Tuesday, August 16, 2011


A few months back, I read a manuscript from a good friend and her writing partner. I've never met the partner--heard of her through my friend, of course, but we've never even conversed through an email or anything. No online chats, nada.

It was a little strange reading the work of a virtual stranger, but let's face it, most writers are strangers to us so it really shouldn't make a difference in the end. That said, I read it mostly because I wanted to help my friend. We've been online writing buds for a very long time and I was super excited to jump into the manuscript and give whatever advice I thought might help.

I read it, made some suggestions, same as I would for anyone. My friend was very grateful for my input because she felt I hit on some of the weak spots she and her partner had been in dispute over. And I may have pointed out a few things she hadn't thought of... blah blah blah, yada yada yada.

Needless to say, the writing partner did not take the critique well. She did at one point say she thought I might be right in my various points, but I could pretty much tell she wasn't on board with what I had to say. Regardless of that, I never received a thank you from her. No big, in the grand scheme of things yet to come.

So, flash forward a few months. They've edited some, revised some, etc. and the partner is ready to send the book out into the world. Hold the boats, my friend said, I would really like Jen to take a look at it before we do.

This is when things got ugly. Her writing partner, as you can probably guess, did not want to go through this extra step... after all, who is this Jen? What makes her think her opinion is so important? If she's so good, why doesn't she have an agent yet? Why isn't she published? How does my friend KNOW I actually had an agent at one point? How does she KNOW I didn't lie about it?

And these were just the things my friend was willing to tell me.

Blink, yo. DOUBLE BLINK.

I'm not here to give a lecture about how you should treat beta readers, I think anyone who happens to read this is probably here because they want to converse with other writers and learn from their experiences, etc. That's the reason we started this blog. I don't think I need to preach to this particular choir, iow.

That said, I do want to make a point about her reaction. Her reaction was pure and simple, a deflection technique. She doesn't want to be told her pretty little baby might have a flaw--maybe a nose boogey that's rather unsightly. A dirty diaper. Whatever. So instead of saying, I KNOW THIS BOOK IS GOOD, and having faith in her work, she chose to insult me instead. Instead of believing I would read the book and have nothing but glowing praise, she instead decided to just bypass me altogether. Cuz yanno, it's SO much better to hear about your baby's muddy face from an agent in the form of a rejection.

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be wasting any more of my time helping this particular writer. "Good luck" is all I have to say.


  1. Good Grief! I agree, let her go. I'm just worried about your friend who has to work with her.

  2. As they say: in yo' FACE.

    Onwards and upwards x

  3. Some people are unbelievable! Why be a writer if you don't want an honest friend's advice (or a friend of a friend) and would prefer an average Joe reading your work and then laying down the smack by leaving a nasty comment and review on Amazon? I'd say let her have her rejections. After so many, she'll get the point.

  4. You know, if she's not going to take your advice anyway, maybe it's just as well that your time isn't wasted reading the MS again...
    I'd hate to be her future editor - or agent. Nothing grinds my nerves more than a drama queen.

    I feel bad for your friend here, too.

    I'm an enthusiastic beta reader - I love giving and receiving crits. And I'm a total feedback junkie, even if I'm shaking in my boots while attaching my document and pressing 'Send.'

    But when I'm in the thick of beta reading, I'm not all that concerned with sugar-coating -- and this is where some people have got their hackles up getting crits from me in the past. I don't do it on _purpose_. If I believe in somebody's work, by gosh, they will _know_ it - I have no problem hiding my enthusiasm. But I can't cheerlead all the time or I'd never get the work done, and the work is what I'm there to do, so...

    Some people just need a lot of reassurance. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it's really common among beginning writers, but when they repeatedly request feedback more for the ego boost than to improve their writing, it becomes unproductive - a waste of the beta's time and kind of fruitless for the writer too. I may be enthusiastic, but I'm no therapist; if I sense that this is what's going on, inevitably I end up not wanting to crit for that person anymore.

    There's a big difference between 'I did my best, can you take a look at it and tell me I'm on the right track?' versus 'Hey! Read this! (read as: look what I did!) ...oh, what, you thought it needed work? Well, screw you!"

    Part of the problem might have been that you and the writer don't 'know' each other - but I really think the problem was her attitude. (Of course.) The lack of a 'thank you' would have rankled me in and of itself - thoughtful critting is an effort that should not go unacknowledged, no matter what the beta's critique said. It's just common courtesy!

    Agree with other commenters, though - she'll find out what's coming to her. Hopefully she'll learn her lesson at some point.

  5. I feel sorry for your friend. It sounds like her writing partner isn't really prepared for this endeavor. You mentioned that your friend and her partner had disagreed over some weak spots (that you also happened to comment on). If this partner doesn't want help or feedback, I wish them luck getting to a point where they actually work with an agent and/or publisher.

  6. Goes to show you, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. You never know when it will come back to bite you on the ass, or what bridges you will burn.

    I hope you were still able to help your writing friend out!

  7. As someone who's spent a lot of time in the past six months both beta reading (great stuff) and reading books for blog review purposes (pretty bad stuff that was hard to review fairly), I can say it takes a lot of time and effort to provide feedback to others. And if that 'other' isn't willing to take feedback from a beta that her own friend recommends, well... Tell her to thicken her skin!