How Can a Beta Reader Help Me?

Casual bearded businessman reading document paper close up business man face modern office low angle view

When writing a novel, we need unbiased readers to give us honest critiques of our work.

It’s hard for friends and family to remain objective. And, for me, when they say, “I loved it!”—I still doubt they’re telling me their true feelings. It’s a crazy cycle of hope and disbelief… And I ask them a thousand times: “Really? You really liked it?”

So, what’s a writer to do? Lucky for me, I found an independent consulting firm that specializes in all types of needs for a writer. 

Quiethouse Editing provides more than editing services; they also offer access to a bank of beta readers. For a small fee, a writer can hire several readers for any genre to assess their manuscript. They’ll place detailed notes on your draft and complete a comprehensive questionnaire.

I received three great beta reader reports! Although, one of the readers didn’t like my story at all!  

Strangely enough, I might have learned more from the reader that didn’t like my novel than from the other two that loved my book. Either way, all of their thoughtful reports allowed me to address areas in my story I might change.

I know it can be scary to allow someone to read your novel. Believe me, I chewed my nails off to the quick the first time, but it’s worth it!

If you are serious about being a good writer, you must let others read your works.

There are other ways to acquire beta readers; you can join writing groups and forums. Whichever method you choose, today’s the day! Find one and let them read!

 

Wallflower or Prizefighter?

Bad things must happen to our beloved characters.

We may enjoy picturing our handsome hero sitting at the corner café drinking a Chardonnay and scrolling through the daily news. But we’ll bore our readers unless something spectacular happens. Character development can only occur through the personal trials we create for them. Saying our protagonist is a hero means nothing; we must show why he is a hero. Perhaps on this same sunny day, the Running of the Bulls takes a fateful turn and the massive creatures  stampede through a street barricade. Moments before a raging bovine tosses  our Mr. Wonderful high in the air, along with his salmon-and-kale salad,  he pushes the oblivious waiter to safety. Self-sacrificing, fast reacting—now there’s an inspiring hero.

What traps and trials have you devised for your characters?

  1. Do their reactions fit the chaotic scenes?
  2. Are they fully engaged?
  3. Or are they always above the fray and untouchable?

If number 3 represents them best, then your audience will hold them at arm’s length. To create a character worthy of reader admiration, you must hit them with some solid punches. It’s best to eliminate all “wallflowers” from your story and create convincing “prizefighters” instead.

Writing through the Pain

These past four weeks of my life have been brutal. Not only did I lose a wonderful mother-in-law, Mona Spencer Biskamp, but unexpectedly my sister-in-law  died of cardiac arrest. Both these women will continue to be an inspiration to my life’s story and have influenced my writing.

Mona was a successful real estate mogul who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. She called me a genius without rolling her eyes or sighing ; she meant it. I adored and admired her; she helped me gain self-confidence to fight the good fight and to abandon my fears of failing. Failing is not the worst thing one can do, but giving up is.

Our beautiful Leslie dedicated her time to help any living creature in need. She volunteered to save exotic animals at In-Sync Exotics and worked for the Heard Wildlife Museum. It’s uncertain whether her death was linked to her condition: Leslie had developed a rare lung disease while caring for her exotic birds (hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or bird fancier’s lung). Although her cardiac arrest may have be tied to this condition, I feel others should be made aware of the risks  and protect themselves and their children while cleaning the cages of their feathered pets.

Leslie was stunningly beautiful inside and out, and she lived life large. She could wow at a black-tie gala or roll up her sleeves and nurse a wounded mountain lion back to health . She was an inspiration to all who knew her. I attended her memorial recently and did my best to honor her with a short speech I wrote. I swallowed the words, cried, and  spoke with a shaky voice, but all the while, a beautiful white egret soared in the blue sky by our overlook. It was a reminder that Leslie’s love of people and animals meant more than anything I might say. When her service neared its end, I stood in front of the window and stared at the soaring birds and the trees swaying in the breeze. I closed my eyes and thanked Leslie and Mona for all they taught me. Life may be painful, but it is well worth the risks.

Leslie encouraged me to write, just as she had inspired me by her approach to life: Give without expecting anything in return. Leslie and my brother-in-law Brett Biskamp raised two incredible children. Connor is studying to be a doctor, and Madeline has dedicated her life to assisting individuals with eating disorders. Like their parents, they are working to make others’ lives better.

Losing these two incredible woman in such a short time is taking a hard toll on me. I realize that, at some point, I must return to my world of denial because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to function at all.  I think we all must do this to survive, for if we truly knew how fragile life is, we would probably stop typing and crawl under our desks to wait for the blast of bright light.

Write Now – Advice From Sarah Lovett – Writing Without a Net: It’s Worth the Risk

“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.” ~ Gail Sheehy

We are always writing our story. At our core we write to understand, to change, to evolve.
When it comes to creativity and writing, there are no guarantees that we will become rich, famous, or even remotely well-read. We can use our fears to stop us from taking creative risks; or we can use our fears to connect us to our characters and our story. That is our choice.
Wishing you creative risk~ http://www.sarahlovett.com

Flight or Write?

Hi! I’m CONNIE BISKAMP. Thanks for stopping by.

I am a new author. Well, I’m not really a new author; the fact is I love to write, I always have. So, what’s the problem you ask?  My fear of proper writing techniques, which had kept me hidden in the shadows for years. I’d longed to share my stories and scripts, but I allowed the anxiety of failure and other’s judgments to stifle my creativity.
In the past, I dared not expose my vulnerabilities, but this came to abrupt end on January 19, 2015, when an incredible idea for a story woke me from a dead sleep.  A futuristic, human-like android, Trammel, demanded I tell his story.
With immense passion and many more sleepless nights, I typed out my initial draft.  I knew I had to share Trammel’s story, because, in some ways, it’s a lot like my own. Many of us can relate to being awkward, and most of us long to fit in and be loved.
However, sometimes we must throw our fears aside and get out there, whether we are greeted with cheers or jeers. So, that’s what I am doing, I am jumping in! Cold water, no water…here we go! If you, too, are an Underground Scribe, join me. Let’s work through these struggles together. We have great stories within us, life-changing dramas that need to be told. Besides, I feel confident there will be plenty of fellow posters that won’t mind helping us, and you and I can grow from their knowledge, and in turn, teach them a few things of our own. Let’s help each other reach our goals and make our dreams tangible. So, go dust off that old manuscript, pull out those forgotten novels, lyrics, and poems again, or start some new ones. Let’s forget about being perfect; let’s focus on being real instead.
On this exciting journey, I have found many talented individuals to help me. But, my first and foremost recommendation is my writing coach, Sarah Lovett. If you need help getting started or unstuck, check out her website at http://www.sarahlovett.com.
More posts to come…