Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beta Data

“I thought your main character was from Chicago.” The Instant Message might read.
“She is.” I might jot back, while wondering if my critique friend had skipped the first seven chapters, interspersed with references to the windy city.
“Then what’s with the brogue she develops in chapter twelve?”
Those all-night writes really aren’t very productive, all things considered. I should not be listening to Flogging Molly while I write anyway, EVER. Pull out the machete, hack, chop, change and our protagonist is once again intelligible.
That is just one reason why I needed a Beta Reader. A Beta Reader is someone who will read through your stories with a critical eye and notice when someone changes nationalities, hair color or universes, without explanation. It helps if they read a whole lot too, so they can point out when you’re breaking every other writing rule known to man. Brutal honesty is a good trait also. Someone who can tell you, “I tried to read it, but my head filled with the drone of buzzing insects, I think I fell into a coma during the fifteenth page of back-story.”  The most excellent, professional Beta Readers work for chocolate and tattoos, because they understand that there are only four paid writers left on earth.
It is a blast to primp up several chapters and give it to a friend to read, because friends won’t tell you that your baby is ugly. They’ll never say, “Told you not to go into the desert outside Roswell alone…”  Never mind, we won’t go there. Suffice to say that few friends will boldly stomp on your offspring no matter how alien.
A beta reader, on the other hand, will tell you the truth about your offspring, because if they don’t you are going to take away their chocolate and pay extra to have their tattoos misspelled. Not that they have to be rude about your work. Choose wisely, like I did, someone with a critical eye and a knack for exceedingly polite delivery of painful news. Like a real Texan, “Sugar?  Did I mention how suh-weet your hair looked on Monday before you spent $100 and had it cut and dyed on Tuesday?”  Or a Brit, “Why, yes, my seatmates were rather large but their crushing weight felt like a perpetual hug, and it made the seven hour flight seem much quicker, on account of losing consciousness due to lack of oxygen.” 
Above all, when choosing your Beta, try to get a sparkly blue one.  They’re the best. 

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