It’s important as an author to have fresh pairs of eyes look over your work once it’s completed. Other people see things you might miss, even though as authors we can be the most critical of our work. When I’m re-writing a book for instance, I have someone beta-read for me to make sure I’m not missing plot points, or to make sure I don’t have parts of the story that should have been deleted still in there!
Beta-readers are important because these are people you trust that are fans of the genre you write. They will be able to tell you what they liked, what they felt fell flat in your book, and give you good suggestions because they read so many books in the genre. If you don’t know any readers of your genre, I’m sure you know someone who loves books. An avid reader will be able to do the same because they know what makes a good story flow for them while they’re reading.
A critique partner differs from a beta-reader in that your critique partner is usually another author you trust to read your work – someone you know will give you good advice on plot points, editing, character development etc.
When I joined a writer’s organization, I met a lot of great authors at a conference and some of them became my critique partners for a time. Now that I’ve been published for a few years, I use beta-readers more often than critique partners, mostly due to the fact that I’m not a new author anymore, my confidence at being able to write a good story has increased, and I have great editors I work with on a regular basis with my publishing house. Nowadays, I want to know if a reader feels anything is missing for them, and I take their feedback and feel out how or if I want to change anything.
I get asked a lot to critique people’s work, and unfortunately these days my answer is ‘no’ for the simple fact that my writing schedule is busy. I do critique samples when I host workshops. My advice to authors is to join groups in-person or online. Be open to constructive feedback. It’s difficult to have someone be critical of your work, but if you’re serious about being good at what you do, you need to be able to hear what others have to say about what you’ve written. Be wary of people who tear down your work. There is a difference in constructive feedback and picking apart everything you’ve done.
I recall the first time I hired an editor to edit one of the first books I’d ever written. It came back with so many red track-changes that at first I cried! Then I saw what she’d done, and I knew I could learn. I encourage everyone to love what you do, but step back and let others help you make your manuscript shine. Be open to how others view your work because there is so much to learn, and another perspective gives you a fresh view of what you’ve done. You do not have to always agree with a beta-reader or critique partner, but more often than not, if these people care about you, they will want you to become better.
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On my Youtube channel, I created a short video with some ideas on how to break creative blocks that authors often face. Even though we are often told to sit our butt in the chair and write, we also have to get out of the chair once in a while to get our bodies moving! Making sure we exercise and eat, help fuel our bodies and keep our creative process flowing. Sometimes we may have other health issues for ourselves or our loved once, or perhaps day job stress is causing us to lose focus with our writing. When we take the time to deal with those things, often our creative flow comes back. It’s important not to lose faith in our writing abilities or creative talents during those times.
People often come to my workshops and ask where I get my ideas from. Most of my ideas come from a “what if?” situation. A situation in my every day life will inspire me to embellish upon it, creating my idea for a book. I have no end to creative ideas at times. This isn’t the case for everyone, and it doesn’t mean you’re not a creative person. We all need a creative boost now and then.
Here is an exercise I give to my workshop participants:
Set a timer for two or three minutes. In that time, writing down as many ideas as you can. It could be anything from what you ate for breakfast, what you saw on your walk to work, or what if I had chocolate cake for lunch? (I use chocolate cake here since I mentioned it twice inadvertently in the video. I guess I really want chocolate cake – Ha!) For example, one book I wrote was inspired by taking my cats to the vet. Not the most exciting thing in real life, but I wrote a humorous romance from the experience. You never know where your ideas will come from.
If you have other ideas to share with authors who are reading the blog, please share them here. We’d love to hear from you.
As part of the pro series, A Novel Creation, I welcome author Lorette Moore to my blog today to discuss what she’s learned in the publishing industry.
A new series here on my blog and on my Youtube channel will be for authors who are new to writing or want to learn more about certain aspects of the publishing world. Topics will range from dealing with “writers block” to spamming, finding critique partners/beta readers and more! In the near future, I’ll have my writing workshop A Novel Creation up as well. Subscribe to my blog and Youtube channel so you won’t miss out!