilities.

This is why I have a writing mentor (I call him zee guru); he's a billion light years ahead of me, but it's okay because he's willing to help me out, and I have learned more from him in just a few months than I have from someone at my writing level. It's like a parent helping out a child with a math problem that's far beyond the child's capacity; but with the parent's help, the child is able to complete the task and has grown from it.

I write anything under the speculative fiction sun, mainly character-driven stories, and mainly aimed at adults. And I would say I'm an intermediate (1 complete, albeit lousy, MS, and many short stories). I've done my research, enough to know you don't need an agent to sell a novel. :)
http://kriswrites.com/2011/05/04/the-business-rusch-advocates-addendums-and-sneaks-oh-my/