I’ve been slacking here, but I promise it’s for a good reason. This month is a busy one for me as a writer, outside of this modest publication. I am nearly done with my second short story that is going to be submitted to the Writer’s Digest fantasy and science fiction story contest, due by the 31st. I am also working on a submission to become a staff writer for a Guild Wars 2 fan fiction site. It’s unpaid, but the opportunity could lead to other things. Thinking about this, this morning I realized I have a perfect opportunity to share with you, to very important roles to a writer, and thankfully I have two people that fill those roles very well.
I call them my alpha and beta readers. Some authors have beta readers, people that go over a manuscript and give feedback, sometimes edit, check for consistancy, etc. I have two, and it’s much like you would expect from the names. My alpha reader is my wife. She reads everything I write first because, well she’s my wife, but also because I can count on her for initial emotional reaction to the piece as well as whether she liked it or not. I can tell, while she’s reading it, or shortly after, if the writing has conveyed the right emotional mood or reaction that I was going for. I think having a woman as an alpha reader is perfect because of this. They tend to let their emotions show easier, where a guy might hide what he’s feeling, a woman won’t. She’s also great about telling me where I confuse the reader, which is easy to do when you write fantasy. I know all there is to know about the world and characters I’m writing about, but my readers might not. It’s easy, as a writer and world creator, to forget to explain something that is common knowledge to you.
My beta reader is a good friend of mine that I used to roleplay with. He’s great at the critical stuff, telling me where my grammar is bad, where I put in a comma when I shouldn’t have, and he’s brutally honest about the work itself. Most people will tell you they like something, or that it’s nice, or whatever, but it takes a special kind of person to look you in the eye and tell you, “I don’t like that, there’s not a single character in that story I even care about.” Of course agents and publishers can tell you that, total strangers will, but a friend that can tell you that is indespensible to a writer.
I know this is short, but if you are, or want to be a writer, these are definitely some people that you need to have around you in my humble opinion.