I Hate These Word Crimes…

The Yeas and Nays of Building Beta Armor

This year, I participated in an anonymous beta event over on Absolute Write. They’re an excellent resource, even though I don’t say much on there. The Bewares forum is my go-to whenever there are #pitmads or magazines I want to submit to.

I participated in the beta project because right now, with how the non-writing life is going, I can’t commit to a long-term CP swap. I tried and I just cannot find the time between the child, the ever-changing work situation, and the extra classes I picked up to teach to afford reason one. My time is limited and I’m not very good at balancing critiquing and writing (oh, and editing).

This involved a mandatory three crits on the first 750 words (and the hook, if you wanted to) and that’s it. You could do more if you wanted, or you could stop at three. If you wanted to request something to beta, you were free to during or after the crits were submitted. It sounded perfect: minimal commitment to stretch those critiquing skills and an opportunity to be exposed to many critiquing styles.

Now, a little known fact about me: I am an origami crane.

My skin is as thin as paper. I don’t think it’s because I think my writing is immutable, magnificent art. I think it stems back to a feeling of not being good enough mixed with perfectionism. When people point things out, I experience this strange mix of acute embarrassment and shame.

Why didn’t I see that to fix? Why did I think that was good enough? I should rewrite this entire novel. Every word is bad.

I was hoping the beta project would help me stop that cycle of thoughts. It’s anonymous, which let people say whatever they’d like without it being attached to their names and reputation. It’s also something on a short amount: my first 750 words.

The amazing organizer of the event (who deserves a bottle of her favorite liquor and a few spa days after this) posted last night and my group of writing friends and I read/skimmed through them. I won’t lie: I skimmed and then went to erin and asked if any would make me angry. She said no, and she was honest.

Thank you for preserving my safe space, erin.

So I went back, in between rounds of being Grandma and Grandpa Shark because my daughter cannot curl her fingers to do that part of the Baby Shark dance, and read through them.

All of the critiques had solid advice. I saw where I had confused people. I saw where I had some iffy grammar and paragraph styles. I had one person do a lot of line edits, which I wasn’t so interested in this round because I’m still fiddling around developmentally, but s/he said that my writing was good so I’ll take that.

I even was able to see the common denominator and come up with was to improve it (where I started the start).

Did I feel that acute shame?

A little, to be honest. But nothing like I have in the past.

Did I see some that I scoffed at and went, “You just don’t get it!”?

Sure. And I’m sure when I look back, I’ll put that reaction aside and be able to see the good in it.

Did it help thicken my skin?

I think so. I’m nowhere near alligator (at least theoretically) and maybe haven’t even moved into chinchilla stage, but this is another attempt at putting myself out there that I can count as successful.

Will I do it again?

Yes. And I’ll look for CPs when I have a better time management and/or more time. And I’ll always ask for beta readers. Because even if I have that initial reaction, the benefit of having more eyes on a project and more brains helping me work through the sticky bits, the better the project is.

And if I want to publish someway, somehow, this is vital.

Anyone else have any fun beta stories to pass along? Horror stories and/or celebrations?