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CPs and BRs

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Recently, I've come across the term "beta reader" more and more frequently. I figured it was like a critique partner, really, but I usually found it in non-romance settings like straight sf/f or fan fiction. Well, the term has found its way across the genres and now I'm hearing it more on this side of the creek.

So I finally asked the question: What's the diff?

Turns out, there is one.

A critique partner is someone who helps you mold your story as you're writing it, rides your ass about writing every day, highlights your semi-colons, and puts almost as much blood, sweat and tears into your work as you do. It's also a reciprocal relationship. You get to do the same thing to them.

Beta readers, on the other hand, see the finished product. Or the almost finished product. They read the whole thing, or as much as you've got. They look for content and continuity. They can see the forest, where you only see individual trees. They're fresh. And, depending on how you set it up, you don't necessarily have to return the favor in kind, partly because they're not always writers.

I get it now. And I see the benefits of both. Since I finished Not Quite Dead, I haven't really worked with a critique partner. I have a hard time letting my stuff for critique until it's actually working. I HAVE used a beta reader for Daughter of Privilege and Eva was an immense help, partly because she looked mostly as a reader (some as a writer, she caught my crappy POV switches) and helped me find places where I could improve and expand.

So now I understand. And I'm glad I finally asked the question.
11/15/2006 09:56:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 9 Comments


And how is Daughter of Privildege coming along????

By Blogger Eva Gale, at 11:32 AM  

Strange things happen in the forest.
For fifteen years, my Beta reader was actually James Polk, editor of House of Anansi Press, small but powerful, home of Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson.
I kept sending him my novel, The Hat People and he would read the whole thing and then,insteaad of a rejecttion he'd give me a critique and ask if I would rework it and try Anansi again with it.

But always the caveat about my work matching "Anansi's kind of book", which I presume was modernist and experimental, something Canadian writers had been mucking with for fifty years.

After about three rewrites, James finally said, "It's great adventure, exotic setting, I can see it between covers, but it still isn't Anansi's kind of book."

What do you mean, Jellybean?

So he told me straight off: Your work is not fiction.

Twenty years a writer and my work isn't fiction? Who the hell was James Polk?

I checked.
Two major pieces in the Atlantic Monthly, two excellent novels out about an aboriginal heroine--he did not print his own stuff with Anansi; This had to be done through an American publisher.

Pretty damn impressive.

So when James Polk said I couldn't write fiction it was like a hit to the guts.
More years went by. I somehow got an award for my manuscript, saying it was a work in progress instead of a finished book. Mr. Polk brightened. "I loved the paranoia in your "Hat People"; Your "Light Over Newmarket" is fiction after all.
We almost became friends. We could both see the book betwen covers.
Then Mr. Polk left Anansi, and so did Margaret Atwood.
Now Anansi is under new management.
I have lost my Beta reader.
Funny things happen in Chinatown.

By Blogger ivan, at 12:26 PM  

I am new to the realm of CPs and Betas. I like using Beta, it feeds my inner geek :)

By Blogger S William, at 12:33 PM  

Ummm, rather well, actually. I took a little time the other night (stayed up til 1 am) reading it over, shoring up bits that I'd written, poring over a few new paragraphs. It's still definitely a work in progress. I was a little scared to open it up, to be honest. I was afraid I wouldn't like it anymore and I still do. Better, I'm still eager to finish it.

Ivan, losing a good cp OR beta reader bites. Sorry about your almost-contact there. Definitely ouch.

LOL S Will. I sometimes get the feeling that's why a lot of people use beta rather than cp. *gg*

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 1:58 PM  

The Toronto publishing house has been bought by offshore people.
What the hell is beta in Chinese
Must learn. Ha.

By Blogger ivan, at 7:40 PM  

I've had 'beta readers', I don't call them that, though, I call them 'writing buddies'. lol. Sometimes my readers are cps, who I'll ask for *strictly* feedback, no crit, or sometimes it's because that's always been the way we've interacted, we like each other's writing, just never fell into a critting partnership. ::shrug:: I do think readers are just as important as cps. Critique partners 'read' in a certain way. They read as writers and are looking at craft/structure stuff. A reader is going to read for enjoyment/the big picture.

By Blogger Jaye, at 8:12 PM  

I have a beta reader and I love her. It's nice to have someone read your entire work and comment on it as a whole.

By Blogger Kristen Painter, at 10:36 AM  

I've been using beta readers more than crit partners lately, although I do have both. It's nice to have someone who can read the whole thing and comment on it as a whole work.

By Blogger Amanda Brice, at 4:51 PM  

Kristen and Amanda are sharing the brain cell today!

I'm eager to finish this and send it off to see how well it "tests" with my betas.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 5:02 PM  

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