Beta-Phase anxiety and an unhelpful inner monologue

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KDIvanov

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After a year-and-a-half of writing, rewriting, and editing, I have finally sent my 90,000 word fantasy novel out to beta readers.
To what extend does a work change after coming back from critiques? I read my first email as far as a concern about too many characters being introduced in the first chapter. They also called it a page-turner, but my brain can't seem to unlatch from the easily-fixable concerns to appreciate that.
I'm looking up submission-calls and writing shorts while I wait, but I seem to have hit a block. Any time I'm minorly inconvenienced by a plot point, my inner monologue pipes up. I'm no good at this. No amount of practice will make me good. It's all been for nothing. I will never write anything readable, much less publishable.
I realize rejection and ego-blows are a part of the process, but I am unable to focus on anything to the point where it's impacting my life (yeah, I wasn't the most mentally healthy person to begin with).
I'm looking at one to two months of this... for the first round.
Does anyone have any tips of passing the time and keeping one's self-esteem high while waiting to be constructively pummelled?
 

Woollybear

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Hiya--

What helps me, but I love editing and revising, is seeing how much better my story gets after each draft.

I also felt some freedom when I realized I could evaluate the feedback just as the reader evaluated my draft. I stratify the items in a piece of beta feedback based on how well I agree with any particular item--and then decide the fraction (up to about 90%, usually) that I want to incorporate from that beta reader. Some beta readers are new writers. Their feedback is helpful in a different way than a more advanced writer. If someone's feedback is all along the lines of 'remove all your adverbs, because that's a rule' I may decide that this reader's feedback is some one I'm not going to weight too heavily. But some beta readers give feedback that is so insightful, that I take it on even if it's hard.

So, evaluate the feedback. That process is useful, too. Through the practice, with luck, you will grow and learn. And your draft will improve. :)

Good luck.
 
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TheKingsWit

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After a year-and-a-half of writing, rewriting, and editing, I have finally sent my 90,000 word fantasy novel out to beta readers.
Any time I'm minorly inconvenienced by a plot point, my inner monologue pipes up. I'm no good at this. No amount of practice will make me good. It's all been for nothing. I will never write anything readable, much less publishable.

Does anyone have any tips of passing the time and keeping one's self-esteem high while waiting to be constructively pummelled?

This used to be quite an issue for me, everytime I would notice an issue of significant scale I would start to feel like my book would never be good enough, that I wan't nearly as good of a writer as I thought. Except, after one such bout, I started to realize a pattern. Whatever that thing that I was so worried about was, I would eventually found a solution. Sometimes it took weeks, sometimes it was a lot of work, but I could always find one eventually. That feeling of euphoria when you figure out just the right solution to a problem that plagues you is fantastic and typically would bring me out of the funk. So, I started keeping a document of problems I'd fixed, particularly big ones that stressed me out. Now when I start to despair I can go to that document I can say look there brain, you did this same thing to me last week and it worked out just fine. You're clearly improving, here's the proof right here. I can remember that feeling of figuring things out. Even if you don't use this exact method, try to find somewhere where you can difinitievely say you've improved or something you've written that you still love.

As for taking feedback, that just gets easier with time and practice. The more feedback you get, the more times you get feedback, the easier it gets to detach yourself and look at that feedback without taking it personally. You may also want to distance yourself from the work for a bit. Wait a month or two for all of your beta feedback to come in; in the meantime, don't look at the feedback, don't look at your manuscript. Work on something else.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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Yes, definitely get some distance! Let your manuscript sit for now and write something else. It’s hard at first, because of course you’re excited about the book that’s with betas, but falling in love with a new book or short or whatever will give you so much more perspective on the one that’s under review.

Also, after you read through a beta’s notes, sit with them for at least a day or so before revising. (If you’re getting notes from a bunch of people, maybe wait till you have all of them.) Let your brain work on the notes in the background. You may be surprised by what it comes up with.

“Constructively pummeled“ is a great way to put it. Every time I work with my critique partners or get notes from my agent or an editor, I brace for that pummeling. It always comes, and it always hurts at first (so much!), and the book is almost always better for it. If the feedback really feels misplaced, as Woollybear points out, you can put it aside. But if your brain immediately starts working to solve a problem the reader pointed out, that’s useful feedback in one way or another.
 

ChaseJxyz

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You will never create anything that is 100% approved by 100% of people. Think of your favorite book, movie, or show, there's still probably things that you'd want to change, right? So if one beta reader says "idk I don't really think that this scene is very good" it doesn't mean that it's a bad scene. Maybe they misread it, maybe they misremembered something, maybe they have a personal grudge against a certain trope. But if multiple beta readers have an issue then you should take a closer look.

When you read your own writing, you remember all the past versions you did. You remember all the crappy versions or dumb ideas you had, so you see this huge mess. But your readers only see what's there. They don't know what's going on in your head or what an earlier draft was, so they're reacting as to the finished product. They can see things that you're blind to, notice things you forgot to mention, and bring their own viewpoints of the world. Seeing The Matrix as a Buddhist is really different from when I saw it as an Atheist; those different experiences and world views had me interpreting the meaning of things differently. Your betas are going to do the same thing. It doesn't mean that they're WRONG, necessarily, but you need to keep in mind the concept of death of the author and how different people will have different readings.
 

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