Meet My New Friend

26 May

Patti Aaron OrcasA love letter to my beta readers

As I hit the send button, and my final manuscript zipped through the ether to my proofreader, I felt I should formally thank the most unexpected new friend on this book-writing journey…

Critique.

Do you wince at the word? At the beginning of this story, I would’ve. Hell, even six months ago, I would’ve. Humans tend to want the quickest, least challenging route from A to B, even if it’s not always the best. (Pro tip: Nine times out of ten, it won’t be.)

That’s why Critique sounds to many of us like nails on a chalkboard. It’s hard to hear. It slows you down and sometimes even send you in the opposite direction. It often requires change. At best, you need to rethink a problem. At worst, you practically need to rewire a part of your brain.

It’s hard hard work.

As a matter of fact, it’s so hard that many avoid it altogether, myself included. Just the idea of getting over that hump mountain to the other side makes people pursue every other route, from denial and excuses to apathy and even giving up.

But the truth is, there’s a paradise of possibilities beyond, and Critique is the only friend you can truly trust to get you there. 

For me, Critique took the form of twelve exceptionally talented, insightful, and constructive beta readers.

Each was handpicked by me to give me their honest opinion. And yet, as I sat staring at their line-by-line feedback…

My gut reaction was annoyance.

“Damn you for inviting Critique along for the ride,” I thought to myself. “Why couldn’t you just go call it a day and be done with it?”

Well, because this was a project four years in the making. It was born of grief, fired with hope, and built to support not one but two legacies.

Some things are too important to leave to chance.

Grief, hope, and legacy require hard work. Some would argue, they require the hardest work of all.

So I smashed through that wall of denial. I opened up to Critique. I did a trust fall into my beta reader’s knowledge, fresh perspective, and help.

At times, it was easy. At others, it felt like climbing Mount Everest. There were even moments when I wanted to give Critique a very classy middle finger.

But WOAH. When I finally got over to the other side?

The view from the top was incredible. I’d achieved more with my story than I ever dared hope for.

Form ofAnd I couldn’t have done it without Critique. So thank you, new friend (form of awesome beta reader team).

I couldn’t have done this without you.

 

 

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4 Responses to “Meet My New Friend”

  1. Arlene Somerton Smith May 26, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    Yep. It’s all about building a better story.
    I often think “critique” would be better as “constrique.” The word “critique” puts people in mind of the word “criticize,” and criticizing usually involves tearing something down, while critique should build something up – “construct.”
    Good beta readers do that.

    • Angela Taylor Hylland September 17, 2015 at 10:57 am #

      Constrigue… brilliant! I’m going to start using that. 😉 Thanks, Arlene, for the wise word and continued support. All the best to you in your writing ventures today.

  2. Tanya May 26, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    In my writing group, we call it “Weeding and Pruning”, much the way you would tend a garden, you tend your writing. New shoots can’t handle heavy interaction, but as they grow, you have to weed and prune to keep them healthy. Good work!

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