Hehehe. I hope the ‘typo’ in my heading was read as a pun because I, for one, find it hilarious. I haven’t posted for a wee while because *drumroll* I have been working my arse off getting work out there. This year I have had 2 theatre plays staged (Kill ’em in the Brain and Bite Night), been placed and won money for 3 online short story contests, and as of this week’s acceptance emails (YAAAAAAY!!!!), have managed to get five short stories published. They’re in anthologies.. in real books.. with paper and letters printed and my name in them and everything!
I’m sorry if this post sounds a bit braggy, tis not my intention. I’m just recapping my year because I have a point to make (it’s on the way shortly, I swear!). Also, I’d love to hear how my fellow MAers are doing, so please comment and let’s have a chat, I miss you guys!
Okay, so my point – Beta Readers.
On Facebook I found a whole load of groups for writers (stories, scripts, you name it, it exists). Members range from total newbies to the game, to semi-pro’s, and even professionals. I joined a few (do take care, some of them aren’t so much groups for writers as groups where people bitch about other people’s writing…), and was soon made privy to loads of submission opportunities. I’ve entered flash fiction contests, short story competitions, articles, bite size plays, scripts, all sorts. At first I got nowhere, just had a short and not-so-sweet stream of rejections. ‘How dare they?’ I thought, ‘Why can’t they recognise my genius?’
Then I got over that and started analysing my work, wondering what was up with it (you rarely get feedback if rejected). To answer this question, I took it to one of the writer’s groups I joined and asked for some beta readers in exchange for returning the favour to them. To my delight, 4 far more experienced writers than myself offered to give my work a look, so I took a deep breath and sent some stuff to them. I was terrified guys, seriously. I kept thinking the worst, that I’d get some awkward comments about how crap a writer I am, and I was scared. When I got the feedback, I realised how silly I was being. All 4 pointed out different things, from grammatical/spelling errors that I’d missed, to suggestions on how to restructure sentences. They highlighted whole sections that they felt conflicted with my main theme, underlined quotations where the colloquialisms sounded more American than British, and made comments on characterisation, plot and anything and everything else. I ended up with a variety of incredibly helpful, constructive criticism. And to make it even better, every one of those lovely beta readers commented in the margins on the bits they most liked and why; comments ranged from short paragraphs to a simple ‘heh, funny!’, and it reassured me that I can do this…. and that all my ideas aren’t poop.
I guess in a nutshell what I’m saying is that throwing work out to people I don’t know in person has helped. A lot. I stopped being all precious about my work and got over that initial pang of injury when I got criticisms. You just have to get over it – it’s not a personal attack. That’s when I started having some success, and it’s no coincidence. I’m not a pro yet, but I’m now in the position to submit to pro-paying markets and have actually started making some money (Yay! Walking Dead merchandise, here I come!).
To that end, I’m going to create a group on Facebook where we can all throw our scripts at each other (could be scripts for contests, just stuff we’re playing around with, etc.). I realise we’re not professionals yet, but we each have our strengths and since we’re all in the same position I think it might be nice to take the uni community outside of uni, just a little bit. Let’s practice writing and do it for fun, not just for deadlines. Let’s make the time for each other and ourselves. We owe it to those award-winning scripts we’re all going to write in the future!