Author finding a typo in her published book | Critique Groups or Beta Readers| by Will Zeilinger

What’s the difference and why do we need them anyway?

by
Will Zeilinger

Janet and I co-write the Skylar Drake Mystery series and
we’ve had people say to us, “I guess you proofread each other’s work.”

Both of us are intimately involved in the writing and initial
editing, as such, we can get too close to it and sometimes miss big issues.
That’s why we would never submit something for publication without the help of
critique groups and/or beta readers to assist us.

What exactly, are we talking about? Maybe this will help.

Reader happy with the text she's reading | Critique Groups or Beta Readers | Will Zeilinger

 Beta Readers are individuals who evaluate your manuscript by
reading it through and telling you about flaws or holes in your story.  Beta has come to mean a sort of testing phase
and that is what a beta reader does. You have them read your work as a way of
testing it for readability, and overall structure.

A Critique Group is made up of several people
(usually writers, but sometimes includes readers) who meet together. You as an
author, provide a short story or maybe a chapter from a novel for the group to
read and critique. 

Let me stop here—The very word ‘critique’ is based on the
word criticism, and in our culture that word has taken on a negative
connotation, since to criticize someone’s writing usually means to tear it
apart. However, the dictionary definition of the word ‘critic’ indicates it is “someone who passes judgement on something,
usually in reference to art and literature.”

 That is a neutral
statement…judgement can be either positive or negative, or a combination of
both. So, it’s not, necessarily a bad thing.

This may all sound scary, especially to a beginning author.
They’re taking your baby away from you and who knows what they will return in
its place?  Will your prose become
something unrecognizable? After all the hours, days, and nights of sweat and
deprivation…will they drop a piece of crap in your lap?

A critique group in a library | Critique Group or Beta Readers | Will Zeilinger

Here’s the truth: Having another set of eyes and an impartial
opinion of your work-in-progress is an essential step if you are planning to
self-publish, but it can also help you in the quest to secure an agent or
publisher if your plan is to go the traditional route with your work.

“But it’s gonna hurt!” you say. Don’t look at it that was.
This is where you have the power to accept or reject any suggestions or
critiques of your work.

As a career graphic designer, I remember vividly, the first
critiques in my college classes. We all posted our concepts on the wall of the
classroom. The professor would walk back and forth, making “hmmph” and “umm”
noises before turning and asking the rest of us in class what we thought of
each piece. There were, of course, a variety of reactions to them. 

As students, we’d take each into consideration. I didn’t
always accept their suggestions, but I needed to hear and see it because I’d
been too close to my work to be objective.

One of the things my professor said that I’ve carried over
into my writing was when he would hold his hand over a portion of the drawing
and ask, “Does this still work without this part?”

I found that eliminating nonessential pieces has helped
streamline my work and make it read easier.

I needed to learn to accept constructive, positive critiques
in either my designs or my writing, and discount those that were not pertinent
or objective.

Letting others check your work-in-progress is a great way to
improve your writing and make friends too. 
Your choice: Beta Readers or Critique groups or both. Find the right one
for you.

Author Details
Author Details
Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.

DESERT ICE

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STRANGE MARKINGS

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Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and lives in Southern California.
  • Veronica Jorge says:

    Great advice! Thank you.

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