Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beta Series 3: Endings

today we conclude our writer/beta cross-over blog series extravaganza!
i hope you have enjoyed reading about the writer’s side of the story here on my blog and the beta’s side over on Gem's blog.

UPDATE: Gem’s blog is going into semi-retirement, so her original posts on this series are now copied and pasted at the end of each of my own posts. (in other words, we saved you some time clicking around the internet, and you can now read the whole story here.)

Trouble in paradise

...not with me and Gem, but with the book. anyone who’s been reading my blog for awhile will know i struggled with writing an entirely new ending (evidenced here, here and here.) the worst part of this from the writer-beta angle was that i could no longer speed chapters off to Gem. i kept giving her deadlines, then sent her a cliff-hanger, then asked her to wait even longer – before your vacation, i promised – as soon as you get back, i swore – any day now! Really!

Gem assured me there was no rush (a lovely trait in a beta), but she had read so fast for me, i wanted to write fast for her. but the lesson here is to write at whatever speed is best for the story. this was exemplified in the first draft of my new ending. i finished it in an all-night writing frenzy and dashed it off to Gem without even a proper copy edit.

it was too long. it was all over the map. (Gem, fix it!) of course, she had ideas about how to fix it – combine scenes, cut this unnecessary information, move this bit here. but even better, she found even more problems – out of character behaviour, something i’d left out that Agent Almost wanted, an idea to give the last few lines more impact.
it was the direction i needed to reshuffle, rework and rewrite. and this time i worked fast. Gem put her stamp of approval on the second draft of the new ending (with just a few more tweaks), and i sent it off to Agent Almost.

The ending that’s really just a beginning

as relieved as i was to reach “the end” (again), i was sad to see the beta process coming to a close. i’d really enjoyed the creative back and forth.

but i enjoyed the personal back and forth as well, and at this point it’s clear that’s not going to end. we are both back in limbo waiting on agents. no one else can quite understand that particular level of hell, so of course we need each other to speculate and gripe and wait and hope. plus, i am dying to hear every detail of a new adventure she is about to embark upon, and i can’t wait to share the next story with her.
(and of course, if she ever needs a beta, i’d love to sharpen my editing skills and pay her back for all the help she’s given me.) but in the meantime, i’m just happy to have a new friend and the knowledge that i’ll never be lost and looking around for betas again. once you find a good one, you hold on with both hands!

4: the # of months it took me to write Butter and get it off to agents
2: the # of months it took to reshape the MS with Gem’s help
1: the # of irreplaceable new friendships formed

if you are searching for a beta, be patient. and be picky.
if you already have one as awesome as mine, find a way to say thank you – a million times over,
thank you

and now from Gem's beta perspective:

Beta Series Part 3 – The End…..but not really

THE END (last four chapters) of ‘Butter’ was tough for EJ as this was the biggest part of her revisions. See her blog for her view. I hoped never to pressure her to send me THE END, and the only deadlines that she was under were her own (and she did keep setting them on her blog!) But I was happy when I finally got those last chapters.

As THE END was so important and it was a complete rewrite, we did two rounds on the editing. I suggested rearranging some of the scenes to help with pacing and noted some world-building issues on my first edit. What surprised me was the different effect that the second version had on me. Even though I now knew how ‘Butter’ ended, the changes EJ made and the new beautiful last line, really affected me. I got teary-eyed – in fact, I’m welling up now when I think about it!

Getting to the end of any good book is bittersweet – you feel excited for the climax, then pleased to have your questions answered, but then you feel a little down because the journey is over. EJ and I may have finished this journey, but I’m sure that this is not the end of our relationship. She can’t get rid of me now, even if she wanted to – I’ll stalk her blog to get to see her next project first this time!

Summing up
By no means was my offer to beta ‘Butter’ altruistic. Beta reading is time consuming and takes away from my own writing – I have to be getting something out of it as well to make it worthwhile.

Benefits for me as the beta for Butter

•Improving my own writing skills. EJ is awesome some of the things I struggle with namely pacing and voice.
•Reading a boy book – I’m just finishing a first draft of a contemporary YA boy book where the main character is the same age as Butter
I got to know the ending!
•Making a new friend with common interests (not just writing)
•My career aspirations are as a literary agent/editor/anything publishing related and I’m currently working as an intern at an awesome NYC agency, so any editing is great practice for my future.
There are bits of Butter that made me cheer, bits that brought a tear to my eye and one bit where my mouth literally fell open. Butter is an amazing character and I feel truly privileged to have got to know him and learnt his story. I know that it is something we will see in print one day and my one hope is that EJ will be kind enough to sign my copy when I buy it!

And so we finish this series looking at a new definition of me as a beta reader – ‘a girl who stalks the writer of an awesome piece of unpublished fiction because she has to know THE END, offers her help without being asked and looks for copy edits and Agent Almost changes – with the ultimate aim to ensure awesome writer gets agented by Agent Almost and a 7 figure book deal! Added bonuses are friendship and knowing I’ll always have someone if I need my own beta!’

update from EJ: if you have any questions for Gem about the beta process, leave them in the comments, and i will track her down for the answers. ;)

to read the entire cross-over beta blog series, here are the links, in chronological order:
part 1
part 2
part 3

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