Friday, July 16, 2010

Exposed—sharing your work with Beta readers


Did you ever get acne as a teenager? Probably tried to hide it with all kinds of creams. You also probably begged your mother if you could stay home from school until it cleared up.

Imagine standing in front of your entire school with a huge pimple on your nose.

Pretty embarrassing. Right?

Well, this week I received my first feedback from my first beta readers. It was about as pretty as that scene. I felt even worse than I did as a teenager.

They didn’t like my MC. She was too spoiled and self-centered. UGH.

Sure, there was a list of other suggestions I could attack quite easily but not liking my MC? I clutched my heart and about gave up the ship. (I love those clichés.)

Risk. There’s risk involved with this growing into a writer thing. There’s risk that I might decide the hurt isn’t worth it.

But there’s also this thing called growth.

Hopefully that’s what happened to me after I took a deep breath and started my revisions. For the past three days I’ve been pushing myself harder than ever to get out the story that is buried inside of me.

Exposure is good. Yeah, it hurts but so does getting a rejection from an agent. This time I want to be sure I'm submitting my best, not a book full of pimples.

So when was the last time you felt exposed? Did it result in something better?

45 comments:

Jessica Nelson said...

I haven't felt exposed in a while. The older a work gets, the less I seem to care how it's received. That's not to say feedback isn't precious to me, because it is. It just hurts less and I feel like I can revise without my heart on my sleeve.
If I had to share my most recent story though, I'd be SO nervous. Ack!

I'm sorry about your feedback but that's actually something simple you could change. Let me know if you want another reader! :-)

Rose Mary said...

Sorry, Terri. It does hurt when it seems like what you loved most about your story comes under criticism.

I like to think that I grow from it. At first, I tend to take the criticism personally, but after a few hours of thinking on it, I know that there are some valid points in the criticism. Sometimes, I think I'll never get it right~but I'm still working on it!

Katie Ganshert said...

Oh, I know that feeling well. Every time it happens to me, I end upu growing exponentially (after pouting and brooding for a week or two). :-)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I felt exposed the other night at the church picnic when I went out on a limb with a conversation. I didn't know how the others at the table would take to it. The better thing did come. They took and the conversation bloomed into something interesting and memorable.
~ Wendy

Jill Kemerer said...

I feel exposed every time I hit "send" with my work attached! It's hard sending out our babies. But I agree, growth comes only when we've reached a place of discomfort.

Lin Floyd said...

well I stopped going to my critique group because they were so negative and started my own neighborhood one. lol!

K9friend said...

I used to attend a critique group and found it really helpful. Fortunately they were kind people who phrased things diplomatically. After all, you are handing over something that you created...and we all know how protective we can be about that!

kathy taylor said...

A non-fiction book I authored exposes me, at my worst when I was in terrible physical pain. It also exposes God's mercy, and that's worth being "naked." Love your topic.

Jeanette Levellie said...

When I received six pages of notes from my editor on all the mistakes in my 1st ms, I felt exposed. I needed to rework the whole durned thing! Ouch. But I grew, and it shone in the end, so it was worth the pain.

BTW, I'm so proud of you! I'm honored to call you my sis.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Terri, I feel exposed everytime I submit a manuscript to a publishing house ( in India we don't have agents).
I can sympathize with you.
But its better you hear it from your Beta readers than an agent. Great post!

Linda Glaz said...

If someone who crits remembers to throw you a bone every now and then, it helps to feel better about it. But we all know writing isn't the job you do if you have to "feel good" all the time. It's a very masochistic endeavor. But take heart, the very negative comments, as others have said, will help you grow. Having people cheer all the time doesn't up the writing, it let's us get lazy and we've all read some writers who are on their hundredth book. They can become formulaic, predictable, and there can seem they have no oomph left. Go girl. You can perk up your MC and she'll be even better.

Yolanda said...

Good morning!!!

I feel very exposed and vulnerable right now in my current "season" of trials. Yet I know that I know, God is with me, and there is a reason for this, and nothing passes through His hands without Him knowing it first. I desire to persevere, push through, and come to the other side stronger in Him, and bringing Honor to His name.

Love,
Yolanda

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

You always ask the best questions and you are always willing to put yourself out there in situations that facilitate growth!

You go GIRL!

R

Lydia Kang said...

I feel exposed every time I let someone read my work. Like I'm standing there in a bikini and they're looking at me. Okay, no. That's way worse. :/
But...it's such a personal thing, our writing.

I'm glad you took the feedback in stride so as to make your work even stronger. Good for you! We all need that strength.

Julie Gillies said...

Oh Terri, I'm sorry they didn't like your MC, but I do believe God will use this to help you shape and tweak until your book is just right!

I felt very exposed recently when I appeared on a radio station explaining about going gray--and it was a LIVE broadcast! God calls me to bare stuff I'd rather keep covered, so it's not always the most comfortable situation, but I DO know that when He is in charge, I can leave the outcome in His hands and know I'll be okay.

So will you.

Tamika: said...

Good for you Terri for not throwing in the towel~ God has given you too much for that!

Everytime I hand a chapter over to my critique I cringe. The hard truth is better than a soft lie anyday. I want to be the best I can be.

Claus said...

Your experience took me back to my University days, when working on my Thesis. It kept coming back to me with hundreds of revisions and points to improve. It got me not only mad, but sad, as I felt I wasn't up to the challenge. But I graduated later! and every effort seemed worthy.
Rejections? every day!! and though some are milder than others, I want to think they are part of life and part of the learning and growing process we all go through along this journey call life.
Hang in there! You are capable of so much!

WritingNut said...

Don't you dare give up! I'm so sorry they didn't like her, but you've put in a lot of hard work to quit this far in the game.

I gathered up enough courage to post an excerpt of my writing (not my MS though) on my blog a few weeks back, and I don't think I slept the entire night! It was the first time anyone had ever read my work outside of family and teachers, and the comments were so helpful!

Sometimes you just have to take that plunge, as scary as the fall may be.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and keep smiling! :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

The last time I felt exposed? Yesterday! I sent out my first few chapters to be critiqued again and instead of feeling 100% confident, my excitement always mingles with "What if it's not good enough?" or "What if they hate it?" Regardless of that, it's still a chance to grow and it's worth it.

Nehha N Josshi said...

When I feel exposed, I gather some trust in me and keep it in my pocket. I try not to let that thing go away.

Sally said...

Manuscripts are like our children. It will never get easy hearing critical remarks about them even if the remarks are true. We adapt in ways to be able to handle it better, get a thicker skin perhaps. Kudos to you for stepping out, that is what takes courage.

Kathryn Magendie said...

You can tweak that character and she'll get over herself right quick - :-)

I feel exposed when my books first come out and I worry if ppl will like them or be disappointed!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Congrats on taking the risk.

My worst times are when I'm sitting in front of an editor or agent at a conference. While written feedback hurts, the face-to-face variety is daunting.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Project Journal said...

I am SO glad that you're trying to find the positive in this, Terri. When you come upon what seems like a bad situation, that's all you can ever ask for.

Just think if you hadn't used a beta reader!? Wouldn't that have hurt worse? Maybe....

I'm so glad you're working your way into the pool gradually. Pretty soon you'll be doing cannonballs and expert dives (and leaving out the belly flops!) *wink* (There's another cliche type situations for ya!)

I look forward to hearing more about your adventures!
Hannah

patti said...

Sigh. Every time someone reads my books.
What do they think? What will they say?
It's hard!!!

Blessings,
Patti

Janet Johnson said...

I feel most exposed when I let my family read my work. I mean, if they don't like it, who will?!

KelliGirl said...

Ugh, Terri! Sorry for the harsh critique. I'm so glad to see that you're embracing the readers' comments and using them to improve your WIP. Even though it hurts, you'll be an even better writer ... and your characters more dynamic... as a result.

Hang in there! I believe in you!!

covnitkepr1 said...

I like to follow writer’s blogs as I feel I learn from each one. I have a book of Communion devotionals at the printers which I authored, although I don’t consider myself an accomplished writer. I am a follower on your blog and invite you to follow mine as well…and please leave a comment when and if you visit.

Julie Jarnagin said...

I feel exposed every single time someone reads my work. I'm going to have to work on that!

Kenda said...

I, too, feel exposed when I put my work out there--but I like what you say: there's risk, but without it, there wouldn't be growth! Thanks for the reminder :-)

And don't worry about your MC--now you'll find yourself digging a little deeper and smoothing out her rough edges...

Jolene said...

I hate feeling exposed but I make sure it happens at least once a year, usually in the form of trying something I've never done before. It's good for you, even if it sucks.
Also, I've been working on other projects and just sent out some queries and a few more copies of my first MS to friends. When you're more emotionally invested in a different project, it's SO much easier to take criticism from what others have to say.

Jackie said...

Ouch and have a pity party for a few days and then get up ONE MORE TIME and keep going!! With His help I continue to remind myself that getting up is sooo much better than giving up!!! Giving up will get me nowhere....BUT getting up (again and again) will eventually lead me to that sweet place of hitting my mark!! Hallelujah!!

Sweet Blessings!
Jackie

Nancy said...

I guess you will just have to revise. You were very brave to try that. Hope you got some suggesstions you can use. I believe in you.

Sassy Granny ... said...

You said it right up front: risk. It's never easy to take one, but more often than not they yield valuable results (though not always at the time).

How anyone EVER gets a book published is beyond me!

Blessings,
Kathleen

Jen said...

I have experienced the same feeling. I sent my critique and was told that they didn't like my MC it hurt really bad but after careful reconsideration and letting my novel rest I realized I too wasn't fond of my MC, I made myself a list of things I didn't like and wanted to change, after I revised a chapter I sent it off and they loved her. Just a few changes and everyone connected.

Sometimes it's helpful, sometimes I throw away advice I know wasn't going to be something I'd use.

Best advice is to go with your gut!

T. Anne said...

Ouch! I've heard that from my beta's before too. It's hard hearing other peoples opinions, but remember, the beta is there to find the ugly and show it to you. That is their job. I always have to remind myself that I asked for it in a way. ;) I hope that helps.

Shane Arthur said...

Hello Terri. My two cents is give them nothing "structurally" to gripe about.

If you have not done so I would suggest looking up Larry's Brook's "story structure demystified" (storyfix "dot" com). Wish I read it years ago.

Regards,
Shane

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

That what doesn't kill us makes us stronger...I'm not sure who said this first, but I always think of Steel Magnolias when I hear it. :) Good luck with your ms.

Deb Shucka said...

Boy, can I relate to this. I always have to let feedback sit for a while and let my defenses wear themselves out before I can hear the wisdom being offered. Being exposed and vulnerable never gets easier I find, although the more I'm willing to be open, the more connected I feel.

Wishing you great good energy on your rewriting.

Shirl said...

Oh my. The more I read, the more I think mine is going to be published for my eyes only. Of course, FIRST I have to get it written, and at the rate I'm going... well... that may not happen in my lifetime.

Amy Tate said...

A book full of pimples, LOL! Terri, you make me smile. Can I ask a really dumb question? What is the difference between beta readers and critique partners? Are these beta readers people you know? I hear that term all the time but I've always been too chicken to ask. Like I have a huge zit on my nose or something!

colbymarshall said...

Today. The jury is still out!

Lynda Young said...

The best thing a writer can do is to brave the critics. We can learn so much. Often we get too close to our MS to be able to see thing things that need to be changed.

Amy DeTrempe said...

I think I feel exposed everytime I submit, whether it is a query, partial or full to an agent or editor, and even chapters to my critique group. You would think I would get over it with my critique group, but I am always anxious to get back their edits.

Tabitha Bird said...

Oh, I so understand. Every time I put my work out there I feel exposed. And I write memoir. AHHHH! Talk about exposure :)