Being an author means meeting other authors. Not just in the awkward ‘I happen to mention that I’m an author at a party and people come out of the woodwork to tell me their uncle wrote a book’ way, but in an actual way, like meeting them and hanging out with them. On the internet. Usually Twitter.
Shut up, it’s real, it is real.
We hang out, exchange word-counts. Compare least-favorite ways to begin a chapter, complain about how difficult ending a story is, whine about our editing. We cheer each other on during writing jags, brainstorm solutions when someone is stuck, and post silly pictures of our coffee-cups. It’s a way to make a very un-social job a little less lonely.
In the process, I’ve met quite a few writers whose works I’ve enjoyed. That’s rather a cool perk, because after I read their books, I can say, “Oh, I was just reading this book, it was written by my friend so-and-so.” Not just written by a person, written by my friend. Ha, beat those bragging rights!
But the books I read aren’t always on the market yet. Sometimes I do what’s called beta reading, where an author sends me a book and I give them tips on how to improve it. I point out plot holes, or odd wording, tell them when something seems funny or is a nice passage. At the end, I give them my overall opinion of the work.
You might have seen my post advertising for beta readers (I’m still looking, if you’re wondering) and thought “that seems interesting.” You might have seen it and thought the opposite. I enjoy doing it occasionally, and I do it only for authors that I know.
One such book I beta’d this year was for a friend of mine, Cathleeen Townsend. I was stuck in the middle of writing Book 3, and told her to send me one of her series of novels. I figured that by working through her stuff, I might un-stick mine.
Instead of sending one of her many novels, though, she sent me a series of short stories she was readying for publication in anthology form. She’s a fantasy writer, and the stories in question dealt with everything from a troll who wished to see the sun to a young woman taking her driving exam and getting more than she bargained for. Some were humorous, some were sad, some needed work, some did not. I sent my thoughts back, she asked a few questions about some of my comments, we exchanged emails for a bit, she changed some things and didn’t change others; that’s how beta reading goes. My book came unstuck and I got busy. Occasionally I’d check on how the progress was going, but I had other things on my mind.
And then, one evening while checking my email, a post popped up from her blog: Dragon Hoard and Other Tales of Faerie by Cathleen Townsend has been published!
She’s put it up for free on Amazon and Smashwords, where a few hundred people have taken advantage of the price already. I encourage you to join them if you enjoy fairy tales with a light tone. While not every story will make you laugh–some shouldn’t–the overall tone of each piece is to bring about the whimsy of the story in question. I won’t give it a rating, because I read the stories in-progress rather than the final product, but I think many of you will enjoy it.
Plus, my name’s in it, under “acknowledgements,” I word I’ve never spelled right on the first try, except for just now, where I spelled it right, and I don’t know how I did that and I’ll never be able to do it again, darn it, wasted that opportunity right there…
My name is in it! Which is cool!
That’s the fun of beta-reading though: to see something I helped with come to life, better than it was before. It’s a lot of work, but at the same time, it has rewards of its own. Readers who beta-read get to participate in the creation of a book without having to labor with pen and paper, book-writing for those who prefer not to undertake the whole ordeal. Writers get to see what works and what doesn’t in other people’s books, and apply that to their own.
Plus, you get your name in a book, which is pretty spankin’ awesome. Ha!
So if you want something to curl up with for a few hours in that weird space between when the house is clean and you are ready for guests to arrive and when they actually arrive, there you go. And that’s the fun of knowing writers–there’s always something more to read.
PS. SPEAKING of more things to read, did you know I now have a mailing list? Join it to be among the first to read my short story “The Foreigner’s Loneliness”, which I will be sending out in my first newsletter in January! I’ll also be sending out deals as my books start getting published this winter, and this is a great way to keep up-to-date on my short stories and other awesome freebies!
4 thoughts on “The Wonderful Thing About Writers, Is Writers Are Wonderful Things”
You are so kind. I highly recommend Stephanie as a beta partner. Not only does she have a good eye for what works in a story, her comments are hilarious. Incorporating feedback into revision has got to be the most painstaking part of the process for me. Having some comic relief really helps.
And I second the remarks about beta-ing a book that gets published. You feel good about it afterward. A new book is now in the world, and you helped. It’s a powerful feeling. It’s completely the opposite of feeling useless. And if you’re a writer yourself, that feeling can take you out of your blue funk.
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You’re welcome, Cathleen! I enjoyed working on the book, and hey, it did get me going when I was stuck. (Okay, the hour-long phone convo did most of it, but still.) I am glad I amuse you with my remarks, though. It makes what can be a gloomy task far more interesting.
Stephanie I love your voice! I’m just stalking all your old blog posts now and you’re so damn funny. My coffee is cold and the washing machine has been beeping at me for an hour, but I just want to read one more post, and the next, and probably the one after that…
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Oh huzzah! Stalk away, I love having people read through my back-log. It’s three days a week, but only since September, so don’t worry, there shouldn’t be *too* much… unless you read my play, of course 😉 Thanks so much!
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