First Wednesdays are the time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click for the link). We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and practical suggestions.
Thanks to the co-hosts for October 1:
You Have to Ask for Help
It doesn’t matter how fabulous you think someone is with his or her craft, it doesn’t matter how enjoyable, engrossing, beautifully written the work is, the writer always has an Achilles’ heel somewhere.
In my case, I have a shyness – though I think the word is ‘fear’ – regarding asking for a beta read, a read-through, a review of a chapter. I tend to get caught up in the flow of the story, the action…
|…Okay, now what?|
Composing a story is, for me, as exhilarating as running before the wind on a sailboat. But the wind will die down and you have to put the boat away.
So… I have a story, and I’ve worked on it and worked on it and polished it, and I’m pleased with it (I’m pretty picky, actually), but another pair of eyes really is needed…isn’t it?
Heck, the story is good, the characters are well-rounded, I love them to death, and they convey the story so very well.
But what would happen if I gathered my courage in both hands and, clearing my throat apologetically, actually asked for a beta-read from someone other than a friend who, though a fabulous editor is, after all, a friend who loves me and loves my work. Yeah, yeah, that one does say when something stinks, but still… Is it just the really bad ones that are mentioned, and the others are allowed to slip by because, after all, I’m an old, longstanding friend. Is the input valuable at all?
|They’re faking it because they don’t want to hurt my feelings (sob)|
(By the time this thought occurs to me I am in full cringe mode, and I find myself thinking, what if I really am absolutely mediocre to terrible, and my friends only read me because they don’t want to see me cry? And if the others read my work they would tear it to shreds because they don’t know me, don’t love me, and have never been my friends?)
It’s persuasive – and why are the unpleasant things persuasive?
So, why do I have this shyness about stepping forward and asking other writers to read my work and (gasp!) maybe do a beta-read? Maybe let me know what they think? Why am I like this?
|A beta-read offer! YIKES!!!!|
I mean, really, it’s silly, isn’t it? To have this horrible fear that if I ask for help (read ‘Beta Read’) someone might say, “Sure. I’ll do it.”
It is foolish to indulge such nonsensical fears, even though they are normal. I know jolly well that I can take it. I’ve had nasty reviews and come away with some good criticism that I could use. …Or am I afraid that I am going to bore someone, and they will say that my writing is frivolous and stinks and I’m bad news. Let’s face it: I write historical fiction (alternate historical fiction, if you want to be strict). No paranormal, some love stories, but not, strictly speaking, Romances in the modern term. I hear people talking of their work and think, Gee, they’re with it! But me–
|Diana at work composing|
No vampires, no Heroic Fantasy multisyllabic names, no zombies, no dystopia, no horror (unless you have a horror of em-dashes).
I’m not cutting edge. I don’t necessarily want to be. I just want to be the best writer that I can.
The way I look at it, I can either go back to Business-As-Usual and fight my way through to a finished product, wearing out my friends and advisers (another insecurity, by the way: how long will they be able to stand me?)…
Or I can take a deep breath, step forward, manuscript or flash drive in hand, smile shakily at those people facing me who all write so well…I think… and say “I need help. Can someone do a beta-read?”
Actually, that is the very best thing to do. Not to seek help leads to stagnation.
|…Could be nice…|
SHORT BIO: Diana Wilder is a writer of historical fiction, with elements of mystery, adventure, romance or fantasy. Her books include the four volumes of The Memphis Cycle, set in Egypt, as well as the first volume of her trilogy,
The Orphan’s Tale, set in 1830’s Paris.
She blogs at http://dianawilder.blogspot.com.
Permission is granted to use this post in The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing.
Check out the hop. There are some fabulous posts to savor:
It's always hard to put your work in front of others and ask them to judge. But, better for a friendly audience to find the flaws than your readers, yes? 🙂
Hi Diana … you might be sitting on a masterpiece and we'd never find out because it sits on a dusty shelf .. absolutely overcome this obstacle by finding some beta-readers … essential … cheers Hilary
I'm always on edge waiting for beta reads to come back. But everyone I've dealt with has been helpful – even if they're flagging up something that doesn't work, hopefully there's something positive in there too. I think we all have pretty much the same fear. Sometimes, you just have to take that leap to move forward.
Oh lord, yes, it's always hard to ask for honest feedback – to lay out your love, your darling, that you've slaved over for months or years, for criticism. But sadly, it's also vital. For myself, I've found the best thing to do is try to approach any feedback with a good sense of humor. To laugh at myself and the silly mistakes I've made, and then with gratitude and hope, to fix them. You can do it. It'll be worth it!!
I found joining a critique group the best way to overcome my fear of sharing my work with other people. Showing them a few pages at a time every few weeks was far less scary than showing someone a whole manuscript. Elizabeth Hein – Scribbling in the Storage Room
Hi Diana! Your encouraging post really highlighted an important point, and it's something I struggle with. Asking for help is so important ~ and so hard to do when you're SHY like me! Thanks for sharing!
Well said, Diana! We need an honest opinion if we are to grow.And don't worry, space opera isn't trendy either…Thanks for contributing to the book!
I'm both shy and fearful and I SO get it! That being said, as much as I'm freaked out when my work is being beta read, I love reading any and all feedback . . . especially the negative ones. They help me zero-in on the problem areas and revisions are much more productive. Great post! 🙂
What a great post Diana. I also need a beta or CP to analyze and critique my stories with a critical eye. It is hard to put yourself out there, but it really, really helps to get a second, third or even forth opinion of your story.
Lara – absolutely. Actually, it might be a little insulting NOT to ask for help. 😉
Hi Hilary – there are some who absolutely agog to find out… (“What do you MEAN part 2 isn't finished yet??? I want to know what happens to that little street urchin!!) But the truth is, you really have to ask for help. I think it holds for everything. It admits you are not perfect, concedes the others' capabilities, and leads to insight (and, perhaps, some laughs). Thanks for visiting. Now go write some more!
Hi, Nick – what's that Springsteen refrain? 'One step up and two steps back'. It's worth the wait and the butterflies, though. And you really HAVE to ask for help. It isn't that hard!
I gave one of my published books to an editor for a critique and a going-over. (it was undergoing a rewrite to bring it in line with the series that had grown up around it. I knew it needed changes, but I was too close to it. It sold pretty well (still does). I was initially a little stiff-necked when I heard back that it needed some changes… And then the moment came when I looked at what had been suggested – cutting out a chapter for flow's sake – and said, “Gosh! He's right!” You can't lose. If the advice is spot-on, you'll know it. And if it is not, it makes you think and reinforces your vision. The editor, by the way, was (were – a thresome) David, Rachael and Ciara at http://theditors.com/ . They are excellent
Hi, Elizabeth – Hmmm… Rather like dabbling your toes in cold water rather than jumping right in. It makes excellent sense! Thanks for coming by!
You know, it's said that the shy ones sometimes have the greatest gifts. It's so hard to ask for help, and when it comes, it's so welcome and, often confirming. Thanks!
Thank you, Alex – I have to say, sometimes 'trendy' for me equals 'overdone'. I don't mean that popular themes are bad, but rather that having something pushed down your throat doesn't tend to lead to enjoyment. I've often gone back to something I was told that I HAD to read… and enjoyed it in my quiet time. Thank you so much for starting this group, which has certainly given me a lot of enjoyment, education and growth! Here's to a lot more years!
Thanks, S.K. – it's funny how the critical ones are sometimes easier to take than the ones that cry 'This is FABULOUS!' and you know darned well they hadn't read it. But that first stammer of 'W-w-would you mind reading my WIP? And maybe tell me what you think? I know you're busy… You WILL? Oh, wow! Thanks!'
“I just want to be the best writer that I can.” I don't think there's a more noble goal to have as a writer and I'm sure that with that goal in mind you can and will push yourself to get more brave when asking for that all-important read through. I think it helps when your beta readers are themselves also writers- support from peers is the best kind. Wonderful post, Diana!
I'm always nervous when I hand one of my babies to a beta reader, but I'm always happy I did. I treasure the feedback and have new excitement for the book as I revise, knowing exactly what needs more work. Same with the chapters I share with my critique partners. Great post.
Diana, I feel exactly the same way. I hate to ask for anything, whether it's a beta read or any other favor. Shyness means I hate to “bother” anybody. Keep me in mind next time you need a beta reader.