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Beta Readers & Critique Partners: When Do Authors Show Writing to Others

Authors: At what point do you allow your critique partners and/or beta readers to see your work?

I've Got Questions: Do you Have Answers?

Please, please, say yes!

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I intended for this to be a post filled with a variety of questions, but now that I see how in-depth and detailed the first question is, I decided that it will be my only question & I will save the remainder for another post. 

Okay, no need to wipe your foreheads & sigh. I'm not that long winded. Am I? 

But, first I need to apologize to Elise Fallson & D.L. Hammons co-hosts of the vanguard WIP it Good, blogfest.
Which was held on Friday May 31st. I want to also apologize to all of the other participants. I fully intended to participate (I checked in each day, last week to make sure I had the correct date). Unfortunately, we had a family emergency. My dad is in his late 80's and we had a big scare and I was unable to publish my WIP it post. I did listen to Devo, later that night. I know- big what.

Sorry guys.

While  I was unable to participate in the WIP It (Work In Progress) blogfest, I did, however, work on my post for that day which stirred up some issues that I've been unsure about for quite sometime. So, today is a Question & Answer Post and I will include my WIP questions in this post.

I've completed my first novel and received favorable responses to my queries. I haven't heard anything (one way or the other) from any of the agents & in the interim, I am not so much revising my manuscript...again, as I am rejuvenating, revitalizing, refurbishing, replenishing & refreshing it with the aid of critically acclaimed- best selling author and manuscript coach, Larry Brooks. So, I'm not looking for a beta reader of a critique partner, at this time, for book one.

I am in the early (and I do mean early) stages of book number two. I have an idea, concept, and plot line in mind. I've written an outline- ugh, I hate that word. My outline is nothing like a real outline or what we're accustomed to viewing when we hear the dreaded- wretched word...outline. I have written my tentative beat sheet and I've mapped out the order of my story using my all time favorite, the flexible, organizing, content generating Scrivener Cork board

And, I've churned out the first quarter of my book (first draft-rememberr), and we all know what Hemingway calls a first draft.

"The first draft of anything is shit."

 So, fellow blogger friends and all of you smart kids & agented or published authors, my first question goes out to you...and anyone else who can help me with this issue that I've worried about for so long. I should have asked these questions much sooner, but I was sort of shows just how little I know.

Question #1. 

Do you show your first draft-rough draft to crit partners or beta readers?

 I gotta tell you, this has been bothering me for some time and I've heard two very different & distinct answers. On the one side, I've been warned to never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, allow anyone other than my dog to lay eyes on my shitty, unorganized chaotic first draft. Hey, I get it. I don't want someone (one of you) reading my sloppy work, fragmented sentences chock full of misspelled words and grammar faux pas.

On the other side of the issue, I've been told by some talented and successful authors & bloggers that the only way we know if our story is working is to have our crit partners critique it. But, does that mean, after the second or third draft has been fine tuned & polished? I'm assuming it does, but, if I have someone I trust critiquing my first draft and pointing out the areas that aren't working, the plot holes, lack of suspense, or pointing out that  I'm not hiding the clues in my mystery deep enough, this can only help me, right? -

If someone reads my early work and tells me that they not only guessed the killer by the end of chapter four, but, they'd also figured out the motivation and yada get the idea.

This is going to save me considerable rewrite time because I'm gonna scrap the crap (hey that rhymed) early on, take my constructive criticism and well needed advise and use my valuable time writing a story that has oomph! I will restructure scenes, work on the one dimensional, cardboard or Mary Sue characters that you've just told me, made you want to vomit as you read.

Do you see my point? 

Last year I was so excited when I was finally able to sign up for Deana Barnhart's GUTGAA- Gearing up to Get an Agent, but quickly felt out of place.

Any of you know that out of place feeling?

I felt like I'd been accepted to medical school (by accident), and not wanting to give up my chance to shine like those cool doctors on E.R.,  I kept my head down, played along and acted as if I knew what I was doing-all the while hoping no one noticed the village idiot charging the paddles to 200 and slamming them onto the patient's chest, only to learn he was actually admitted because his bowels were impacted- he was constipated and I nearly killed the poor bastard by jump starting his heart.

So in case you got lost in verbiage, duh...I'll repeat the question.

When seeking out a critique partner and/or beta readers, it is vital that we're ready to exchange final & polished drafts?  Or, is there an exception or perhaps a second tier of crits & betas ( I made that sound like some bad ass gangs didn't I ~crips & bloods~yea), for first, rough or unpolished drafts.

 I'd really appreciate your advice & input on this. I can't believe I finally asked it. I've been too embarrassed to mention my compete lack of understanding of this really cool & obviously, insanely helpful process.

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Melissa Sugar said...

Love your 'outline' - mine is a bunch of colored squares of paper glued all over the place on larger peices of paper :)
As to CPs - it depends on the MS (and the CP). I have sent off a few chapters from the rough, rough draft to see if something was headed in a half-understandable direction and was glad I had. But usually my CPs won't see it until I've run through the first couple rounds of revisions. After my CPs slaughter it, the 'shinny' version goes to betas - one or two at a time.
I've been hoping to find a CP who's willing to work with me a little tighter, but I think it takes exactly the right person to do that with. And it's not easy to find them.

Melissa Sugar said...

Can't do the Networked blog thing because I'm not on Facebook - sorry!
I've let my critique partners help with the outline before.
Usually I've gone through several rounds of edits before my test readers see it. Then I change and polish more before my critique partners read it.

Melissa Sugar said...

I'm so sorry about your dad, Melissa. I hope he's okay. I plot and outline and plot some more before I even begin writing. Plus, I'm an edit-as-I-go girl, so I am usually fine showing my first draft. I suppose the answer depends on what type of writer you are and what your process is.

Melissa Sugar said...

I tend to go over a draft at least once before passing it on to my beta readers. If I know there's a major problem with the story, I do my best to fix it. No point in someone else pointing out issues I already know about! If I'm stuck, or just can't make something work, then I'm happy to talk to them about it, so it's not about how polished the story is, but more about where a beta reader can most help me.

Rinelle Grey

Melissa Sugar said...

I show my writer's group anything and everything: brainstorms, polished drafts, all of it.

Melissa Sugar said...

That's good to know. I was afraid I had to wait until it was polished, but how can I know if it is working without feedback?

Melissa Sugar said...

Makes perfect sense. Thanks

Melissa Sugar said...

I want to be you, LOL. I admire your organization.

Melissa Sugar said...

You & Facebook. what's up with that? Thanks. I like that you have separate criteria for each. Makes sense

Melissa Sugar said...

I also have sticky notes and index cards taped and thumbtacked all over my walls. Thanks for sharing your criteria for crit partners and beta readers. Seems everyone has a different approach

Melissa Sugar said...

No worries about the wip it blogfest Melissa. Hope your father is doing well now. In the past I let a couple people read my first drafts and I regretted it afterward. Since, I've only let my editor see my craptastic ms. I'm almost done with my third round of edits and will do one more round. After that I'm going to ask a few beta readers to read it. I guess it all comes down to how well you know/trust your beta/cp readers and how long you've been working with them.

Melissa Sugar said...

I like to polish it as best I can before anyone else reads it. I even get my husband to read it. He saved one of my books from a telegraphed ending.

Melissa Sugar said...

I like to have mine as polished as possible before sending it to my CP. After I finish with her feedback, I send it to my beta readers. I just finished beta reading a book that was a first draft and it was brilliant (and she wrote the 80 K ms in two weeks!!!!). I could NEVER send anyone my first draft. Maybe my third or forth.

Melissa Sugar said...

My crit partners see the first draft, sometimes as I'm writing it. Beta readers get a more polished version.

Melissa Sugar said...

Hi Melissa, I hope your dad is okay! I think it's good to have different levels of critique partners. I find it's motivating (and can potentially save me from going in the wrong direction) as I write, but I'd only ask that from my twin sister or other good friend. As far as letting folks in the writing community read it, I'd at least edit once for content and do a quick grammar/spelling pass first before wasting anyone's time. Then I'll edit a lot more before sending out to random betas. And I'm not on Facebook either, so don't do network blogs.

Melissa Sugar said...

Hope your father's doing better. I show my first draft to a very select few, maybe 1 or 2 people. Proper beta reading starts from the 2nd draft onwards.

Melissa Sugar said...

Sorry to hear about your dad. I hope he's doing better.
Usually I don't show anyone my ms until it's been cleaned up a bit. I did show one that was part done to someone and their notes were very helpful. But then I was torn between going back and fixing, or charging ahead and finishing it all first! :)

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