My book is putting me to sleep. My book. Not the one listed on the right of this blog page that I’m reading by another author, but the one I wrote.
I fell asleep last night only to wake up an hour later, sweaty and disoriented, with my little girl kitten draped across my neck like a heating pad. My little boy kitten was sleeping belly up on top of my proofed pages. I’d passed out, purple editing pen in hand, right in the middle of chapter seven.
Creep is boring.
What I can’t seem to figure out is if it’s boring because I’ve been working on it for a year and have re-written every sentence at least a half dozen times and have practically memorized each word, or if it’s boring because it’s actually boring. I don’t remember thinking it was boring two months ago. So I’m desperately hoping it’s the former.
There’s an easy solution to finding out one way or another. I could ask someone to read the damn book. The question is… who?
Beta reading is a horrible task. I know because I’ve done it, in workshops and in my writing groups, and it’s not that much fun. You really only do it so people will critique your work in return. Once you get past your curiosity of how good (or bad) other writers are, beta reading involves a lot of analysis. It’s like writing a book report. You can’t just sit and back and read for pleasure. You have to “listen” for imbalances. You have to “watch” for plot holes and inconsistencies. And should you stumble across something that doesn’t work, you have to explain to the writer – in the nicest and most encouraging way possible – exactly why it doesn’t work. And then make suggestions – again in a kindly, non-condescending manner – as to how to improve it.
Beta-ing is tedious, time consuming, and can suck all the joy out of reading. And I wouldn’t wish it on any friend or relative.
But neither do I feel comfortable heaving my manuscript into the lap of a fellow writer, because all the writers in my life aren’t really close to me. We’ve met online (in class and in writing forums) and have “chatted”, but we’ve never met face to face. Am I cool with emailing a completed novel to someone I don’t actually know? Not really. It’s not that I think anybody would plagiarize it – I’ve already workshopped large chunks of the novel – but it’s too personal a thing to hand over in it’s entirety to someone I don’t know personally. I can’t explain it better than that. The only person I could even consider asking was just deployed to Iraq, so he’ll be a little busy for the next year (God speed, Greg).
I dream someday of having a small and steady circle of writing friends. People whose faces I can actually watch as they read my work, and whose laughter I can actually hear as they get to a funny part. We’d meet every other Tuesday for coffee and brownies and long-winded discussions about craft. We’d like each other as people and respect each other as writers, and we’d give credit to each other in the Acknowledgments sections of our debut novels.
But it looks like I’ll have to be published before that kind of networking happens. My specific neighborhood isn’t exactly a hotbed of literary artistry. In fact, the girl who highlighted my hair the other week admitted she hadn’t read a book since graduating high school. Five years ago.
If I hadn’t been at the mercy of her bleach, I’d have said something snippy (pun intended), but I smiled instead. I wanted my hair to turn out nice.
Already I’m selling out.