Life of a Beta

Recently, I've been thinking about reading. I'd love to have a job where I could read. All day long. Uninterrupted. I wouldn't even need to get paid. Actually, I kind of do that-- minus the uninterrupted part.

In the writing world, it's called beta reading. Pretty much when an author writes a manuscript, it needs to go through fifty gazillion pairs of eyes, through all stages of drafts, before it's fit for public eyeballs. The beta reader's job is to check the flow of the story-line, point out any inconsistencies, note repetitive words or phrases, and question confusing scenes or dialogue. Basic things like that, which help to iron out the kinks and wrinkles of a newly formed story. Beta readers have to be honest to a fault, with guts of steel, a backbone of titanium ... and a heart of marshmallow fluff and Nutella. Otherwise they're of no help. It's like meeting at the junction of Constructive and Criticism.

Authors are people displaying their souls one word at a time. You want to tread softly on a soul. Trust me. But if you go too soft, the author might not have the guts to cut those unnecessary words, trim those eye-glazing, never-ending scenes, or rework dialogue that sounds, well, like nothing anyone would ever really say. Taking an axe to your own words can feel murderous; by being considerate and positive (ie. handing out a sedative and chocolate along with your notes) a beta reader can give strength to the author and enable them to whack away.

Beta reading sounds like it could be a chore. But it's not. How often are you allowed into someone's soul to put your own imprint on it-- and then have it show up on a shelf somewhere, where it can reach out to someone else's soul?! It doesn't matter the genre. Books are created to make people laugh, ache, smile, long, think, question ... touch on all the emotions of what makes us human. And it's a thrill to be a part of that, from the inside. Without having to go through the work of actually writing a whole new book. Which is a different blog altogether.