My titles are getting like the tabloid presses! And talking about titles, there's a website on my Writing Tools page that analyzes the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) of a title. The EMV score for the above title is 25%. For comparison, most professional copywriters' headlines will have 30-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50-75% EMV words. Clearly, I am not a gifted copywriter! Oh, I'm not even a copywriter - that's okay then!
Things aren't all bad though, because it also states that: Your headline carries words that predominantly appeal to most people's intellectual sphere. Intellectual impact words are especially effective when your goal is to arouse curiosity, and when offering products and services that require reasoning or careful evaluation. The majority of words with emotional impact in the English language fall in this Intellectual category. Intellectual impact words are the most-used of all three categories, and have the broadest appeal to people in general. Hey, I'm an intellectual writing for intellectuals! What more could you want? If you're reading this blog you must be an intellectual - Quick, go and tell your mom. Say, "I'm on top of the world, Ma!"
So anyway, the real reason I got you here was to talk about Beta Readers. Don't worry, I've got a definition from that very helpful Wikipedia person: A beta reader is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public. I've seen people talking about beta readers and I thought, Hey, what a nifty idea!
But wait, all is not a bowl of cherries in the rose garden (mixed metaphors - I could do a blog about them!) Why choose beta readers to write a blog about? I hear you ask from behind the sofa. Well, I'm glad you voiced that question. I had in mind that maybe I could usefully employ a couple of these itinerent idlers myself, so I went and lurked furtively in their habitats (FictionPress, SugarQuill, PerfectImagination, TSLibrary, ThrownWithGreatForce) and conducted some pseudo-sociological research.
No sooner had I begun to lurk in a furtive manner (which I'll have you know I'm very good at) when I stumbled on a post by a person called Maryn on AbsoluteWrite entitled: Why I won't beta read your novel, and I hope she won't mind if I make her an Internet sensation and refer to her forthright post! Anyway, I thought, hang on a minute I haven't even asked you to read my novel yet! So, I looked at her post, and I couldn't believe how dark the underbelly of writing can be! I hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws, but here's her post in full:
Some people here retain their basic trust in the goodness of humanity. Time permitting, they will beta read for anyone who asks. This is wonderful, of course, and I like to imagine fine beta-for-beta arrangements stemming from their generous spirits.
But there are plenty of AWers (AbsoluteWriters) like me who have beta read entire novels, written up five or ten thousand words of commentary we hoped was both insightful and useful, and never heard a word back. Or heard a single word, Thanks, or in one memorable instance, Asshole! On behalf of those who have been similarly burned, here's why I won't beta read your book:
- You may know me from lurking, but I don't know you. A beta read takes many hours, at a minimum. A book which has 'issues' takes much longer. Pretty huge favor to ask of a stranger, don't you think?
- You're new and already have your hand out, asking for a lot without having given one damned thing to the AW community in general. Me, me, me is not cool.
- I don't like you. This can happen even if I've never interacted with you. I've observed you here at AW, and I didn't like what I saw. Bummer, huh? This is what your mom meant when she said, "What goes around, comes around."
- I like you well enough, but I don't share your politics, your taste in reading, or your sense of humor. Something essential about you and me does not mesh, and I'd be willing to bet that extends to your book.
- You and I may get along splendidly, but I don't read your genre because I don't care for it. That probably includes your book. Plus, if I don't read the genre, I will not be able to tell if you've written something wonderfully original or retold Eat, Pray, Love or A is for Alibi.
- It seems you don't need a beta read so much as reassurance that your work is pretty good, or that you're on the right path. You can get that without asking others to invest so much of themselves.
- You've never put a scene, chapter, or story up at your genre's Share Your Work board. I need to see your writing to know if you've mastered basic mechanics, can string together coherent sentences, know the difference between show and tell, can pare away unnecessary words, etc. Show me something which suggests you've got the goods.
- I have no reason to believe your novel has been rewritten, revised, edited, and polished until I need sunglasses to look at its brilliance. If it hasn't, it's not ready for a beta. No matter how good you may be, your first draft is not good enough.
Maryn tells it like it is! I want her - as a beta reader, of course - let's not drag my blogging into the depths of human depravity - remember, we're supposed to be intellectuals! So, she didn't leave it there, she offered some advice:
And because I'm not a total meanie, here's how to turn things around:
- Become a regular presence at your genre's board. Ask questions, or answer without being a know-it-all. Seek reading suggestions. Share a few titles you really enjoyed. Discuss what traits the best of the genre often share. The others will feel like they know and like you in a matter of weeks.
- Critique other people's writing at your genre's Share Your Work (SYW) board. Those who are actively writing will feel like they owe you one. Don't know how to critique? Bullshit. You know how to read, right? What parts work for you? What doesn't? Why not? There, you're critiquing. I knew you could.
- Note the people who give the most useful critiques to other writers in your genre.
- Get active in the 'overview' board of whatever you write, whether it's novels, short stories, memoirs, or scripts. A broader group will know you and like you.
- Join in on the activity at any of the non-writing boards, from politics to cooking or movies, or just goofing around at the Office Party. People will know and like you--but a different and far more diverse group than just your own genre's writers. I bet you're seeing a pattern here, huh? Being a person who's known and liked means people are happy to help you write your best.
- After you've hit 50 posts, which will take no time if you get involved at multiple AW boards, polish up your first chapter then post it at the appropriate SYW board. Make sure you read the sticky about how to format it, since AW doesn't support tabs and won't recognize your italics or font size.
- Note the people who gave you the most useful (read: most painful) critiques which ID specific mistakes, flaws, and weaknesses.
- Now you'll be somebody known and liked by people who are active at different parts of AW, who's a part of the AW community, and who's contributed his or her own time and effort before asking for anyone else's. We're far more likely to help you, because you're one of us.
- Plus you'll have a short list of people from whom you'd most like to receive feedback, and can even tell them in a PM why you're asking them specifically.
Well, what can you say? But I've come across people who only want gushing things said about their work before. Remember YouWriteOn (YWO) and those other peer review sites? Some people there, when they get told how awful their work is, in a constructive way, of course, don't like it! The truth can be a scary place! Us writers are sensitive souls you know, but hey - suck it up. Good post Maryn - and I promise if you ever beta read for me I'll give you a thank you, a mention, and take everything you say on board.
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.