Shannon Stacey

Critique partners and beta readers

The fact that I don’t use critique partners or beta readers came up yesterday on Twitter and I said I’d blog about why I don’t. (Because, as you’ll see, 140 characters wasn’t going to cut it.)

I don’t use beta readers because…I don’t know. Just not a part of my process. Probably the biggest reason is that I don’t have time. By the time I finish a book, my editor’s got big guys in black suits on my doorstep with baseball bats, looking to break my kneecaps.

As to why I don’t have critique partners, it’s because I’m the author your mother warned you about. (Okay, maybe not your mother, but various writing forums.) Harry Potter has Death Eaters, and I’m a Voice Eater. Thankfully, for the less experienced or confident writers who might not know about people like me, I’m pretty aware of this unfortunate character flaw and avoiding critiquing others’ work.

When critiquing, I subconsciously want to tweak and rewrite the pages into my own voice, so it reads the way I would have written it. I don’t do it on purpose, but I do it. If I try really, really hard I can not do it, but that gives me a headache so I just avoid it altogether.

That’s not to say I’m alone in the world. I have close writer friends who are aware of my nefarious voice-killing tendencies and are capable of blowing off any comments that cross that line, so there is some occasional swapping of pages for a does this suck check.

But basically it’s just me and my editor, and that works for me.

7 comments to “Critique partners and beta readers”

  1. Sheryl Nantus
      · September 1st, 2010 at 3:23 pm · Link

    I’m *so* glad you wrote this – I’m the same way. It goes to my husband and then off to my editor after I’ve bled all over the pages one last time.

    I started this years ago when I didn’t have anyone else to help critique and now, well… I just don’t think about it. I’d rather trust the opinion of my editor who knows what *she* wants and what the *publisher* wants than trying to tweak it to someone else’s liking.

    And I refuse to critique others work. I just know that I’m not good at it so I don’t even try. Know thy own faults and all that.

    But that’s just me.

    Da Crazy Canuck.


  2. Vivian Arend
      · September 1st, 2010 at 3:56 pm · Link

    Thank you, Shannon, and most interesting.

    Both points hit home with me, and I’m going to have to do some hard thinking. I know one other reason that pops to mind in terms of critiquing for others– it’s supposed to be a reciprocated exchange. When I write too much in a short period of time, it’s tough on others to keep up. Conversely, if I have 3 people who are all writers read something for me, I suddenly have 3 projects of theirs to look at.

    There’s not enough time in a day…

  3. Jaci Burton
      · September 1st, 2010 at 5:08 pm · Link

    Shan’s not as bad as she makes herself out to be. She read one of my books recently and made some stellar suggestions. :cool:

    When I first started out writing, I had critique partners. Now, I write so close to deadline it’s just not possible. It’s also not possible for me to be able to reciprocate because my deadlines are heinous. Though I’m always happy to read anything at anytime for my close friends, and my close friends know who they are.

    I have recently started using beta readers. And when I remember to actually use them before I turn the book in, they’ve been incredibly awesome. But again, because I write so close to deadline, they have to be able to read fast.

  4. Shannon
      · September 1st, 2010 at 7:43 pm · Link

    That’s definitely another factor—time.

    One, I just don’t have time to write my own stuff while simultaneously doing what amounts to edits on somebody else’s.

    And I did belong to a crit group once and one member who I won’t name, but who knows who she is, wrote faster than everybody else. She’d give us chapter one and by the time we gave it back to her, she was like “Oh, I sent that book in yesterday”. :lol:

    I guess a successful critiquing partnership would need people well-matched in terms of productivity.

  5. Jaci Burton
      · September 1st, 2010 at 11:11 pm · Link

    She doesn’t write that fast anymore, but really wishes she did. :razz:

  6. Karen Templeton
      · September 9th, 2010 at 4:25 am · Link

    Way early in my career I swamped books with another writer, and…it just didn’t work for me. It *is* extremely difficult to be objective, to be able to read something without “translating” it into your own voice. And then there’s the whole water muddying thing with what amounts to simply a batch of other, entirely subjective, opinions. I’m a very harsh editor with my own work, and I’m just fine with that. And it’s served me well thus far.

    I also don’t have the time, or energy, to either critique others’ work or wait for someone to critique mine. Besides which I don’t ever let anyone see raw work, which to my mind is anything I haven’t edited at least three or four times. So…not much point. If there’s a problem, my editor will point it out.

    When I wrote a YA a while back (which never went anywhere) I did seek out a few proofreaders (since this was a brand new genre for me and I’d written it pretty quickly.) Most made a few notes, maybe questioned a couple of things, and that was it. But one returned-to-me file was THREE TIMES LARGER than the original ms.

    I never even opened it. :roll:

  7. Annmarie
      · September 13th, 2010 at 2:04 am · Link

    I’m a beta reader for an author that has crazy deadlines. She sends the book as she writes it. Sometimes a few pages. Some times a few chapters. It just depends on what she needs from me/us (there are more than one of us beta readers).

    Of course I think you need a beta reader. I think her name should be Annmarie. I think she should be named Annmarie and she should be sitting in her bed typing Right This Minute. :mrgreen:





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