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Carmen Baxter
08-18-2011, 06:08 PM
I have a completed manuscript, which has undergone several revisions and edits. It has been read/critiqued by three beta readers and two published authors. They have been incredibly helpful and picked up on sections where I needed a little more worldbuilding and others where a character's motivation was inconsistent.
Everyone said it had a distinctive voice and was a fun read and would easily find a receptive audience.

My first ever beta reader is a friend of mine with very strong opinions. She basically rewrote everything (all 310 pages) to "bring out the gold that lies underneath the clunky style" (actual quote). She has a way with words, there's no doubt about it, although I myself prefer punchier - and funnier - writing. But her comments have stayed with me since.


Trouble is, my other beta readers (who I didn't really know before) never mentioned that my writing sounds clunky, but now I suspect that they wouldn't. It's easier to pinpoint individual instances where something doesn't work than to tell someone point-blank that their style is awkward.

But that's what I need. An agent will reject me if they don't think it flows. I agree that my writing might not be to everyone's taste, but it should be clear to a reader whether it is in fact "clunky" and needs work or a decent line editor, or whether it is simply a matter of style.

Any opinions?

Chumala
08-18-2011, 06:57 PM
I fail to see your problem here.... you've had all your betas say "it had a distinctive voice and was a fun read and would easily find a receptive audience."


However if you yourself lack confidense in your writing, then fear not. Everyone does. I normally conclude that my writing sucks. Most writers I know do this.


I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,


Ernest Hemingway once said that.


Also on a side note to that comment where you stated your friend basically rewrote everything. In my opinion that isn't right. You shouldn't allow her comments to infest your way of thinking, your way of writing YOUR story.

"No, it's not a very good story - its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside."

That was from Stephen King, it is a very good quote.

Lastly the lady who wrote "The Help", was rejected 60 times because her work wasn't right, she felt it was right and didn't change it. Agent 61 helped her get that book on the top of the best sellers list for 25 weeks and it now has a movie deal.

Hope this helps. :)

(Not saying that you shouldn't listen to others, but just saying stick to what you think.)

leahzero
08-18-2011, 07:31 PM
My first ever beta reader is a friend of mine with very strong opinions. She basically rewrote everything (all 310 pages) to "bring out the gold that lies underneath the clunky style" (actual quote). She has a way with words, there's no doubt about it, although I myself prefer punchier - and funnier - writing. But her comments have stayed with me since.

That's not editing. That's her imposing her own style and vision on you in a rather presumptuous way.

Your style is your style. It doesn't matter if your friend thinks it's clunky--she had no right to rewrite it. Editing is a process of pruning and shaping and guiding someone's work into growing and flourishing on its own, not uprooting the entire thing and planting their own stuff.

Setting aside this person, it seems like you don't fully trust your other readers. Why? Do they truly seem like they're just tooting your horn, or has your confidence been shaken by the rewriter?

I suggest you find a couple of new betas, people you can trust to be objective. Not friends, and not people with an investment in making you feel good about yourself. Tell them upfront that you're specifically looking for feedback on style, but don't mention "clunkiness" or set up any expectations; just let them react.

Mharvey
08-18-2011, 07:34 PM
I agree with Chumala totally. It is not a beta's job to rewrite what you've written. Fortunately, I've never had a beta who thought to do that - and can't imagine one who would take it upon themselves to do THAT much work, only to be - most likely - resented for it. I would drop that beta like a bad habit.

Winterturn
08-19-2011, 12:55 PM
As others have said -- it's not the job of a beta reader, critiquer, writing teacher or anyone to rewrite your work for you. That's not providing you with feedback, it's superimposing her style over your own. And I know from experience that once someone's done that, it's hard to get their voice out of your head and get your own voice back.

I once attended a writing workshop where one of our instructors (a widely published and well-regarded writer) made a habit of rewriting the opening paragraphs of everyone's manuscripts. The purpose of this (so he said) was to give us an insight into different ways we could approach our writing. It was very intimidating, partly because this was someone we respected, partly because he had strong opinions and a distinctive writing style of his own. It took me some months to realise that what he'd done was completely inappropriate and of absolutely no use whatsoever. It didn't show us different ways of approaching our writing, just one way -- his.

But once someone else has put your work into their own voice, it's really hard to get that voice out of your head. I found it really difficult with just a few paragraphs. I can hardly imagine what it must be like to have 310 pages of my work rewritten in someone else's voice.

My advice would be to throw your friend's "critique" straight into the nearest recycling bin. If you can't stand to do that, put it into a sealed box, and give it to someone to keep for you (and ask them throw it out if you don't ask for for it back after a year or so!). Spend some time reading some of your favourite prose, stuff that inspires you and that's written in a style you love, before you go back to your own manuscript.

And never ask this friend to beta read for you again!

(If it's any comfort, this happened to Raymond Carver. His famously "pared-down" writing style was actually imposed on him by his editor (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/sep/27/raymond-carver-editor-influence).)