The First Beta Reader


I’d written this a long while back as a journal entry (like four years ago) and came across it when I was cleaning out files and backing up laptops. I thought it was hilarious. Brought back memories. And that flash fiction piece? It really was a flop. It has major issues and needs reworked, but wow.


My dear sweet hubby has now read nearly everything I’ve written (minus the blogs, somehow that’s not his thing), and I owe him my undying gratitude (and a lot less attitude) for his support and encouragement.


And did I learn a lesson since four years ago. Unfinished pieces stay in the office from start to finish. Only then do other eyes get to see…


The ALL CAPS bits are where I’ve reflected on that hot-tempered day.


I wrote my first flash fiction story. My heart pounded as I typed the words. Very carefully chosen words written under a time constraint (we were getting ready to be late for something) and adrenaline. It’s a count-down type story, with tension building in each time increment, and a smoothly wicked villainess. (I STILL THINK SHE’S SMOOTHLY WICKED. I’LL USE HER SOMEWHERE…) I just didn’t have the ending nailed down. I printed what I had so far, two pages, double spaced. I only needed one more “time increment” and then it would be done. I printed it to see where I could cut words and consolidate language to make it crisp and clean.


I let my hubby read it before I did anything to it. I sat in eager anticipation as he read through the first page. His face never changed. His pupils didn’t dilate. His leg didn’t bob up and down in anticipation. He just read it calmly.


“It’s not finished.”


“I told you it was rough and it wasn’t finished. But what do you think so far?”


“I don’t know because you didn’t finish it.”


“But so far, what do you think?”


I can usually read him like a book, but he gave me no clues whatsoever. “I think you should finish it.” (HE WAS RIGHT.)


I snatched the copy away from him and sulked back to my computer. The flash fiction sits taunting me from on top of the novel I’ve printed out (THE SWITCH NOVEL THAT IS NOW FINISHED—YAY!!!) because I’ve stalled. Which is on top of a homeschool guide waiting for more lesson plan development (I CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT THIS EVEN IS. I’VE SLEPT A FEW NIGHTS SINCE THE HOMESCHOOLING DAYS). Which is on top of the notebook filled with ideas for publishing. Which is on top of the desk that needs to be cleaned. Which is on top of the floor that needs to be mopped, and well, you get the picture. (NO PROGRESS ON CLEANING DESKS OR MOPPING FLOORS. I NEED A MAID.)


And now the bubble of excitement I had about the countdown with the villain has now popped.


What I learned from this:


● Never watch a beta reader read your material. It’s too emotionally draining. And looking for micro expressions of approval is exhausting. (NOW I JUST PRINT THE STUFF OUT AND LEAVE IT ON THE BREAKFAST TABLE. SOMETIMES I EVEN FORGET WHAT I GAVE HIM TO READ.)


● Never try to make a beta reader out of someone who only ever reads the Bible and the sports page. (HE’S MAKING GRAND PROGRESS)


● Let the husband be a husband. Not an editor. At least my husband. If your husband is an actual editor, this may work well for you. (HE’S PRETTY GOOD AT NABBING TYPOS HERE AND THERE. I STILL NEED A COPY EDITOR—AND A MAID.)


● Check the emotions at the door before handing over a manuscript to be test-read. Deal in the facts and just the facts.

● Finish the story first. No one has time to read something twice.


● It may be a very good idea to have someone you don’t know well (or at least doesn’t share a roof with you) be the beta reader.

I love my dear hubby and he will always be my first beta reader. But he doesn’t get to read any more of my stuff. Ever. I won’t even write anything in his next birthday card.


I’ll let Hallmark handle it.


(I WAS VERY ANGRY AT HIM, AND THIS WAS MY TEMPER TANTRUM. I’M NOT ANGRY ANYMORE, HE WAS RIGHT, AFTER ALL.


AND I DO LET HIM READ MY STUFF.


I ALSO WRITE A LITTLE IN HIS BIRTHDAY CARDS…)


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