The Saga of Greene Newbie -- pt. 3

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adventures in Beta-Reading...

Greene is not a happy writer. Having learned what a beta is, he found himself an online writing group and paired off with someone he's decided is either deluded, stupid, or jealous. That is to say, someone who told him his opus has promise, but needs work.

Beta Reader offered some 3rd party insight into the mechanics of writing as they applied to Greene's master work --

* There are so many adverbs and adjectives, the prose has been choked down like it was under a kudzu vine. Thankfully, it's easier to prune a MS than it is to kill kudzu.
* Many of the passages are in passive voice, which means there's a stall out where there should be action. If "The page was picked up by Hero Goodguy.", it's usually better to say "Hero Goodguy picked up the page."
* There are inconsistencies in the storyline, such as the character's nicknames and the color of their eyes. The time allowed for getting from place to place is unrealistic.
* While most of the POV is solid, Greene occasionally headhops into the minds of characters whose thoughts he shouldn't have access to.

Greene huffed and puffed and claimed artistic vision for seven and a half hours before stomping off to eat a sandwich. What does that stupid beta know anyway? If he was such a hotshot, he'd be busy writing his own book and not have time to read others'.

His family loved his book and praised his artistic style. His friends did the same. They said the piece was amazing and encouraged him to get it published... in fact, they keep asking what the hold-up is. It's been two whole months, so his book should be in print already...

After his sandwich was well on its way to digestion, Greene returned to his MS, ready to fire off an angry and detailed email reply picking apart each of the beta's complaints. If this moron couldn't tell a stylistic choice when he saw one, Greene was just going to have to point them out.

Then he started going through the beta notes one at a time...


He hadn't realized his prose was quite so purple. He certainly didn't notice it straying into the ultraviolet. Maybe it would read better if he cut some of the adjectives.

And where did those redundant passages come from? He didn't remember hammering so many details into the book over and over and over.

Seriously? Hero Goodguy's eyes were brown at the beginning? He could have sworn they were green all the way through... oh wait, it was his car that was green... at least it was until it morphed into a truck halfway through chapter seven.


It's even too passive.

Maybe Beta Reader knows more than Greene thought he did, and maybe Greene's family and friends were being a little more supportive than objective.

That's another lesson:

The mom who proudly displayed your first macaroni collage on the fridge, even after more than half the spray painted noodles had dropped off and been swallowed by the dog, most likely won't be in a hurry to point out weak points in your book. She probably won't even notice them. Outside eyes are necessary to catch the things you're too close to see because you will often read what you "meant" to write instead of what actually ended up on the page.

After combing his entire MS, Greene has found that he agrees with about 80% of the suggestions the beta offered. Other aspects, like changing the characterization of some of his favorites, he'll ignore - after all, there's nothing saying he has to agree with Beta Reader's opinions. But when he's done with another round of edits, he'll have a stronger story that will be more appealing for its lack of common errors.

Now, all he has to do is write one of those query thing-a-ma-jobbies.

(to be continued...)

1 Chiming In:

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Greene gets a clue!

BTW, Happy Birthday!

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