“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.” – Anne Lomatt
This is probably the best way I’ve heard it put and certainly describes the journey that Bethany (My co-author) and I, are currently on.
In November 2014, during the chaos that is NaNoWriMo, we word-vomited up over 200, 000 words in a month – A mammoth accomplishment, yes. But. We made a mess – A huge, word-tangled mess of ideas, settings, dialogue, characters and action. And we had an inordinate amount of fun doing it. We giggled, we sniffled, we banged our heads on our desks in frustration, cursed our characters, drank copious amounts of coffee and broke the nets with furious flurries of texts and phonecalls.
And then we edited, sent out book out to beta readers and thought ourselves to be just the most awesome pair of writers to ever exist. Little did we know what lay ahead. We were children doodling with fingerpaints alongside Van Gough.
Fellow writers believe me when I say that beta readers are your friends. They really, really are! Treat them with care and shower them with wine and cupcakes for bravely forging through your mess. For without them, you are nothing more than a dreamer with an idea, a couple hundred thousand words and an ego in need of some panel beating.
You’ll alternately love and hate them. You’ll feel like a big fat failure and want to crawl under your desk and never come out. You’ll question your sanity for having thought you could write an email, let alone an entire book and then you’ll tell yourself that these men and women reading your offerings, know nothing! Nothing! But, at the end of the day, when you tuck away your pride and swallow your self-pity and truly step back enough to evaluate the feedback you’re getting, you’ll come to realize what a truly incredible treasure your beta readers have gifted you with.
None of us like to hear that our beautiful new baby is, to quote Bethany, a Franken-baby. Its ears are too big and its nose is too small and dear Lord, have you seen that extra arm sticking out of its back? However, as the baby’s creator, we love it. Love, love, love it! And no parent just gives up on his or her child.
And so now we regroup, and we rewrite. We cut the dross and drown the reams and reams of purple prose. We hack away at repetition (how many times do we need to tell the reader he has green eyes and hers are blue?), we restructure.
And that is the key to all of this. That all-important ideal we need to keep at the forefront of our minds that our wonderful beta readers will hammer into us with their feedback. Writing is a craft. And a craft to be worth anything, takes time, dedication and the willingness to accept guidance and criticism.
Beta readers, we SALUTE you!!