Archive for July, 2013

Hungry bear is hungry.

Hungry bear is hungry.

In April, I handed out four copies of my novel manuscript to beta-readers. Two came back almost two months ago. One, I kinda knew wasn’t coming back (she was very, very busy at the time), which I had no problem with. The last I’m abandoning, despite being told that they’re *this* close to being done and getting it into the post.

I can’t wait any longer. I need to get back on this manuscript.

It’s been standing in the way of every other creative endeavor, so I just have to move forward with it, which, considering what great feedback I got from just the two MSs I did receive, isn’t a problem. It’s just frustrating that 1) it’s been four months, and two of those months, in the end, were for nothing, and 2) you want as much feedback from as many sources as possible. Lucky for me, the two readers I have gotten feedback from are tremendously smart and talented in their own right, so I count their input not as two, but as at least four, so we’ll call it even in the end.

Beta-readers. If you’re sitting in a grad school writing workshop right now complaining about how much you hate workshopping…stfu. No, really. Everyone hates workshopping (mostly because it makes them sad-clown-face inside when not everyone loves every word they write), but, unless you’re also really social (like, I think you have to be really social), this will be the last time it’s easy to find someone to read your work and give you feedback. (Granted, you might be cocky enough to think your fine writing requires no feedback, and to you, I say…stfu.)

It’s hard to find people willing to read your work. Maybe they’ll read it to read it. But to find someone to read your work and give you thoughtful, intelligent, non-ass-polishing suggestions is difficult. So, when I find people who are willing to do just that, I feel like I owe them a first-born (not mine, that’s icky, but someone’s). I’m intensely grateful.

So, tip to those nice and gracious enough to volunteer to be a writer’s reader: continue in the “nice and gracious” vein. Don’t take four months to return it; do your best to turn it around in a timely fashion. While reading the manuscript might be fun for you—something you don’t mind doing in your downtime—I guarantee you that the time waiting for its return is not downtime for the writer, though you might be holding them up and therefore it’s forced downtime. And there’s nothing worse than wanting to work on a specific project, but it’s in limbo because a reader just wants to push it off for one more week, but then take three more weeks to read twelve pages.

I guess the bottom line is—and this is sage advice for any similar situation: Do not fuck with a person’s creative process.

The “creative process” is a delicate, unwieldy, often vengeful thing. Where inspiration is frequently intense, yet fleeting, it’s best to tread quietly and cautiously around someone’s “creative process.” Treat it like a sleepy bear just having woken up from his winter’s nap; do you really want to stand between that bear and breakfast? And here’s the thing, if you prevent that bear from eating for the next four flipping months, that bear starves to death.

Why would you want to kill a poor, sleepy, hungry bear like that, miscreant?

And this bear is all like, fuck this, and it’s just walking over this reader and getting to breakfast before that shit’s cold and rubbery.

Seriously, the beta-reader process took twice as long as it took me to write the first draft. That’s pretty ridiculous.

So, yes, if you’re being nice and gracious, and offering to read your writer-friend’s MS, do it, do your best, and get it back to them before they go mad. Unless you’re preparing to move to South Africa for the next three years (I ❤ you, Marla…you are not the fourth reader of whom I speak!). That’s different.

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