Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Guest Blogger Jaci Burton on Critique Partners vs Beta Readers

I’ve used various critique partners over the years. When I first started writing seriously, I joined a critique group—a rather large one. We’d each submit a chapter and critique each other. It worked, for awhile, but then some people did more than others. I ended up dropping out, but met a lifelong friend there. After that I picked up critique partners here and there, invariably realizing that it was going to take awhile to find people that you click with. Lifestyles, work schedules, writing styles—all of that has to be taken into consideration when hooking up with a critique partner. I tend to write very steamy love scenes. Critiquing with an inspirational author wouldn’t work for me. I also write very very fast, churning out several chapters a week. Someone who takes a year to write a book wouldn’t mesh with my writing style. I did find a critique partner eventually whose style matched mine very well. She and I worked together for a couple years. Though we don’t critique together anymore, she’s still one of my best friends.

I eventually stopped critiquing with anyone, mainly because my schedule just doesn’t allow it. My deadlines are heinous, I have to churn books out fast, and I don’t have the time to devote to reading anyone else’s work.

Which brings beta readers into the picture. Beta readers would work well for me, because they read for me, I don’t have to read for them. But I’ve actually never used beta readers. Why? I don’t really know. It’s hard to turn the first draft of your book over to a reader. And I write series books, so I’d need readers familiar with my series. Readers who can find every flaw, not just typos, but also plot points. And reading is so subjective by nature. A plot thread one reader loves, another may hate. I tend to follow my own counsel as to what works and what doesn’t. Too many eyes on a book can taint that, in my opinion. And I already have an editor. How many do I need? Then there’s the whole time thing. By the time I finish a book and edit it, it’s time to turn it in. I have very little time to turn it over to a beta reader, give them time to read it, then fix whatever they think needs fixing. Hence my dilemma with using beta readers. I really wish I could, but I just don’t think it would work with my current writing schedule.

I’m really curious how many writers out there use critique partners and beta readers, and how the relationships work for them. Maybe someday when I’m not so crunched for time I could ponder the relationships again.



Mel said...

Well, since I don't have an editor waiting patiently to read my tome(at least not for the book I'm talking about), I've decided to get a Beta Reader. But this is after myself and my CP went over my whole book.

I think I'm going to have to accept I'm not one of those people who can see their work neutrally. It may be a good book but by the 10th read through I think it's complete crap without a plot or annoying characters. purpose with my CP is to get another set of eyes to see the plot holes, character violation, (and bless my CP, grammar and typos that I miss.)

As for a Beta Reader I just want to know what worked and didn't work for them. It definitely helps to get someone who hasn't read the book already. Preferably someone who isn't a writer.

Sara Thacker said...

I don't have a CP or a Beta Reader. Although a dear friend, Kellie Finley, read my first book and I'll forever be in her debt. CP's don't really work for me. I don't have the time to spend getting stuff ready for a group then reading for that group then critiquing for that group.

I do use and that helps with some critique stuff but not all of the problems.

I did read Surviving Demon Island and loved it. I couldn't find the next book in the series at my local bookstore but will most likely purchase it either for the plane ride to San Francisco in July or while at Nationals for the plane ride back.

Jaci Burton said...

Mel - I'd love to have the time to have readers take a look at my book and let me know what worked and didn't work. I'm hoping to carve more of that 'time' into my schedule later in the year :-)

Sara - autocrit. How cool! And thank you for reading my book! Hope you continue to enjoy the series :-)

Candace Morehouse said...

Personally, I don't use either. I, too, have had problems finding a crit partner on the same time schedule, at the same level, etc.

As for a beta reader - sounds like this position serves as an editor without payment. To me, it sounds like a beta reader points out things an editor is trained to looked for. That being said, as you most assuredly will work with an experienced editor at your place of publication after already contracted, I don't see the need. Publishers can tell if you have a good story; editing (from light to heavy) can occur after the mss. is sold.

Patrica said...

Mel, Having a CP look at your writing is the first step. Speaking from experience, self editing is the hardest thing to do but I recently found some tips to help. Firstly, put away the completed thing for about a week or two and then try it. Your brain will have 'forgotten' all those little things you know should have been in there.

CP's and Beta readers aren't necessarily for everyone. That you can do what they do by yourself is awesome and I tip my hat to you!

I just wanted to point out to you that with critique partners it is a one on one relationship. I've got two of them and they're great. The amount of effort we put in is equal and if they don't have something cooking they're more than happy to help me out.

Thank you so very much for your input and for honoring us with your presence!

I've seen your work and you rock girl. I've also see how you edit and proof-read (Thankfully) and I have to say cudos to you because you are Number 1!