Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day Fourteen- Don't cross the streams--most of the time.

Okay, do you remember that part in Ghostbusters when they've got their packs on and:

Egon: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.

Peter: What?

Egon: Don't cross the streams.

Peter: Why?

Egon: It would be bad.

Peter: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean "bad"?

Egon: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

Ray: Total Protonic Reversal.

Peter: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

While I think it's a rare day when Ghostbuster's logic doesn't explain life as I know it, some of you might be wondering if I need to see a "special" kind of doctor. I'll explain. First of all, you'll remember at the end of Ghostbusters--they cross the streams, right? It's the only way at times.

So, you're currently booking on your WIP or NaNo book.... Everything is going either good or bad, but it's going. At what point, do you bring a beta in to assess? I mean... if you're only 20K into something--it's maybe one third of the way done, but YOU KNOW it's going to go through heavy rewrites before you really WANT to show it to anyone. For crying out loud, if you're Diana, you've probably got a bunch of embarrassing homophones hanging around laughing at you behind your back. Write, Diana? I mean, right? (Snicker) Just kidding. Homophones are tricky little buggers.

On the other hand--what if you're taking it the wrong direction? What if your audience is like "what the crap? I have NO idea what you're even talking about here." If you get a beta in there to assess the damage and praise the good stuff--maybe--just maybe you can get things going in the right direction.

The reason I'm thinking of this is that my sister had a really, really, really bad week this week. Funerals. Pet death. Bad. Her sister bailed on her due to some lame sickness that has brought her nigh onto death. So, my sister asked to read all my WIP because she needed to read something new that would restore her joi de verve. It's rare that I let people see my WIPs--especially since I can finish them so fast. I held off on Honor Six (which I've discovered people have been desperate to harass me about, but afraid I'll quit if they do.) I handed over Scorched, Versus the Bounty, and the Chosen Changeling. As I did so, I realized that I actually wanted advice. What was worth finishing next? I'll finish Scorched of course, but I wasn't sure what to do about the Chosen Changeling. I was booking on Versus the Bounty for a while, and then I got distracted by NaNo. So, anyway... she came back saying that she liked the Chosen Changeling the best (which I wasn't shelving, but it was lower on my list of things to finish. I was genuinely shocked. It might be the genre, but still....)

So, bringing in betas to give opinions on an unfinished product... can you do it? Even if there are major flaws that would embarrass you if your beta buddy mentioned it on her blog?

I'm a perfectionist so it takes a really good reason for me to hand around copies of something unfinished. On the other hand, the wisdom of Ghostbusters--sometimes you just need to cross the streams.

Today, I'm going into the doctor--as soon as the temperature outside is about forty degrees. Brrr.


  1. I've brought in betas to read the first 100 pages of a novel just to make sure my protagonist was likable and the plot was interesting. Now, Stephen King would say that's a bad idea, but it worked for me. I needed the validation to keep moving because I felt like I was floundering.

    However, early drafts are given to cheerleader betas, the ones that will offer general advice and encourage me to keep reading. Final polished drafts are given to people who will tell it to me straight up, something that would pop my balloon in the early days of writing a story.

  2. Stephen King--is wrong sometimes. He may be the King, but he's not always THE king... if you know what I mean? I can totally understand you going to people, Stephanie. Your subject is sooo different from the rest of us for the most part. I think you did the right thing. I sometimes need validation too, and I'm not writing on a more obscure subject. Bah! Stephen King--what does he know about writing? Well, okay... a lot, but I'm betting he knows very little about Hatshepsut.

  3. It's not like it's your first piece written or the first piece this beta reader has read of yours. I wish I had someone to read my WIP because their input might have helped me direct my characters better. I say try it once, give her your "this is my rough ruff draft of WIP" disclaimer and see what happens.

  4. GwOE- Why don't you just ask for betas on your blog? Diana and I both beta-ed for someone this week who did that. In general, you have to be prepared to beta in return, and you might want to start off small and just pass along a portion (with a synopsis if it's not the beginning), but still.... I will say also that you need to say what kind of input you want. If you don't want a critical line edit, but just a overview review... say that.

  5. Hahaha, is it bad that I could quote that whole scene without looking at your blog?!

    Ahhhh anyway. I loved the connection you made here. And I haven't really had beta readers yet. My mum reads all my stuff and shes a verrrrry tough editor . I think shes extra hard so that I know shes not being soft. My boyfriend reads my stuff too, but he's more of a grammar guy.

    I really want crit partners, but I just dont have time to devote to their work. If I wasn't in school I'd have time. I'm thinking I'll try and get some this spring though.

    'kay. I rambled. =]

  6. It's okay to bring in betas earlier than a complete, imo. Just be specific about what you want. Before I knew that you had a bionic brain and could write at the speed of light, I considered having a weekly chapter exchange with you. It's a good motivator for me to have that deadline, and then I'd know that things were going in the right direction.

    For a completed ms I like critiques at fifty-page marks, so if anything looks completely out of place I can fix the rest... but you already knew that much :)

    Agree on the validation! If you're having doubts but feel like things are overall okay, give it to a cheerleader-type. Confidence helps! If you're worried about stuff "making sense" a cheerleader-type still works if he/she will be honest, or you could use a beta who will promise not to line-edit. You know how I am about trusting your gut. Your gut will know who you should give your stories to.

  7. Natalie, there is always a connection to Ghostbusters. The husband and I are constantly quoting the line, "Dogs and cats--living together--mass hysteria!"

    Diana, I laughed at the bionic brain comment. Hey! You read the Chosen Changeling because it was creepy how much our minds had melded already. (No joke, Heidi, it was like we were writing the same book.) Did you have a hard time following the "rules for the Fey" that I'd set out? Heidi said she didn't, but that was what really stomped my spirit on that manuscript. I thought I'd over-complicated it.

  8. Well, since I knew it was a work in progress I read it for overall feel, and everything seemed to flow really well. I liked the backstory and felt the rules were woven in nicely. To be clear, I felt no confusion on the rules. I didn't sense any "data dump" moments, and there was nothing in the story so far that seemed to be setting up any writerly problems (the characters were all likeable, the pacing is fine, the hook and plot are interesting). When you finish, and you are ready to get to the nitty-gritty of line editing (bwahahaHAHAHA!) I will be there to help :)

  9. I don't bring betas in until the first draft is done and I've gone through with a few rounds of edits myself.
    The reason for that is that I wing-it and I often do things like add a new character at the half-way point that I decide is going to be there from the beginning, so after the first draft, I go back an add them to the earlier scenes. If someone reads that before it's edited they would be like, WTF? Where did they come from??

    That said, my crit partner sends me chapters as she writes them. She likes that because it motivates her when she's down, especially when's she reassured that what she's writing isn't shit.

    I guess you can go either way on this, depending on your tastes...

  10. "I crossed the streams" - I finished a short story and edited it some and now it's in the hands of one of my critique group gals. It's so nervewracking waiting to her back from her. I really like my story, but I know it needs work - just not sure what kind of work yet. That's why I sent it out. I never send out rough draft stuff though. It has to edited at least once. rough drafts are too embarrassing to let out into the world. That's my opinion anyway. Love Ghost Busters - it's still funny.

  11. I would love to be a beta reader for you Wendy - I'm not ready to pass my stuff around yet, but I'd like to help you.

  12. The hubbie and I are always quoting from GhostBusters too. The mass hysteria line is our favorite as well.

    And Steven King doesn't know everything - he always gets off on a tangents that go on forever and when he finally comes back to the scene, I've forgotten what was even happening. That's why I hate reading his books. Well, that and the graphic sex, violence and language.

    Sorry I keep reading comments and coming up with other things to write.

  13. Really, Mary? That would be wicked awesome. Okay, here's the thing, though. I don't know what kind of books you like. Luckily, I have genres to choose from and different things I'm worried about.

    I have "Dream a little Dream"--which is an adult murder mystery with some paranormal. I've sent the bulk of my queries on this book. I just don't know where to go with it, and I've burnt out my beta-reading sisters on this one.

    I have "A Little Crazy Talk" which is a murder mystery that involves the person with OCD. It was the first in the series, but was shifted to the second, and this is the one that has me frustrated--mentioned in previous post. Even thought it's "second" in the series--they all are stand alone with just reoccurring characters.

    I have "Honor Among Thieves" which tops the list for most likely to requery besides Re: Straint. Honor Among Thieves is an adult urban fantasy. It contains vampires, but they aren't "vampire" vampires. Diana is working her sad, little way through this one on my behalf. I've had a lot of people read this--pretending to be betas--and then passing it on to other people pretending to be betas. Plus, men have been willing to read this one--which means that I've received a lot more input on this one. So, probably least of my concerns--especially with Diana the Great making her way through it.

    I have "Re:Straint" which is a YA Science Fiction. This is the one I have entered in the contest and recently received it's first rejection by the only agent to see it.

    I have the one that is known as "Sheri's Tales" which is YA fantasy/fairy tale... similar to the style of Ella Enchanted. I feel strangely lukewarm about what to do about this one. It's shorter than most my other stuff, but I'm not sure whether that's bad or what.

    Then, I have a bunch of WIPs which are at various stages.

    Pick your poison, Mary, and it's not too late to go running for the hills. (BTW, also tell me how much you're up to beta-ing.)

    None of them has sex or language other than what is mentioned here. (The language, I mean. I don't talk about sex here. The husband was about to start scrolling through pages.) I'll admit that the murder mysteries can have some violence in them, but it's plot related and not graphic--in my opinion.

    Okay. Phew. This is why I feel a little stumped about queries. There is such a thing as too many options.

  14. Jade, I do the same thing, so I don't think I'd ever bring in a beta on one of my mysteries before I'm done because half the time--I don't know who did it by then. I also don't let people read Honor books before they're done, and I don't know why, but it feels wrong.

  15. Oh... and I'm back after two and a half hours at the doctor. My area is getting so gnarly thanks to sickness that the wait for antibiotics at the pharmacy was two hours. So, I haven't gotten them yet. The doctor also gave me prednisone (which I hate and won't take) because I have asthma and allergies. She also said my current method of controlling my asthma is faulty and shouldn't work. It's been working for four years, so I just blew her off. Anyway--working theory is it's some kind of bacterial infection that my asthma is not digging. The rapid strep came back negative, and I didn't push for the longer one since she was giving me antibiotics. (I've had the rapid come back negative and the other come back positive, but meh....)

    They did bring in some guys that had been injured in a fight that the police were interviewing in the waiting room. They were a bunch of sissies. T's injury was much worse than theirs.

  16. Hey Wendy - I think I'd like to read Re:Straint or Sheri's Tales - you pick which one. My email address is


  17. I love Ghostbusters. What a great movie :)

    You know- sometimes it's okay to bring in a different eye to take a look. I have a critique partner that I work with, and she sees everything. Not the NaNo though- we don't have time to exchange the stories. We will, however exchange them in December while we're editing our other WIP's. I might let my sister read it too, IDK.

    Great post. I like the tie in of crossing the streams.

  18. Ghostbusters is a rocking movie, Erica. Having a critique partner is so valuable. Thanks for visiting.

  19. Wendy, good idea, I'll ask for a beta reader but after I edit it once. I will be more than happy to read someone's in return but I will have to add a VIRGIN BETA disclaimer and let them know I've never done it and don't know what I'm doing and that I ain't got no grammar skills either. lol.