Beta Readers

by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

This is the busy season…

So I thank you for spending a moment here to chat writing. I truly believe that good stories convey a degree of truth. On some level, even the most plot-driven shoot-em-up-dystopian-apocalypse allows us to peek within the truth about our dreams, our human experience, and our faith, life, and perhaps death. Such writing takes diligence, perseverance, prayer, hours upon hours at one’s computer, sacrifice, a ton of good ideas, a few not-so-good ideas – AND COURAGE. Good stories, and especially great ones, take lots of courage.

Today I want to suggest you push what you’ve already got – courage – a touch farther. Take your manuscript and pass it to a Beta Reader. A Beta Reader can be a friend but isn’t necessarily one. It’s a person who is going to be honest, push your story, push you and, if you’re blessed, fuel your fire and stimulate you to new twists and turns. A Beta Reader might even show you some holes within your plot and gaps within your character arcs.

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This was a tough one for me. I used to hang on to stories until the 11th hour – basically my deadline. At that point, I’m always too close to a story to envision anything new. This is probably why I’ve always loved the edit process. It has historically been my first crack at a Beta Reader and the new ideas that come from that input. But a few manuscripts ago, I let the story go earlier. I found someone who would be honest with me and call out stalled plotlines, inconsistencies, muddy writing and basically the mess that is my first draft. Her constructive criticism allowed me to push the story deeper before my editors got ahold of it. There were insights, avenues, and emotions I missed. Her observations not only forced me to recognize them, they jumpstarted the fixes.

Yet… It’s a risk. Letting a story go before you takes courage. But we’ve got that, right? We are given a spirit of courage – so let’s use it. Let’s step out, offer our stories for assessment, assistance, and even criticism – knowing that each will sharpen our writing and make it more powerful.

Thanks for stopping by… Now back to December’s Joy!


The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy& Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Her latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK!All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. She holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.