I love to sit on my perch (third floor, bird-on-the-branch level) and write. I love to write alone. I love the quiet. But once the work is written, it needs a reader, other than myself, to read it. Write in a vacuum, correct your own typos, go to press…it’s a recipe for disaster.
Writing BFFs are necessities. Writing groups, critique groups, beta readers; it’s where you find them. And chances are, if you write—you need others.
To write something worth reading, means having the willingness to perform the 4-R Method: reveal, remove, renovate, and revise. And it’s not always pretty. Killing your darlings feels like murder. Writer jargon for eliminating the superfluous words, fluff, and flowery overdone passages. It might be a word, or it might be pages. Gulp. When others read your writing, it is potentially saving you the heartache of sending a story into the public domain before the gaps, mistakes, and lack of character arc hit the market. Each phase of the process brings you to the next step or next revision. In my vernacular, editing is what others do to my story, and revising is what I do myself. I base revisions on the edits and comments I receive from editors and fellow writers.
I put my writing through what I call the 4-R Method*:
Reveal - show your unfinished, unedited work to someone.
Remove - kill your darlings; take out the unnecessary and superfluous words and passages
Renovate - change words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs
Revise - take it all in, and produce the next edition
*Most of my short stories need to go through at least four revisions, and my novel may go through a lot more!
Over the last year, I have learned that not everything I write is what everyone (or anyone) wants to read. Writers write for a variety of reasons. Some writers write for others, and some writers write for themselves. Writers write for cathartic purposes, for pleasure, or because they have a pent-up story, and others do it for the money (reality for some and the pipe dream for many). When I switched from writing for myself to writing for an audience, I had to give up me to be loved by you. For those who know my writing, know that I bask in prose. I love to describe. I can walk you through a flower garden, and you will have smelled every flower by the end of an acre long patch, and you will not have been stung by a single bee. But, if nothing happened on that walk through the garden, are you sticking around for the lemonade afterwards? Probably not. Bees need to sting. I had to learn to put my characters into sticky situations, make them feel uncomfortable, and wriggle free. Then I had a story to tell. A plot has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That sounds intuitive, but sometimes the middle is muddled and the beginning scene should be somewhere other than the first page. I may have hidden the beginning on the fifth page. The point is, I could not and do not always clearly see the starting point, arc, climax, and denouement on my own.
Writing and/or critique groups can vary in how they operate. Some meet and head directly into a writing session, and others discuss the craft of writing. A group might be strictly for workshopping pieces to get feedback. Writers love to chat about their writing and the process. It’s how we share.
Beta readers are usually an edit or three down the road. They are one of the most important steps. Why? A beta reader is potentially your target audience; the person who will lift the book from the shelf, take it home, and read it.
What does a beta reader actually do? They read your story with a critical eye. They are looking at the big picture. Think of a beta reader as a person choosing your book in the bookstore or library. You want to know what they thought and felt when they read the story. I tell my beta readers to ignore the tyops and read straight through. If there is something glaring, I ask them to mention it, but before I set my story before their eyes, I have usually sent it to the developmental editor and copy editor. That is my process. Your process may vary.
Whether you tuck it away in a desk drawer, toss it in the bin, or show it and share it with the world, it’s up to you what you do after writing The End.