Friday, September 16, 2011

A little bit of insecurity

I sent Project #2 to someone for editing/beta-reading July 27th, and have not yet received comments back... other than confirmation that the person received it.

Last week, I also sent Project #2 to a long-time writing buddy from NaNoWriMo (I use a different moniker on there). I've beta-read her projects many, many times, but this is the first time we're doing a full swap. MS for MS. I've already read two previous versions of the MS she just sent me, though she's never read even close to a full MS-sized piece of my own writing.

And I admit I'm feeling a little bit vulnerable right now.

Now, I'm not saying I don't trust either of the two people I've sent it to... the friend from NaNo, I think I've known for about six years, and having such an established relationship with an online beta-reader is an awesome thing, but it does take different *trust-muscles* than when you hand it over to a writing group you meet with in real life (which I do, and they shredded version 1.0 of Project #2 way back in February).

When you meet and have your work shredded in real life, you have the chance to talk, clear up any misunderstandings that may arise due to the MS itself, or to your CP's impressions/comments on it. Also, when meeting in real life, you have the chance to talk about your story before your partners actually read it... so they go into it with pre-formed ideas of what you were trying to accomplish, backstory that never made it onto the page, or even some of the twists and turns that would surprise an online CP without that prior knowledge.

When working exclusively online with someone, you don't get the benefit of asking them to clarify a comment that sounds completely wrong, or seems overly insulting/harsh. I think most people are aware of this and tend to err on the side of polite/vague when conversing through email. It's harder to feel out someone who asks you to be brutal and honest... so you juggle how brutal and honest to be, and sometimes they get angry and never even respond or thank you for your time and effort. The relationship and boundaries are such so much muddier online...

Now, I like this particular writing friend because she's about as ruthless about honesty as I am. She'll disagree, she'll argue, but she'll never get angry at someone for telling the truth, and I'm the same way. I know she'll point out every last thing she dislikes about my writing, not only the more objective/technical stuff, but her personal thoughts/feelings while reading it. And I appreciate getting that personal/reader reaction.

Whenever I read writing samples on people's sites, I am always honest. If something jumps out at me, good or bad, I'm going to point it out. I'll never post a generic, meaningless comment.

I think this may irritate some people, but I do it anyways, 'cause it's how I show my respect to their writing... by taking it seriously.

When I'm reading *good* writing, I forget that I am reading, which is why I will point anything that jumps out... if it jumps out, usually it's because there's something wrong... like a word repeated too often within a paragraph, an awkward sentence that may sound nice, but doesn't flow properly or has a word or two that feels clunky. I hope other people will be as ruthless with my own writing samples because that's how I'll learn to write better. No one's perfect, especially when evaluating their own writing. I can recognize many problems/habits in my own work, and that's only because someone has taken the time to point them out to me.

But it's still scary to have all your faults laid out in front of you like a collection of dead insects. Even butterflies are pretty gross if you get right down and look at them carefully... especially their mouths... you just don't realize how ugly the problems in your story are until someone sticks them under a microscope and points them out, one by one., while I am truly looking forward to the masochistic pleasure of having my work shredded by her, I'm also feeling insecure. How bad is the damage? Will she find something that's so huge I can't fix it? Is that the reason I haven't heard back from the person I sent it to on July 27? Did they also find something horrible but are holding back on telling me?

At least with this particular writer friend, I know she'll tell me if she finds anything major... in her email, she actually said, "Since I'm not going to show mercy, I don't expect any mercy on mine."

Do you guys feel insecure when you send off your own work to beta-readers? Do you feel the same for online CP's versus real life CP's? Are there any other things you stress about when sending work to out for people to read/evaluate?


  1. I've never actually worked with crit partners before...this is a new part of the writing process for me. But it's totally nerve-wracking! I try to work on other things to keep my mind off it, because even though I try not to, I always feel horribly vulnerable and insecure. Good luck! I'm sure their comments will be wonderful...based on your flash fiction, you're a very talented writer. :)

  2. I feel a bit insecure whether it's an online CP or face to face. When you're face to face, a really good CP is still going to point out all the wrong things while you paste on a poker face and hope the hot ters behind your eyes obey your command NOT to fall.

    I have only a couple of online CPs. Haven't really acquired any beta readers at all...though I probably should now that I think about it.

    I'm right now holding on to a partial MS for someone so that I can schedule in the proper time to give it an honest grammar edit (for what I can catch at least). I did send her my personal feedback first then let her know I would follow up soon with the edit/suggestions.

    That's one thing about CPs period. Communication is key. It can help with dealing with the CP/beta reader process and dealing with the natural insecurities that arise.

  3. I don't have any crit partners and only one editor that I hire for several hundred dollars once I've polished a manuscript to as far as I can take it. The professionalism though is great and my editor is extremely good.

  4. @ J

    CP's & writing groups are the best! Not only do you learn a lot from each other, but you can totally geek out/dissect books/etc.

    @ Angela

    I usually only give my first drafts to my writing group (we meet in real life), but after they have shredded it and I've sewn it back together, then I sometimes have one or two writing buddies take a look, and a couple beta-readers who are really ONLY giving me their reader-impression. Besides the 2 people I mentioned in this post, I also gave it to 3 people (just this week) just for their reader-opinion, 'cause that's really valuable... especially knowing where they got confused/bored/etc.

    @ Michael

    Actually, the person I sent it to in July is a published author (who I love) who also offers editing services (for a price, of course). It's the first time for me to send something out for a more... professional assessment, and I essentially had to interview before the author would take on my MS.

    So, that's a little nerve wracking as well :) I hope I have as good an experience as you :)

  5. With my two CP's, I feel very comfortable when they critique me. Yet I have a new beta reader I'm nervous about. I joined a writers' group in late spring and they're tough. I get nervous about sending them a story, but I've learned so much about critiquing from them.

  6. As you know no one in my RL reads my work. So all my critical readers are on line. It does work. My first question about the July 27 friend is have you heard from her since? have you seen her on line since? have you e mailed her to ask when she'll get to the MS? As someone above said - communication is key. And even waiting for the time to give it a good edit, surely by now she has had the time.

    And I agree, pointing out something that sticks out to you does show respect for the writer.

  7. you seem like the type of writer I'd be friends with. Cuz I would be very honest in my critiques too. And I would expect the same in return. It's hard to get your work critiqued. I found people who said to me they would read my work (not even entirely, just the first 3 chapters) and either i'll never hear from them because they're too busy or are afraid to tell me the truth. What you do is you move to more committed people. In your case, your friend is writing so hopefully you'll hear from her. Remember, no matter the result, it's always fixable. They're only words right? That's what I remind myself when I'm told there's work, lots of it. And hopefully your friend will get back to you and if she doesn't, someone else will. One door closes and another one opens.
    BTW, your profile is funny. And from your " what the monkeys write" I wonder what you write about. Thank god no vampires. I hope the Vampire trend is going to move away as i feel it's been milked for a little too long already.

  8. @ Christine

    Yeah, I give all the credit to my writing group for any improvements I've made in my writing :)

    @ Sue

    The person I sent it to July 27th is the published author who I know was doing revisions/etc and last weekend was being interviewed/travelling , so I know that person is busy... just wasn't expecting to wait this long :) I sent an email last week (first time since July) just checking in, but haven't heard back yet :)

    @ LA Speedwing

    we can still be friends? ...hahahaha, definitely no vampires :) I've been posting the beginning of one story (the one currently out to beta-readers) under the Six Sentence Sunday tab if you want to read the first scene, and you can read the blurbs of what I'm working on too if you're interested.

    honestly, I'm not sure what genre Project #2 or Project #3 even fall under. Project #2 takes place in a fantastical world, but there is not even the slightest whiff of magic. Project #3... hmmm... no magic in that one either, but it's not exactly paranormal... 'cause Mari & Seth aren't exactly ghosts...

    if you have a better idea what they fall under, tell me, 'cause I'm really scratching my head ;)


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