I’ve written for most of my life. Even back in 2nd grade, I was writing fanfiction, even though I didn’t know that’s what it was. No matter how much I wrote, I think I only reached a certain level of achievement.
Until I got my first critique. It’s one of the most terrifying experiences, having a complete stranger read your novel and give their opinion. With family, you’re never quite sure if they’re trying to spare your feelings, or if they’re just saying what they think you want to hear. A stranger isn’t going to be quite so worried. And a fellow writer knows what kind of things your WIP needs to improve.
Since that critique, I’ve noticed a very steady improvement in my writing. Every single beta I’ve had has taught me something, and my novels always get better with each read-through.
Here’s an example of why betas are so critical:
I’ve been struggling with chapter 1 of Commissioned. I think first chapters are hard anyway, because there’s so much you need to build so that the reader feels like they understand what’s going on. I’ve had several betas mention that they’re confused, but none of them could really pinpoint what wasn’t working. Until I sent it to someone else to read. She told me that the issue wasn’t with my characters, it was with the world they were in. I hadn’t set the stage enough for the story to make sense.
With that information, I rewrote chapter one into something that I absolutely love.
I need good readers and good betas to keep me going. Without them, I would never be where I am now.