I’m a writer. You’re probably a writer. That’s what we do… If there is anything in the world that we know how to do, it’s write. That’s awesome, since we can do great things with our words. We can do anything, really.
But there is a sort of downside to being a writer. (You know, other than the crazy habits that go along with it)
We are writers, which means that the people who read our work are readers. Unless you are writing for your own benefit, and you are the only one who reads this, you also have to think of the reader at least a little bit along the way. This way, they can understand what you are trying to say, get a good image in their head, and enjoy the story overall. You don’t want to make it too boring, even if boring is what you want. You don’t want to write too many run-on sentences, even if that’s how you think. That’s the sort of thing that editing fixes.
Here’s what I’m learning with the beta reading… We are writers of our own stories, and therefore we can’t be objective. As much distance that we try to put between ourselves and the story, we can never truly look at it like it is brand new.
Unless you have amnesia. I really hope you don’t, of course.
Look at it this way. You are a painter. You paint a picture, and then you give it a caption. The reader gets it in a different order. They read the caption and then get the picture from it. Our goal, as writers, is to make sure that the captions we give the reader gets the right picture in their minds.
And you can’t do this alone. Like I said, there is no way we can be fully objective about our writing, no matter how hard we try. In fact, we may be the most biased person out there. The fact that we edit our own work is dangerous.
Get someone close to you who is willing to help. Go through the entire story with them, chapter by chapter. Don’t show any of it to them before hand, so that they are seeing it for the first time. Do this before a beta reading, so that you don’t make obvious mistakes. Beta readings are for mass amounts of people to lightly edit and mainly just give feedback. This partner in editing I’m talking about is going to be helping with the deeper edits.
You’ll find that there are many things you do in your writing, habits and quirks, that won’t make sense to the common reader. Maybe you have a habit of not specifying who is talking. Maybe you aren’t showing as much dialogue as action.
Personally, I find my biggest bad-writing habit funny. In reality, I always look at things from every perspective. The cloudy sky could be foreboding, or it could be the calming and peaceful sign of a lazy day. I look at it both ways. It translates into my writing, too. I literally will write about something, and then completely contradict myself in the next paragraph.
My writing partner and I even have nicknames for it. We’ll be looking through a chapter, and then highlight something and go, “Nope. That’s a wash. Fix that.”
My challenge for you is to edit your story with a partner, or even just a chapter. Even just a scene. Edit something with a partner, whether it’s a close friend, a family member, etc. Maybe it’s another writer. Just go through something with them and pick it apart. Believe me, you won’t like the changes they want to make. You think your story is flawed, of course, but their changes are on the good parts!
That’s what we think now… but that’s the bias coming into play. You might not like the changes they want to make, but give it a try anyway. You don’t have to go along with everything, of course, it’s still your story. But it’s good to test the caption-image thing with someone before letting the betas pick it apart as well.
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And welcome! I know I recently got a horde of new readers, so here’s a little highlight that you may have missed: I’m hosting a beta reading for my next book, and if you participate you will get to read it for free before it’s out and get your name in the acknowledgements (among other things)! For more information about the beta reading, how to sign up, and what it is, click here.
Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!