Monday, April 4, 2011

Like I'm Heading Out the Door Without My Underwear

I plan to send the new, new Bob off to some beta readers later this week, and I must say, this is the most uncomfortable I've felt before sending him off.

I'm not doing this on a whim, mind you. Over the past eighteen months, I've learned something about myself when it comes to incorporating reader feedback: The more time I spend fixing things before I send him off to betas, the more anxious I get about sending him off to agents, which means I usually end up spending less time fixing things after I receive those betas' feedback. And that's a horrible attitude to have. I should definitely spend more time in the post-beta phase of revising than in the pre-beta phase, so I decided to send him out sooner rather than later. Still, I can't quite shake that icky feeling, like I'm heading out the door without my underwear or something.

How do you decide when your manuscripts are ready for a second--or third, or fourth--set of eyes?

27 comments:

Jennifer Pickrell said...

My ms is ready for betas when it stops waking me up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I'll *think* I'm done, but then I sit up and scribble down another edit before I forget. Or that's what I try to tell myself, I'm always antsy when I send my "baby" off.

Huntress said...

I offer the MS (with trembling hands) to my Betas after my grammar is as good as I can make it.
When the remaing questions have more to do with flow and storyline, action and conflict, THEN I ask others to look it over.

I think it is pure laziness to expect others to mop up my crummy grammar mistakes.

Krista V. said...

Jennifer, glad to know I'm not the only antsy one:)

Good point, Huntress. You definitely don't want your betas to have to clean up your poor grammar. I don't think Bob is in bad shape grammar-wise, but the prose isn't as fall-off-the-tongue as I'd like it to be. The thing is, I don't want to spend inordinate amounts of time smoothing out the prose right now if I'm just going to end up cutting the whole passage.

Ben Spendlove said...

I'll bet you're really wondering now. I agree with you. The biggest help with a manuscript ought to come fairly early. (In theory. I've never actually done it that way, but I plan to try next time.)

Connie said...

I think whenever I send out a novel or query, whether to betas or agents, it always feels antsy.

Liesl said...

Oh my goodness, I totally relate. I think I compared it to showing up on the beach in a bikini and wondering if I shaved my legs, bikini line, armpits. How white am I and are my thighs flabby? Should have done more sit-ups. So much paranoia.

Good luck, I'm sure it will turn out great. You're a talented writer and you have SKILLS.

Kristine Asselin said...

I totally relate to this. Even after mucho revisions, when there are more, it's like the first time.
:)

Good luck!

Anita said...

Once it's gone through my crit group, then it goes to the betas. :-)

And I have to tell you, BEST POST TITLE EVER!! You really caught my attention w/that one. LOL

Caryn Caldwell said...

I'm a perfectionist, so my books *never* feel ready. I finally just send them off when I'm sick of them, and then bite my nails until I hear back.

Good luck! I'm sure it's terrific.

Escape Artist said...

Underpants on or off? When to send or not? You guys are so lucky to have a group to send to, and aren't they lucky to have you too!
So hit that send button and head out the door with your tushey in the air! Just maybe not on a windy day!!
Good luck with Bob :)

Sarah said...

I'm getting ready to send the wip to betas, and I'm completely nervous. I've actually never felt this way before, and I have no idea what I'll get back because this is a new genre for me. But I completely sympathize with this feeling--you've pretty much nailed it with the title of this post!

Stephanie McGee said...

When I'm whining and whinging on Twitter about not wanting to make the drastic changes that I think are necessary but am not sure about? That's when I know I need someone else to read it. It'll save me from doing something I'll regret.

The Sisterhood said...

Good question, Krista. I always feel a little insecure when I send new chapters to my betas (especially if nobody has read them but me.) After a couple of my betas have read it (and none of them laughed) I feel more comfortable to have others read it. I understand your anxiety, but don't worry too much about it. Your crit partners are there to help you, and they're probably as nervous as you are at having their work read!

Lorena

Krista V. said...

Ben, this is definitely an experiment for me, too. Thanks for being willing to be a guinea pig:)

Too true, Connie, too true. Although when you send a manuscript to agents, the worst that they can do is reject it. Readers always want you to do more work, change things... :)

Liesl, I remember when you said that on your blog! And thank you for the compliment. That made my day.

Thanks, Kris! I imagine it's even more nerve-wracking to send a revised manuscript to your agent for the first time;)

Anita, I was going for eye-catching:) I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes, because I generally try not to talk about things like underwear or, say, fungal diseases, but it just seemed too appropriate.

Caryn, sending a manuscript off to betas once you're sick of it sounds about right:)

Thanks for your comment, Escape - it made me smile:)

Good luck with that manuscript of yours, Sarah! Trying out a new genre is always exciting!

Stephanie, that's a great decision-making paradigm for when to send things off to beta readers. We all need someone to push us in the right direction sometimes (or to keep us from falling off that cliff).

Krista V. said...

Thanks, Lorena. I've had great experiences with betas in the past, too. I'm just afraid of my betas discovering how much unnecessary clunk I have before I get things polished. Hopefully, they'll forgive me...

sarah said...

On my current WIP, I finish a chapter, double check grammar and flow, then send it off to one of my beta readers.

Editing as I go has been enormously helpful. Then if I'm making a mistake with a character or plot direction I know before it's a hundred page problem. I also find crit questions while I'm still developing the overall story really make me clarify my own thinking.

Ben Spendlove said...

Krista, consider yourself pre-forgiven. Guess how long IN MEMORY was at its peak.

140,000 words. Yeah, it really was two books in one.

Myrna Foster said...

I laughed out loud at your post title, partly because I guessed what you meant. I'm so guilty of not wanting other people to read my mistakes, but you'll be the first person to suffer, if I change my ways ;)

Krista V. said...

Sarah, I love the idea of exchanging chapters with a reader as you're writing them. (In fact, Myrna-a-few-comments-down and I have talked about doing that several times.) Problem is, I tend to first-draft with lots of blanks and square brackets, which isn't very nice to read. I guess I could always go back and fill in one chapter's worth of blanks and such before moving on. (That would actually be kind of nice, because trying to fill in a whole manuscript's worth of blanks is a little tedious. Hmm, ideas, ideas...)

Wow, Ben. You must be a fantastic editor. I've never managed to write a book with that many words. I think my peak was mid-90,000s.

Myrna, bring on the suffering! You're about to do a little suffering for me (and it's not like you haven't already read this manuscript - TWICE), so it's the least that I can do:)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Good luck!! :D

sarah said...

Krista, I'm intrigued. What's up with the square brackets and missing spots? What do you put in them when you go back through?

Bethany C. said...

When I stop drinking to to deal with the feedback--then I know it's time.

Krista V. said...

Thank you, Chantele!

Sarah, as I'm writing along, I'll often come up with sentence structure before I come up with the words themselves. So I'll type something like, "He tilted his face into the sunshine, the warm _____ [kissing] his face." (That's a really cheesy sentence, but you get the idea.) I'm not sure what warm somethings are kissing his face, and I'm not sure that they're kissing it. I leave a blank when I have no idea what word I want to use and add square brackets when I'm not sure it's the right one. This is my concession to my perfectionist self, who used to agonize over every single word before typing it on the screen. Now I just let myself type, but I'm still too much of a perfectionist to type some words without acknowledging that they're not the exact words I want to use.

Bethany, your comment made me laugh:)

sarah said...

Krista,
That's interesting. I suppose I hit stumbling blocks like that too. I have a thesaurus widget on my desktop, so I usually type in a word somewhat like what I want and see if something better comes up in the list.

If you don't already have one it might help. I can't imagine going through an entire manuscript trying to find the right words. Sounds stressful.

Esther Vanderlaan said...

Ooh- I wish I was as far along as you. (I'm on the sixth chapter:( )Good work! Oh- and how are long are your chapters? (i.e. how many pages?) I need to determine my chapter length.

Jenn Johansson said...

Umm... I usually know because I can't stand to look at them anymore for awhile... so I let other people do it for me. :) Great post!

Krista V. said...

Blogger keeps blocking me out from commenting on my own blog (grrr), so let's see if it works this time...

Sarah, it is stressful! I really like the idea of tackling these blanks and square brackets in smaller chunksh. I'll have to give that a try and see how it goes.

Esther, I know six chapters doesn't seem like a lot right now, but that's still excellent progress. As long as you keep plugging away, you'll finish. (And as far as chapter length, that varies widely. I see some published books with two-page-long chapters and some with twenty- or thirty-page-long chapters, so whatever works best for your story will be just fine, I'm sure.)

Jenn, welcome! And you make an excellent point about when to pack up those little manuscripts and send them off to someone else:) (P.S. I remember seeing that you recently signed with an agent. That's wonderful! Congratulations!)