It’s that time of the week (or two weeks later than that time because I just plum forgot this post twice in a row) when I answer your anonymous questions about writing and all that stuff connected to it. Every Thursday, I’ll be answering two questions from the Big Damn Writer Question Box.
Q: How many beta readers do you use, on average?
A: Unless a project has something in it that I feel requires an expert touch or I’m feeling insecure about an element I don’t think is working, I generally don’t employ betas. The last time I had someone beta something it was the scenes that took place in the Bahamas for Second Chance because I wanted to make sure the dialect was right. Usually, I write the book and do a second draft, then send it to my editor. I do the edits she asked for, and she reads it again and gives me more edits. I do those edits and send the book to a second editor, who proofs the copy. Then it comes back to me and I do the proofs. Then I set it aside for a couple of days, read it again to try to catch any other mistakes. Then I publish it and usually within one or two hours of it going live, seven or eight people email me to tell me about typos and I go and cry under my desk.
Q: I know through previous blog posts that you have had difficulties with your writing/book group in the past. Even with your previous negative experiences, do you think that a writing group is generally beneficial? What is the most easy way to start a writing group?
A: Just to clarify here, I didn’t have difficulties with my writing group so much as one person became difficult after we all got published. And even then, her writing advice was solid. Without that group, I would have never been published; I would have either not finished my book, or finished it and put it in a drawer somewhere. So I definitely recommend a group.
But join a good one. Once, someone invited me to their writing group. All the writers sat around talking about their own writing, not in a “can you help me brainstorm this,” or “if my protagonist does this, is he redeemable,” kind of way that’s productive. It was literally just two hours of these people talking about how serious and important their writing is, how much more literary and deep than everyone else’s, and how they were unappreciated geniuses. One of them asked me if I was published, then went on a five-minute rant about how no one who’s a true writer ends up published, as publishing only wants mediocre material because the average reader can’t handle anything over a third-grade reading level. Do not, I repeat, do not join a group like this.
As for how to start a group…man, I’m way too socially awkward to answer that question effectively. I guess the easiest way to start a writing group is to do it with people you like a level beyond writing, so you know you click. If you’ve got friends who are interested in writing, form up with them. Online friends? Set up a weekly Skype date or something. Anything to get together with other writers. Check out your local library to see if any groups meet there that are open to people to join.
Writing groups aren’t essential to success, but they really do help you stick to your goals and you all end up teaching each other stuff.
Bonus Question: If I bought you a book I think you’d be great at snarking at would you?
A: I’m not snarking books right now at the moment. Recent mental health challenges have made keeping up with the blog difficult enough, so starting a new project would be setting myself up for stress and failure. But thank you so much for the offer! I love how much you guys love snark!
Wanna see your questions get answered (or just wanna air a grievance?) Put it in the box!