Thursday, March 13, 2014

Accolades to My Alpha and Beta Readers

by Jackie King
There should be a special place in heaven for friends of writers. Especially for smart friends who love to read and who volunteer to read your work. Some of these are called alpha readers and some are called beta readers, and I've just recently learned the difference.

Alpha readers are the folks in your critique group or other friends with generous hearts who will read your work as it’s produced. I have a group of these folks who support me emotionally on a regular basis: my remarkable critique group. I owe these fellow writers untold thanks.

L to R: Carolyn Hart, Jackie King and her Beta Reader, Judy Rosser
Beta readers are volunteers who agree to read your entire manuscript after it’s as good as you can get it, or nearly so. Two extraordinary women, Judy Rosser and her daughter Anna Dooly, undertake this momentous task for me when I finish a book. On February 20, a Thursday, I sent them copies of THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR. The following Tuesday, Judy delivered the entire manuscript back to me with about 150 sticky notes flagging problems they had found. I spent the next few days correcting and changing everything marked, greatly improving my book.
Anna Rosser Dooly's photo.
Beta Reader Anna Rosser Dooly and her teasing husband, Tom
I was thunderstruck when Judy said, “Print us a clean copy and we’ll read the book again.”

This was generosity beyond belief and I was both stunned and humbled. Of course, I jumped at the chance. And that’s where I am now, waiting for my pure gold friends to finish their second reading of THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR, and return it to me with their final suggestions.

I have also reread the book myself and made changes during this time. I never seem to finish with editing. Very soon I’ll write an email to my publisher, Dan Case of Deadly Niche Press, attach the novel, then take a deep breath and push the ‘send’ button.

Just thinking about this scares me. It’s sort of like sending your teenager off to college and worrying that the world won’t accept him or her. But I will do it. Very soon.

While I’m still worrying about THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR, my fickle heart turns to a new idea. A title popped into my head along with a cool way to get rid of a body.

THE VANISHING CORPSE, now just a small stack of ideas on index cards, is slowly taking form inside my head. I can hardly wait to move onward.


Patricia Gligor said...

I agree, Jackie. I don't know what I'd do without my critique partners.
And, it is scary when I finally push the "send" button and off goes my manuscript. But, once that's done, I find that I've been holding my breath and I can breathe again. Of course, I'm praying the whole time that I've gotten everything right because, once the book is in print, there are no do overs!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Critique partners are important and good alpha and beta readers are as valuable as gold.

Jackie King said...

Thanks Patricia and Jean. It's wonderful to have other writers who understand.