Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Writing Blind

There's a saying that an author is the worst judge of his/her own work.  As I'm editing Aurumenas, I realize just how true that is.  I feel like I'm going through it blind.  I know what parts are supposed to be high in tension, sadness, joy, etc., but with knowing precisely how it's all going to pan out, I can't know for sure if a reader will feel the way I want them to feel.

When writing the first draft, I often run the risk of being redundant just to make sure the reader really gets what I want to come across.  Instead of making my point, though, I end up slowing down the pace and treating my readers like fools.  Even when editing, I'll keep the redundancies because I assure myself that they're necessary.  "It's so important that they get it, though," I'll say.

Of course, there's consequences to being overzealous in cutting out anything you feel is redundant.  Sometimes, I'll go through a section armed with the delete button and end up taking out things that were vital. Instead of drilling my point to death, I'll make it such a mystery that the reader is left going, "huh?"

So where's the middle ground and how do you get to it?  Some people put their works aside for a few weeks to come back with fresh minds.  I'd say this works to an extent.  I've done it and found I can get a basic idea of how a new reader will feel.  Ultimately, though, you still know everything about the book even if you forgot individual sentences.  You just can't read it the way a brand new reader can.

That's where betas come in.  You must be careful in picking your betas, though, because not everyone is going to like your book or grasp its vision.  You could tear your book to shreds trying to please a best friend who never read or liked the genre you write in.

Before settling on a beta(s), you have to know exactly what you want out of your book, and you have to have at least a vague notion of its strengths and weaknesses.  Only you can know your story world inside and out.

Sometimes the best beta can fall in your lap.  A few weeks ago, I'd written a post where I dropped a hint that anyone who was interested in my particular genre should email me because I was looking for more betas.  Well, someone emailed me that day.  This was a person I'd seen around Nathan Bransford's forums and who'd commented on my blog a few times, so I was relatively confident she wasn't just some fly by follower who I'd never hear from again.

So I sent my first 100 pages to her, and let me tell you, I couldn't ask for a better beta.  There are sections I knew needed expanding, but I couldn't quite figure out what exact parts needed to be touched upon.  She'd go through those areas and tell me exactly what it was and I'd feel like my muse was just injected with a shot of adrenaline.

Though I'd been writing blind, hoping and praying the right emotions would come across, I've now found my eyes.  I fully intend on making those cookies for her when it's all done.  ;)

Any techniques you want to share for editing?  Anything we haven't heard of before?  And if you have a beta, how did you find him/her?  Was it a lifelong friend or someone you met through a writing community?

~Emily White

By the way, my lovely beta, I didn't mention your name because I didn't know if you'd want me to.  However, if you'd like to get your name out there, by all means wave your arms around, scream, let everyone know who you are.  :D


  1. I love my beta. I bought him at Nathan Bransford's forums. Yes, I said bought. No, I won't say how I'm making payments in installments...

  2. ha! my hubby was the first one to read my WIP as well, and he made me feel like i couldn't write worth a lick.

    i found my crit partner in the bransforums and she is the most AMAZING person ever! her insight has/ is really helping me as i try to make my feeble little WIP into a novel!

    i did have an awful experience with another partner (also met in the bransforums) who... well it was bad. the advice of taking it slow and only sharing a bit at a time is golden! if only i had known back then... :)


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