Sunday, November 25, 2007

ODE TO BOB THE BETA READER

Female Frogfish hide in plain site.
Kind of like beta readers.

8:30 pm and 76 degrees.
No tradewinds tonight. Christmas lights are up. Starboard is green. Port is red. Aft is white.
The draft of my first novel was written over one summer. I was still teaching high school. I thought it was pretty good but yanno...I was biased. I needed a beta reader.
The great thing about living in a harbor among cruisers is that everyone reads and boat people are notoriously cheap. Ergo if you say you are a writer there are beta readers lining up outside your boat. My neighbor Bob (Wandering Star 45 ft Irwin sloop center cockpit) has read everything I've written and sometimes more than once - you see Bob is the perfect beta reader. He has a very short memory. In fact I'm probably lucky he remembers my name. He frequents a used book store and sells back his books. He's been known to turn books in, stay so long browsing that he actually buys back one of his own books turned in that day - forgetting he already read it.
I am NOT making this up.
The PERFECT beta reader.
I have various beta readers known only by pseudonyms.
The comma queen.
Grammar Police Brigade (several of these).
Plot Hole Finder (which is not the same as a Plot Hole FILLER who is quite invaluable).
Anyway. My point it my beta readers - who are named in the acknowledgments pages in the back of LOTTERY - play a huge role in helping me perfect my novels.
They are anxiously waiting my next one.
In fact.
That's either one hugely monstrous frog fish outside my boat or...
they're lining up now.

33 comments:

Les said...

I'm not sure I'd qualified as a beta reader, but I'll stand in line for an ARC copy any day! I plan to make Lottery my #1 handsell this holiday season.

Church Lady said...

First of all, I'm just happy to come here and not see your weenie-boo splayed. Or keep hearing Furry's 'drumstick' remark in my head. So I'm grateful for the new post and new photo!! :-)

I loved that you acknowledge so many people in 'Lottery.' I didn't know you could do that. I've had lots of readers too. They ARE invaluable. And the categories you named are pretty much global!! They made me smile!

Rebecca Burgess said...

Yes! I cannot imagine making this whole thing come together without Betas. Great post.

Wayne said...

I have not heard them referred to as that, but beta readers seems to fit the job beautifully. Beta Bob is my favorite!

Holly Kennedy said...

Nice post, Pat.
Plot hole finder.
I like that one.

And I agree. Good beta readers are gold to an author. Lucky you to have your buddy, Bob!

Maprilynne said...

I have a few invaluable beta readers and they made all the difference in y latest book. I wanted the ending to be just right, and I thought it was. But it totally didn't resonate with them and they were able to tell me honestly. What a difference that made!

A huge benefit to me was also having my agent read it. She's a fabulous sounding board for me and knows how to bring out the best in my writing . . . yet one more reason to try to get one.;)

Lisa R said...

I've been on Kauai all weekend and I missed your blog. I like this one a lot -- it's a nice shout out to people who make life possible for writers.

ORION said...

Yes inquiring minds...BooBoo is Better...
Thanks Les! I, too, think Lottery would make a great Holiday gift LOL but I'm just biased.
Church lady- I hold the Putnam record for longest acknowledgment pages- (okay from a debut author....)
Lisa R - lucky you - Kauai!
Holly has met Beta Bob and knows he ROCKS.

Ello said...

I would so love to be your beta reader. In fact, I would accidentally push some of your other beta readers into the water so I could be ahead of them. Well, at least Bob, cause he won't remember what happened to him! ;o)

Danette Haworth said...

How wonderful to have someone so generously read your work. I agree, you really have to have feedback; otherwise, it's like working in a black hole.

Zany Mom said...

I have but one beta reader and I treasure her opinion. But I'd always welcome more...

Current WIP only 1/4 done, though, and only the first draft...

Kim Stagliano said...

Sniff, I need a Bob! And a plot hole filler. And a "YOU ALREADY SAID THAT! DO YOU THINK THE READER IS STUPID!?" yeller.

ORION said...

Oh yeah! the STUPID yeller! I forgot about him.
He comes with his own 2 by 4 to whack the author over the head...

The Anti-Wife said...

Don't think I'd be a good beta reader. I'm too anal and would be red-penciling any grammar and spelling errors while reading - thus losing the flow of the work. However, if you wanted someone to check for that kind of thing and passive voice, etc. - I'm your gal.

Wendy Roberts said...

Great post!

Demon Hunter said...

Hmmm, I now have to flip to the back of my copy of LOTTERY to read those names. Is there a certain number of betas that you think every writer should have, Pat. Or does it matter? Great post! :*)

ORION said...

Well, with Bob's lack of long term memory he can read the same book over and over so he's really invaluable LOL but generally the more the merrier. I think I list about 16 but I have close to 25. Their feedback has been instrumental.

Demon Hunter said...

Thanks Pat! :*) Also, are all of your betas writers themselves? How many of your betas are writers? I have been busy, I still have to send that package to you! :*)

Janna said...

Woohoo! I can't wait to read your second novel. Best of luck to you, Patricia. (Although... I'm quite certain you won't need it.)

Michelle O'Neil said...

You hold the Putnam record for longest acknowledgment pages from a debut author?

That's so cool!

: )

Nothing wrong with being grateful! Looking forward to your next book.

ORION said...

None of my betas are writers. They are all readers. For me they make the best betas - they tell me something's wrong but don't tell me how to fix it!

Sam said...

Hi Pat!
I love plot hole finders - my favorite beta reader is a plot hole queen. I am so afraid of losing this particular beta reader, I send her French chocolate with every manuscript!
She is the toughest of the bunch - never minces her words, and critiques with an eye on the plot, which is wonderfully helpful. (How many books in the slush pile have I read with no plot??)

Whiskey Sierra Bravo said...

Wow, another 15 seconds of fame. Should we tell your bloggers about my system of throwing books into the trunk of the 87 Volvo "island car" that we never use, and letting them age for a year. When I pull them out, it's like reading a new book. Anyway, they say that memory is the second thing to go when you get older. Unfortunately, I forget what's first.

Keep them comming. Wandering Star Bob.

Demon Hunter said...

Pat,
I have a mix of readers and writers that I now use as betas. Before, I had all readers and no writers. I am grateful for both because they all offer all sorts of feedback! :*)

ORION said...

Hey guys!!!! That was Bob himself gracing us with his presence!!!
All kidding aside (and that is hard for me to do) Bob is a GREAT beta reader - any of you do thrillers? Or have explosions in the first page? Those are his specialty...

Demon Hunter said...

No explosions. Demons, though! :*) The explosion was like in chapter 3or 4...

Kanani said...

Having a group to hash things out with has and is one of the greatest gifts!

All sorts of inspiration comes, and also the chance to deepen your character or the environment they live in.

I remember talking to my group, and one of the writers was having a problem. Ideas were tossed around, and the writer got lots of ideas. She came back next week with her new pages and had folded in many of the ideas. We were pleased she'd been inspired. You can't ask for a nicer compliment.

Chumplet said...

I asked for Lottery and Look Me In the Eye from my money-bags daughter for Christmas. I splurged on Adrienne's Alex book only because I'm sending it to my niece as a Christmas gift. Shhh. Don't tell.

Personally, Beta Dad and Beta Stepmom are the best. Even if they read the sex scenes.

Chumplet said...

Bob, do I have a book for you. There are car crashes, shootings, fleeing through the Pyrenees and liberal use of a garrote. Bob? Are you in?

ORION said...

Garrote? I can speak for Bob...He's IN!!!

Whiskey Sierra Bravo said...

Sure I'm in, but will it beat this book I sorta remember (can't remember the title or author though). The one where a guy comes upon a car wreck, and rescues a damsel in distress, and almost goes to bed with her, but later finds out she is his long lost daughter, and then he and his daughter try to foil a plot by an evil villan who has created a killer hurricane that will wipe out the entire East Coast of the US unless the government drops a nuclear bomb in the exact eye of the hurricane to rip it apart, which would be a happy ending except that our hero and his daughter are in a mini-sub in the eye of the hurricane as the bomb is just about to be dropped, but are saved by a nearby US Submarine which hovers over them to protect them from the effects of the blast.

No kidding, this is a true story, or at least a real fictional story that I barely remember reading.

Aloha,

Wandering Star Bob.

Oh yah, in case your bloggers are wondering; Whiskey Sierra Bravo is from the international phonetic alphabet for WSB, the suffix of my ham (amatuer radio) call sign K6WSB. So Whiskey Sierra Bravo is also known as Wandering Star Bob.

Whiskey Sierra Bravo said...

P.S.

Pat will probably give a free copy of Lottery to anyone who can remember the title and author of that book. I think I'm probably ready to read it again.

Wandering Star Bob

ORION said...

HA HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHA.
ABsolDAMNlutely!
A free autographed copy of LOTTERY to the blogger who comes up with the title of that book.
The clock starts now...
tick tick tick tick