What Is a Beta Reader?
Let’s start by laying out the differences between a beta reader and an editor. They perform a similar function, certainly, but they are very different kinds of readers.
An editor is a paid professional, typically with academic or professional credentials that qualify him or her to look at a piece of writing with a critical eye. An editor has the judgement and skills required to make (often extensive) changes to a story’s plot, character development, structure, and grammar without sacrificing its style or voice. For a comprehensive audit of your story, a professional editor is your best bet.
A beta reader, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily have the same credentials. That’s not to say it’s never happened. In fact, it’s probably happened a lot. But typically, a beta reader is unpaid, and his or her feedback tends to be that of a casual reader or observer rather than a professional. To put things in perspective, your beta readers could be your neighbour, your co-worker’s brother, and your mom. (But it might be best not to rely on your mom for critique. She might have a hard time being honest. Or maybe not. You know your mom better than I do.)
Well, well. Another year of NaNoWriMo is over. For some of you, it may have dragged by. For others, it probably passed in the blink of an eye. And some of you will have completed manuscripts, while others, not so much…
If you managed to hit 50,000 words, congratulations! Completing such a lengthy work is a huge achievement. You deserve a pat on the back. As for those who didn’t hit 50,000? You deserve kudos, too. Even if you didn’t hit your goals, you still parked your butt in the chair and gave it your best shot. A lot of people can’t say the same.
So, now that December 1 has rolled around, the question becomes, “What do I do with this manuscript?” The answer depends on where you are in the writing process.
If your story is incomplete, keep writing
NaNo may be over, but that doesn’t mean your work is done. Keep writing until your story is finished. If you have it in you, stick to your NaNoWriMo writing schedule. It will help you stay motivated and on course. Do this through December, January, February — as long as it takes, until you can finally type “THE END” on the last page of your masterpiece!
Friends, NaNoWriMo is upon us. Cue your excitement. Cue your panic. But don’t panic too much, because you’ve got this. You are a fighter, and 50,000 words is a walk in the park. That said, our bad habits sometimes sabotage our best efforts to be productive. Perfectionism plaguing you? Post-work fatigue dragging you down? These are issues that every writer faces. So without further ado, here are my best tips for surviving NaNoWriMo.
Get up an hour early. This gets the bulk (or all) of your writing done before the workday even begins, so you can’t use post-work fatigue as an excuse not to write! Plus, knowing you’ve already cranked out a good chunk of words before 9 a.m. will lift your spirits for the rest of the day.
Put a piece of cardboard over your monitor. If you have a problem with editing as you go, this is a good way to put a stop to it. If you can’t see what you’re writing, you can’t mull over the same sentence for three hours.
Make a playlist. As Georgia Cates said, “Music is what feelings sound like out loud.” If you need inspiration for a character, a scene, a chapter, or the entire book, prepping a playlist before you get working is a solid way to keep the inspiration flowing.
During the many long hours I have spent procrastinating on Pinterest, I have noticed a disturbing trend. “SAID IS DEAD,” the pins proclaim. “R.I.P SAID!”
Gentle readers, allow me to come to the defense of this most humble of dialogue tags. I, for one, am not ready to put it in the ground.
Said is a perfectly adequate word. Actually, it’s more than adequate; it’s the one you should use most often when attributing dialogue. You don’t want your characters to always be bellowing or whispering or hissing or snapping.
Take, for example, the following passage:
“I can’t believe he said that,” Jason fumed.
“I know,” Sarah deadpanned. “It’s ridiculous.”
“Is that what he really thinks?” he grumbled.
“It’s hard to say. Maybe?” she equivocated.
It’s over the top, right? It’s kind of like watching hammy actors in a B movie.
It’s a common enough occurrence. You’ve spent the day at work, an hour in the car, thirty minutes in the shower, daydreaming about all the shocking plot twists, scintillating dialogue, and sweeping descriptions you’re going to write once you finally sit down in front of the laptop. You’ve cooked up ideas of blinding genius. You’re raring to go.
But then the worst happens: You open the word processor and stare at the blinking cursor, your mind suddenly blank, your fingers inept.
You start to question your worth as a writer. Am I cut out for this? you ask yourself. Am I smart enough? Creative enough? Motivated enough? Deserving enough?
Do I have anything important to say?
You lock up. You allow your doubts to freeze you. You close the laptop lid and fire up Netflix instead, telling yourself you’ll come back to the writing later.
But here’s the thing.