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Reading for Wrinkles

By Tammy Oja


Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

Transcript from an actual conversation: “Those hands under the piano. I swear I almost died.” “What hands?” “Are you serious? You didn’t see the creepy dirt-covered hands reaching out from under the piano?” “So that’s why everyone thought that scene was so scary. I’m going to watch it again.” “This time do it with your eyes open.”

The human brain weighs around three pounds. It’s a constant source of flowing information taking in data, converting it to useful memory, and recalling it when necessary. One of the most fascinating things about the brain is that each one does things in its own unique way. Each new bit of information sorted and stored creates pathways to get where it needs to be faster the next time it’s needed and that is driven by experiences it’s already had. Many experiments have been done showing a group of people in the same place at the same time will report the event with different key elements.


What does any of this have to do with Beta reading and critique partners (CP)?


EVERYTHING.


Let’s start with the basics.


What Is A Beta Reader?


A beta reader is someone who reads a draft of your work and gives feedback on the work. Depending on the author’s preference, needs, and skill level of the reader, it can be as simple as stating if they enjoyed the book, if the plot made sense, or pointing out things that need work. Being a beta reader is like being a test driver. It’s taking the manuscript for a ride and taking note of things you notice, both the good things and the bad.


What is a Critique Partner (also called a CP)?


The difference between a beta reader and a CP is significant. A CP isn’t casually reading to see if anything glaring jumps out at them. It’s getting below the surface and seeing the work on a closer level. It’s going line by line looking for things that could be strengthened, tightened, scrapped, or changed. It’s daring to dig down into the pit with the author and wiping away the swoon of a new story to focus on the bones of it. The CP is the last stop between the final dress rehearsal and opening night. Whether your querying, sending it to an editor, or whatever stage it’s being prepped for, the CP is a necessary safety stop on the way.


I get why I’d want one, but why would I be one?


The true test of the value of a b