Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Is it art? These are two drawings by my two-year-old grandson Kathan. I see balance, organization, symmetry--in short, I see beauty. I'm a doting grandfather. I'm blind to the truth, whatever it is.

I'm not asking you to tell me whether Kathan's drawings are art. I'm merely using them as an example of the difficulty we have in knowing whether the fiction we write is excellent, good, poor, lousy. We need the help of others. We really don't want to go it alone. We need validation.

Finding true objectivity comes from those who don't know us. Those who know us are not usually objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. Yet, that is exactly where most of us begin seeking validation. We begin with ourselves, using the most objectivity we can. Then we usually turn to friends and relatives, who usually 'love' what we've written. Then we turn to non-family members and strangers. This last step is crucial. We can skip it and self-publish, and we might be okay. But it's probably a poor decision. Finding true objectivity is difficult. In the final analysis, it's the reading public who gives the final answer.

Writing groups can be helpful in the writing process, but even they are not objective enough to give an unbiased assessment. One of the best things to do is to find a Beta reader to read the finished product before seeking publication. The best Beta reader is a sort of double-blind situation. The writer doesn't know who the Beta reader is, and the Beta reader doesn't know who the writer is. This requires an intermediary. I've yet to find a Beta reader who meets that final requirement. The closest I've come is entering portions of my writing in contests, and that is very educational. That's about as "real as it gets."

What would Kathan say about all of this? Just look below.


Ann Best said...

I came over to see what you're doing, Richard.

This is an excellent post. I just put up a post. I should have come here first so I could put in a link to this post! But I'll link to it on Facebook and Twitter. And I'll put it in my next post, which will probably be day after tomorrow.

Using your grandson's "artwork" is a great way to illustrate your topic. Visuals are so excellent. I'll now have these images in my mind whenever I think about needing an objective eye for my writing. It is so difficult to get this. Your friends don't want to hurt your feelings, which I think is a big problem even here in Bloggerland because there seems to be an unspoken "rule" that we always say something nice. I had an experience with a blogger in this area once that made me realize: you don't criticize someone's work unless they ask you to; and even when they ask, I think everyone still feels constrained.

So, your point about the Beta reader is right on. It IS the best thing out there. You just have to take some time to find that person you need.

CMSmith said...

How do you know the beta reader is any good?

Tanya Reimer said...

I'm always torn here. I have days when I think, "So what if everyone hates my weirdo story, I love it." And then days of panic where I freak out! "What if no one likes it! AHHH!"

A beta reader can help you find points that are confusing (this happens when you write twisted weirdo plots like me)and you'll feel better once that's cleared up.

Problem is; two people can read it and have two very different opinions about your work. It is nice to hear these views. But! Keep in mind, have they ever read this genre before?

So far, I've really benefited from my beta's, even my daughter helped!But! Sometimes a parent knows what's best for their ittty bitty baby.

Oh and love the pictures btw. Hope you hung them around your desk for inspiration!