Crits and Betas

Does the title of this blog make it sound like I'm throwing around gang names??? Insert Tupac music in the background.

California love...

Ha! Just kidding!!

Those are actually super important people you need to complete the process of writing your book. And bonus, they're the topic of my Writer Wednesday today!!!

Crit Partners and Beta Readers.

Writing can be a very lonely process. Not only are you the only one involved in the actual writing process, but most of the time you're the only one that believes in what you're writing. You're the only one that can see the project all the way through to the end. You're the only one that knows it has potential to be great, that you're going to work your arse off to make it great and that once you finish this book, nobody can stop you.

You might have the loving support of your family. The encouragement of your friends. And the drive of a bestsellers list calling your name.

Still, when you sit down to the computer, when your fingers clickity-clack away and when it's 3am and you're on your seventh cup of coffee, you're going to look around and realize... You're alone.

You're alone with a bunch of imaginary voices in your head and one foot in reality and one foot in a world you COMPLETELY made up and does not actually exist.

Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel crazy.

That's an entirely separate post.


Anyway. Part of being a writer is being alone. And being okay with being alone. You can't sit up in your head most of your days and have imaginary conversations between people that don't really exist and always be surrounded by people.

It just doesn't happen.

So you're alone. But that doesn't mean you have to be lonely.

Professionally speaking.

There are two kinds of people that come alongside you from the get go.

And it's important to note that these people exist before your Street Team and sometimes even before your Editor.

Such as the Crit Partner and all your wonderful, generous Beta Readers.

So who are these people? What roles do they play in your life?

First, let's start with the Crit Partner.

As in Critique Partner.

As in the person that reads your work as you go along and judges the crap out of it.

This person is invaluable. She/he will help your characters stay consistent. Will alert you when the plot line starts to go astray. And most importantly, encourage you to finish.

They see what you see, but wait patiently for you to create the rest of it.

Sometimes they even see what you DON'T see.

This person needs to be someone you can not only trust implicitly, but that you also don't mind taking criticism from.

It is very hard to take negative critique. No matter who you are or what stage of writing you're in.

But just because it's hard and you don't like it, doesn't mean you shouldn't consider it anyway.

Now, I say that. But I also want to be clear. Every person has an opinion unique to them and their personal taste.

So while you should listen to your Crit Partner, only you can envision the completed vision of your project. It is up to you to sort through the criticism and decide what to do with it. You have to be mature, objective and know that you're appealing to a reader in your Crit Partner and that they probably have better perspective than you.

Be smart about it. Don't be emotional.

Emotions ruin everything. :)

This is also why it's a good idea to only have one Crit Partner. Find someone you can trust of course, but also that enjoys reading that particular genre.

I have more than one Crits. I have three that I go to regularly. But depending on the book and genre. One of my reading partners doesn't like Paranormal. So I only give her the contemporary stuff. One of mine reads everything but my novella series. And the other cannot wait to get her hands on Love and Decay.

They read almost everything of mine before it's edited. Which basically puts them up for sainthood consideration. But they are lovely enough to look beyond my mistakes and to the meat of the story.

They also hold my hand through the writing process and promise me that it's not crap. Or if it is, they remind me to fix it in the read-through.

Now, finding a Crit Partner can be difficult. Especially someone who is willing to give you their time on your schedule. Plus, learning to trust their opinion is never easy.

Like I said, it's  painful agonizing terrible torturous HARD to hear critique. Even if it's not necessarily negative. Even if it will improve your story a thousand times.

It's still hard.

That doesn't mean we don't do it. Nope. We swallow the bitter pill and listen.

And listen carefully.

Do you hate listening??? I do! Truthfully, I am one of the WORST listeners I know. I don't listen to advice. Or instructions. Or other people talking. I just do my own thing and worry about mowing people over later.

But this is a skill I have worked and worked and worked on over the years. It's not easy. And it will never get easy.

Don't expect it to.

And really... don't want it to.

So what if you have to wrestle between your Crit Partners assessment and the hopes and dreams you have for those same characters? Your Crit Partner isn't going to know everything but her opinion is still valuable. And guess what! You don't know everything either!

It's in that wrestling, that battle for direction that you find the truth. Maybe you were wrong. Massively wrong. Or maybe she was. Or maybe the real answer lies somewhere in between the two of you.

It's your job to find out. And her job to show you that you need to find out.

This leads us to the next question: How do I find a Crit Partner?

It's actually easier than you might think.

All of mine are dear friends. And they always have been. But I don't trust easily and so for me to find opinions that I can listen to, I need someone whose opinion I trust in everything. I need to know them on a bigger platform than just writing.

I say that, but you should know, mine have changed over the years. I started with one Partner that was perfect for me at the time. She read everything I wrote chapter by chapter and gave great feedback. Well, since then, her life has gotten incredibly busy and can't do that for me anymore. The three partners I have now, came about naturally and organically.

But I doubt they will be able to critique forever. Eventually, they will move on to other things and I will search out new Crits.

Before I published Reckless, I gave it to two of the most critical readers I could think of. They didn't even necessarily read the same genre, but I wanted an honest opinion if it was complete crap or if it had a chance.

They were very honest with me.

I published anyway.


You could do this. Go to friends that you trust or respect. Or people you know just read a bunch and have a good overview of the book world.

Or you can meet people online.

I've heard of plenty of authors doing this. People you meet in forums or KDP boards or street teams you're on together.

There are enough people interested in doing this that you shouldn't have many problems.

I would be careful though!

Obviously plagiarism is a huge issue these days. And the last thing you want is to fall into a toxic relationship with someone, only to have them steal all your ideas. If you're going to use someone online that you don't know in real life, I suggest coming up with a contract between the two of you. Something like a Google doc that you can both sign and that makes you both comfortable.

Something you can show a lawyer if you need to. :)

They should be as wary of you as you are of them.

Make sure they can't steal your work, or share your work before you're ready and you've given them the go ahead. Make sure the partnership is mutually beneficial. I wouldn't make it lengthy or put anything in there about time constraints and what not. People are busy and if your partner is too busy to read your work, find a new partner. Don't throw a contract at them and make them read something they don't want to.

How will that help you? It won't.

But protect yourself. That is numero uno. Always protect yourself and your work.

My general rule is one or two Crit Partners per manuscript. And no more than that.

If you want more people to read your manuscript than you need to find Beta Readers.

This is the next stage.

Your Beta Reader group can be a handful of people or just one person. It's really up to what you feel comfortable with.

However, you need to be careful with the number of opinions you're bringing in. Too many opinions and you'll never figure out what to do. They will all be shouting at you to go a different way and you'll lose sight of your original vision.

However, having one Beta Reader that just loves anything you write and can't think of a single thing wrong with your manuscript, is also a terrible idea.

Your Betas need to be tough and critical and sometimes downright mean. :)

I should say this too. My Betas are different than my Street Team. My Betas always get my manuscripts before I hand it out to my Street Team.

And here is why.

I have four or five Betas, depending on the project. I have 95 people in my Street Team.

I have to make decisions to change the plot or reword things or whatever BEFORE I give it to my Street Team, or could you imagine what would happen???

Mass Chaos.

95 different opinions equal me not knowing up from down or right from left.

I would be so confused. And if I gave that power to my Street Team, it would only be a matter of time before I hurt feelings.

With that kind of influx of opinions, naturally, I'm going to float toward the opinions that agree completely with me I "like" the best. And ignore those that hurt my feelings or my character's feelings that don't line up exactly the way I want them to.

My Betas are honest, insightful and excited about the story line. They have conversations with me about where my plots are going. They are invested in my characters. And they cannot wait to read what I give them.

Those are invaluable character traits.

Betas also don't get anything I write until after I am finished with edits.

That way if I missed anything, they can point it out to me. Although, I rely on my Street Team to do this too- as far as grammatical errors and what not.

As far as not using my Street Team to Beta, there are more reasons than just the sheer number of opinions.

I also rely on my Street Team for honest and fair reviews. I don't expect them to slap five stars on everything I write. And I don't want them to. Getting five stars on everything I publish will never further my career. It will never make me a better writer.

And I want to be a better writer. Always.

Beta reading while critical, is meant to be critical. I would never ask my Betas to review because they would rip me apart even though they probably still loved the story.

Plus, I want to take their thoughts and criticism and work with it. Then I hand it over to my Street Team and ask them to read it as entertainment.

I don't want them to read each word and weigh it's importance. My Street Team is a representation of my readership as a whole. And I want their natural, relaxed reactions.

And then I want their honest reviews.

I hope it makes sense why I keep them separate.

They are both incredibly important to me. They just play different roles in my publishing process.

You can find Betas the same way you find Crit Partners. Only, I find it easier to find Betas. I have lots of people messaging me with offers. And I have other authors I can and do go to.

The Betas I trust the most though are usually my real-life friends. And my mom.

My mom lets me hear it when she has an opinion.


And I love her for it.

So, you're writing your first manuscript and you don't really want to show anyone yet??? Tough luck.

You need both these groups of people. And you need them now.

Be willing to accept criticism and be willing to change your thinking. You possibly, maybe... probably do not write gold. And your work is going to need HELP!!!!

That's what these people are here for. They are your team. They are on your side. And they should want you to succeed and do well.

Be kind to them and listen to them.

But make sure there is a "them" to go to.

PS. I am taking most of these Writer Wednesdays from questions I get over the week or comments I see. If you ever have a topic you want me to discuss specifically, don't hesitate to ask! I'd be more than happy to cover it.


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1 comment:

  1. So I was wondering, when do you use the betas and crits? I read the post and it sounds like you have the crit partner while you are writing, and then you have the betas to go through it after. Is that right? I am so confused with the whole writing thing.