Critique Groups, Beta Readers, Editors… oh my!

It is my humble opinion that every writer needs at least someone critiquing their work. It is only to your benefit that someone else (who is not a sycophant, someone who will tell you they love it no matter what) looking over your work and giving you constructive feedback. It can only make your work stronger in the end. The more constructive eyes you have on your work to a certain point, all the better.

critique groupCritique Groups. I’ve written before about my critique group. I have so enjoyed them! And I do believe “iron sharpening iron” is an adequate description of what we’re all about. But I am fortunate to have found a good critique group in which the members really care about each other’s successes. This, I understand, is not always the case. Sometimes, I’m told, critique groups can be a place that tear down the most talented writers in the group. Just be wary as you seek out a crit group. If you can’t find one (or a good one) that meets in your area, you can look online for one. And maybe the group isn’t for you, but you like the feedback you get from one or two of the individuals. E-mail or PM (personal message) them and ask them if they would be willing to be critique partners outside of the group.

beta readerBeta Readers. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my beta readers. They are fabulous people from a little bit varying skill sets that do me a world of good. Beta Readers should be a part of your process once you have your novel complete. Some writers send the manuscript to their beta readers before it goes through editing, some after. But that feedback from your crew is sooo important. You’ll hear of authors who have over 10 beta readers, but you’ll hear some authors who preach that more than three opinions is too many. For my personal preference, three seems to be the right number for me. But my three give me pretty deep, comprehensive feedback. One of my beta readers has history background (I write Historical Fiction) so her feedback really helps in this area. She also has a good mind about word choice and flow that I find quite valuable. Another of my beta readers has a background in English and Literature. As you can imagine, her feedback on story structure and flow is priceless. And my third beta reader is a proofreader/copyeditor as well. Her input is irreplaceable. I really think I have a solid team, though it may be small, these three ladies pack quite a punch.

editorEditors. Again, as I’ve mentioned before, there are several types of editors your book will go through. Content Editor, Line Editor, Proofing Editor…and their focus is on different things. But I’m not writing about their different jobs today, I’m writing as the editor’s position as far as offering feedback on your manuscript. Yes, it can be painful. All of these sources of feedback can be. You have got to swallow the fact that you (and your manuscript) are not perfect. Nor will it be at the end of this process. I guarantee you that someone (a reviewer perhaps) will find an error (or several) and feel the need to point it out. Just accept the fact that you, your crit group, beta readers, and editors are all a team trying to get your manuscript to the point where it is at the most perfect it can be before publication. Keep reminding yourself throughout the editing/critiquing/feedback process – these people are trying to help me, this is only making my work stronger.

In the end, however, please hear me say that this is YOUR work. YOUR name is the one that’s going to be on it. So the decisions you make about what feedback to take or to pass on is yours and yours alone. And it’s okay if you don’t take every single bit of feedback you get. Even from an experienced editor. I would make sure you have a good reason for sticking to your guns, so to speak. But a good editor, crit partner, or beta reader will respect that you are the artist and this is your masterpiece.

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