The other day I heard from a friend who is new to the writing scene. She was very upset over a disappointing experience with a beta reader. She felt she wasn’t getting quality feedback and that she was working harder and investing more time on her end.
This is an all-too-common problem in beta reading or in writing groups. There are some people who are only in it for their benefit and don’t provide substantial or quality critiques in return. I told her she needed to quit the beta reading with this person and find someone else who is equally committed to helping her with her manuscript.
Her dilemma reminded me of a humorous, albeit frustrating, incident that happened in my writing group, The Five Pages.
Liz, Wendy, and I were sitting in a corner booth, ready to share our work for the evening when a man stopped by. He had seen our group meet before, found out we were writers, and wanted to know if we would read and comment on his short story.
We’re a fairly lax and open group, so we invited him to join us. He said, “Oh no, I’ll just leave it with you to read.”
It was called “First Kiss,” about six pages long. Dutifully, we read it, while he sat at the bar and downed a Bud Light. Liz, Wendy, and I spent some time critiquing it, making sure we gave him something helpful. We all found some weak word choices, punctuation issues, and a timeline problem. We found some nice bits and thought up some encouraging things to tell him.
When he returned for our thoughts, we each went around the table commenting on the things we liked. Then we talked about the things he might consider working on.
He claimed every single girl in his writing class cried when he read it out loud. He also claimed that those in his writing class begged—begged—him to write another story. He told us he said, “I got lucky once. I’ll stop here.”
He said it was not based on anything real in his life, that he sat down, whipped it out of his head one night, didn’t even edit it.
When we asked him again if he’d like to join us for our session, he said, “No, I don’t need to look at your stuff. I just wanted to see what you thought of my story.” He took it and left.
Does anyone have an anecdote to share about their writing group or beta reading experience?