How much fun would it be to tell the writer everything he did wrong while you’re reading a book? Or how much you like the things she did right? Pretty cool stuff, huh? That’s what beta readers get to do, and I’ve been lucky enough to beta read two pretty awesome manuscripts this month. Both, I’m sure, will be on the shelves at some point, and I will loudly and proudly recommend them both. I read the manuscript I just finished simultaneously with one of the few John Irving novels I’d missed, and it held its own with the father of Garp. That’s a pretty strong recommendation, in my estimation.
Beta reading is fun because, as mentioned above, the reader gets to interact with the author. That’s the whole purpose of beta readers. If something’s really out of whack, or creates a strong reaction, or just needs fixing, I get to point it out. The danger, of course, is going on a rant about something and then realizing I misread it, or was too dense to pick up on a delicious little bit of subtlety. Also, comments have to be offered with the understanding that I’m in the writer’s world, and the story is ultimately his or hers.
I understand some folks actually charge for beta reading, but I’m going to be reading something anyway, so I’m always glad when I get asked to look at a manuscript. Also, it’s good to have people who are willing to swap out beta reads. I’m lucky that most of my writer friends have a pretty good grasp of the craft, so I haven’t often felt like I was working through a morass of schlock. It’s going to happen one day, I’m sure, but so far, almost all of the manuscripts I’ve read are better than most of the stuff on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, and a heck of a lot better than ninety percent of what shows up on Kindle.
New Year’s Eve is coming up, and I understand we’re going to have a mix of rain, sleet, and ice in North Texas. I’ve got a manuscript coming in a couple of weeks, I’m told, and I’m looking forward to getting it, but I’ve got nothing on hand for the long, messy weekend. Lots of good football will be on, but it looks like I’m off to the library to start on my 2015 reading goals.
Time with my wife, a couple of good books, an exciting end to football season, and a good fire on a bone-chilling (for Texas, anyway) weekend. That’s a fine way to start the year.