Monday, November 1, 2010

Oh no! “It’s Nice.”

I’d be completely lost without my critique group. They shred analyze my manuscripts, tell me what’s ridiculous working, and provide me with very pointed point-on suggestions. After they’re done with me, I know my work will be a lot stronger.

But I don’t stop there. After I complete another revision based on my critique group’s comments, I also like to get feedback from a second group of people, my beta readers. (Some call them lay readers, others call them first readers. Just don’t call them late for dinner!) While this group changes a little from manuscript to manuscript, it’s composed of family members (hi mom!) and friends. (They don’t mind doing it—at least that’s what they tell me.)

The two groups serve different functions. My critique group gives me very detailed comments, from line edits all the way through thematic interpretations. My beta readers usually just tell me if they like it and why.

Both types of feedback are important to me.

My beta readers are first and foremost exactly that: readers. You know, the people I’m writing the book for. If they’re happy—if the book is engaging, well-written, suspenseful, entertaining—then I know I’ve got a winner. If they offer up the dreaded, “It’s nice,” then I know I’ve got some more work ahead of me.

Writers, what about you? Do you use the feedback of beta readers, in addition to critique groups?



Anonymous said...

Alan - My beta readers are so important to me! You have no idea of the swill that might get sent to publishers under my name if I didn't send it to my beta readers first. The world is spared much because of them.

Jenny said...

I agree--beta readers are so important!

Terry Odell said...

I miss my live crit group since we moved. But I'd be totally lost without my on-line partners; they see things I don't notice.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I use both types of groups. Sometimes I find the beta readers find stuff the critique group missed.

Alan Orloff said...

Margot - Swill? I think not. Maybe you meant "swell" stuff.

Jenny - Yes they are!

Terry - And, on-line, you don't need to shower first.

Jane - Yeah. They're both important. And so are editors, copy-editors, etc.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think you're very lucky! I've had some offers for betas, but I've run so close to deadline that I haven't been able to take them up on it. :(

Hart Johnson said...

I try to parse my readers, too--I have some idea of the different strengths of the members of my writer's group, so I ask the first group for broad plot feedback, then I revise, then a new batch reads for the more nit-picky pacing stuff, and I have one excellent reader who actually line-edits for me.

I think you have a great idea though, in asking some 'readers' to read it--the variety who aren't CRITIQUING. I think for those of us who do that regularly, it is hard to turn off (I know I do it even with the regular books I read anymore)

Patricia Stoltey said...

I have a cousin who reads my novels after all the chapters have been savaged by my wonderful critique group and I've made the necessary revisions. She's a reader, but not a writer, so I get a completely different take on the novel.