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.