Oh God! What if they hate it?!

18 Feb

I’m subtitling this post “Why Beta Reading is Scary Business” because, dude, it totally is.

So I’ve sent Promise Me Paradise off to a few people for beta reading. Until this point, the only people who have read it are me, my best friend, and my fiance. Only one of those people regularly reads romance novels, and my fiance didn’t even particularly like it. So the beta stage is the scariest damn stage for me. Sure, I’ve posted excerpts on a few sites but they were always examples of scenes where I felt I really nailed it. But now suddenly I have people who know the genre reading the parts that I didn’t think were so good? Holy crap, what was I thinking?

I’m not a fiction writer. I’m an essay writer. If you need a persuasive essay or opinion paper on a topic, let me know and I will bang you out something that will turn heads. That’s just what I do. It’s what I’ve always done since as long as I can remember. This isn’t bragging, this is stone cold fact. Once in 8th grade I had a teacher photocopy my rough draft and hand it out to the class as an example of how they should be writing. In college, we had the option to turn in a “revised” copy of all our essays for a better grade — I only took advantage of that on the first one, after which I was able to consistently get As on every single one. I once wrote a 12 page research paper overnight, turned it in the next morning and got an A. This is just what I do. Fiction isn’t.

The last piece of fiction I ever made public was a fan fic for the late, lamented show Daria. I believe it was a short story where the challenge was to “redeem” a minor character — this was in 2006 or 2007. People liked it well enough, but I ended up losing the challenge anyway. That prologue for “Another Pretty Nothing” I posted? Yeah, that’s basically the first piece of fiction I’ve shared with the general public since I was old enough to drink. Yeah. So, basically, sending out this rough draft for beta editing? Good God, what was I thinking? I’ve been having a back and forth over this particular book. I hate it, I really do. Everything I see in it is a failure — the prose is sloppy, the characters are flat — and as I read I’m composing the smart ass review I’d write on Amazon had I stumbled across it in a published form. Now, I fully accept that I am ridiculously hard on myself, but the thing about that is as long as I never show it to anyone I never have any confirmation of whether or not it’s truly terrible or if I’m just being too hard on myself.

That’s not to say I want the betas to compliment me and lie, I’d rather hear 99 horrible things than 1 comforting lie. A bad thing I can fix I will fix and as much as it hurts, I want to get better and this is the best way to do that. But it’s still scary as hell. I used to feel the same way about showing my drawings when I took a class in chiaroscuro. One day I almost burst into tears because I’d been working and working and struggling and I just couldn’t make this picture come out right. I knew what was wrong with it, but I lacked the skill to fix it. Fortunately, that day the instructor noticed I was at my wits end and gave me a fairly nice evaluation, but that was not an experience I care to repeat if I can help it. But here I am with another piece of work that I find subpar and soliciting for opinions. I’m going to be on pins and needles until the betas start coming back, so in a nice bit of self-promotion, if you could see your way to critiquing any of the chapters of Another Pretty Nothing that I’ve been working on I’d be much obliged. Chapter 2 is in process — I originally planned to have it pick up at the dinner Rue has been asked to skip, but Thomas decided he’d rather start his narration the next morning and we had a bit of a struggle trying to get the second paragraph into something we could both be happy with (read: he won) which cost me most of the day.


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