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Betas and Critique Partners: Whips, Paddles, And A Whole Lot Of Duck Tape

ScaryGet ready to say ouch. A lot.

Because, here’s the thing: yeah.

There is an art and a science to working with another author on a WIP. The science comes in knowing what you want and drawing the lines. The art part is living with those choices. Put on your big girl panties, Alianne, you asked for it, so here it is!

Prologue (The Decision)

I like to call this the honeymoon stage. I’m working on a book. Maybe it’s finished, maybe it’s not, but I get to talking with people and I decide, Hey, I’m going to get a beta reader! And look, this other person wants to do the same! We’ll be beta buddies, critique partners, sisters (or brothers, or siblings) of inkblood! It’ll be fun! Insert big wide grin. I’m going to be a real pro now, with, like, feedback ‘n stuff. Right on.

Little do I know what’s about to come, because, as it turns out, my brand new beta buddy is a bit of a dominatrix. In the nicest way possible. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Beginning (The First Nip Of Frost)

Since I’m still a newbie at this, I figure, I’ll start slow. A chapter or two at first, well, make it an even five. Are those handcuffs? Heh… okay then… No, yeah, I totally trust you! Do your worst! I want those chapters to bleed the crimson blood of broken dreams–Ouch! Oh, you have a whip. That’s kind of hot… Umm, okay. It’s just minor changes, I can deal. A few words here, a paragraph there. We’re totally cool.

The Middle (Bloom Definitely Off That Rose)

What do you mean this chapter doesn’t work?! And what is this note about This character is too soft? How can you say no one cares about this guy, I had tears in my eyes when I wrote that! Hey–I said fine to the paddle, I did not agree to it having nails sticking out of it–OwOuch! Hey! That is my sensitive place! Safe word, safe word, what the hell was it again? Puppychow something? Damn it, I can’t remember… What are you doing with that duck tape? And what on earth is that thing??

Insert gasp of utter shock. R-rewrite? The whole thing?? Sure, I guess I can see your point. Yeah, maybe that character needs a little more work. Uh-huh, I see, yeah, I may have glossed over things here and there. But really, see that there? That works, right? And what about that whole section here? I thought that was genius. But… I know, but–No, wait! Please! I can make it work, I swear! Insert muffled sounds as duck tape seals firmly over complaints. Discussion hour is over. The cat-o-nines is out. Whimper.

The End (Ya Walk, Ya Crawl, Ya Get Up Already, Fer Cryin’ Out Loud!)

However I get there, I get there eventually. That point of no return. Far beyond the last crossroads where I could have taken the sunshiny path through the meadows of oblivion, but chose the creepy-as-hell obstacle course through a dark forest of honest critique instead. I learned, the hard and painful way, that my book is not the perfect little angel I thought it was. It has issues. It’s a problem child that needs some serious medication and months of therapy. Incidentally, so do I now.

Because here’s the thing: I chose this. I wanted someone to tell me what works and what doesn’t, the pure, unvarnished truth aiming a barbed arrow directly into my problem spots. Of course, that was before I was capable of admitting to myself I had problem spots.

And now look what I’ve done. My manuscript is all… different. With all these new parts, and fancy wordwork, and all that shiny polish. I look at it, and then look at myself in the mirror, all proud, and wise, hardly bruised at all, really, and I ask myself, Who’s going to want to read this?

Oh, yeah, everyone.


Massive thanks, and big ole hugs go to Logan Keys and Mia S.

You both know why. <3

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