Ashton Rice

Why Using a Beta Reader is a Damn Good Idea

Why Using a Beta Reader is a Damn Good Idea

By Ashton Rice

You just finished writing a story, read over it, and sent it to an editor. You get a rejection letter and your jaw drops when you get the feedback on the work you sent in. There were grammar errors, spelling mistakes, and syntax errors. On top of that, the editorial team got lost and confused trying to understand the story and plot. How could this happen? What did you do wrong? You swore you caught all of the mistakes when you read it before submitting it. Well, a beta reader could have probably saved you a lot of trouble.

What’s a Beta Reader?

What is a beta reader? A beta reader is a person who will read a writer’s story or book before it’s released or passed down to editorial. This is not an editor, but rather a test subject or audience to see how writing(s) will fare once published. These individuals can catch basic spelling and grammar errors, sure, but they really are a writer’s critics before the critics.

Beta readers aim to give writers an understanding of any given writing’s receptivity. Beta readers in writing are much like a preview audience for a movie. For example, a writer may give the story to a beta reader or readers who represent a particular demographic they hope to write for. From there the reception in that sample group will let the author know if they have hit the mark.

If you want to write for a specific demographic, and the beta reader(s) who represent that group respond negatively to your work, you might want to reconsider the target audience. You also may want to just rewrite the article or story altogether. This is how having a beta reader works in very simple terms.

Here’s more on how a Beta Reader can help you:

Beyond making sure that a writer is pinpointing a demographic and/or target audience, a beta reader can save an author some grief from editors. A writer reviewing their work is a lot less effective than getting an impartial reader to take on the same task. As the writer, one may have looked at a piece for hours on end. The chances of a person who wrote a work successfully reading through it for errors are unlikely. At the point of completion, a writer is usually burnt out and ready to meet that ever-so-sneaky-deadline. On top of that, most writers are biased to what they produced and often don’t consider changes in the plot, subplots, sentence structure; and they often miss continuity issues.

Handing off the final product to the second pair of eyes and getting some objective and potentially crucial feedback can be the difference between an editor viewing you as a novice or a professional. Sometimes hearing a suggestion from a book-lover is all a writer needs to be convinced that a change is necessary. These small errors that come from apathy, fatigue, and stubbornness are ones editors don’t want to deal with.

Let’s wrap this up:

Try to finish writing at least a day early so that someone else can give you a valuable opinion and some feedback before you send your copy off to the editor. Beta readers are typically inexpensive, most do this for free! You’ll be looking for someone who is willing to read specific genres and offer their opinion in a brief email. It’s very possible you have several beta readers in your contact list, social media network or writing group. So, before you rush a story through to your outbox, be sure to contact a beta reader to see if there is anything you could improve on.

About Ashton Rice:

As a sequential art major out of SCAD, Ashton began writing as an intern editing for The Borgen Project. He learned valuable experience as an editor and writer while taking on this role, and discovered a passion for writing and sharing information and ideas through written language.

Ashton now writes for SOLRAD Magazine and Write-On e-Publishing. His passion for comics still persists, and he continues to write and illustrate his own comics while studying up and coming alternative artists for reviews and interviews for the SOLRAD Magazine. Ashton favors writing science fiction as well as contemporary fiction in his personal work.

Follow Aston Rice on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/ashy.rice.art/

Paul Deines

Why Goal Setting is Critical for Freelance Writers

The Critical Nature of Goal Setting as a Freelance Writer

By Paul Deines

Freelance writing is not the easiest game out there. It requires a lot of self-discipline, persistence and adaptability.

Just as important as the wording of your pitch template or the opening paragraph of your latest commission, though, are the goals you set for yourself. Your clients can hold you accountable for an individual project. You need to hold yourself accountable for your career.

Goal Setting is about Actions, not Results

When we think about our professional and creative dreams, we tend to think about results. I want to publish my book, or I want to be hired by a prestigious magazine, or I want to win a Pulitzer.

All those goals have one thing in common, though: they require another party to make them happen.

The bummer of chasing goals is that you will face a lot of rejection. If you conceptualize your objectives as things you want to get, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure every time you are rejected.

But rejection is not only unavoidable; it’s necessary!

Before I became a freelance writer, I worked in the theatre. If there’s one field that can guarantee as much rejection as writing, it is theatre. Both fields require you to get up every morning and put yourself out there with the expectation that most employers will pass.

In the theatre, I learned to think of my career as collecting rejections. I wasn’t going to get cast unless I did a lot of open calls. So, I needed to be passed over for a lot to find work. With that in mind, I stopped framing my goals as “I want to get cast in a play this month” and started framing them as “I want to audition for fifteen plays this month.” I had control over that latter framing.

So, when you think of your goals, you need to take responsibility for the actions you can control: writing words, revising drafts, pitching venues, applying for freelance work.

Personal versus Client-Driven

In an ideal world, we would all be paid to write exactly the kind of work we’re passionate about. Sometimes, we even get lucky enough to secure a commission that intersects with our interests. Often though, we take on work that’s of marginal interest.

Client-driven work is still important for your creative development. If you are serious about making a go of freelance writing, you need to find clients. Gathering a stable of regular employers will not only stabilize your income; it will also improve your visibility and make you a stronger writer. Nothing develops your skills quite as quickly as a client expecting pages!

However, if you take on lots of client-driven work, you need to organize your daily writing carefully. Also, you need to make time for your personal projects.

I maintain a daily schedule with word-count and revision benchmarks. I have columns for all client assignments. Right along with them, I have columns for my personal work.

It’s all too easy to push off your own projects when there’s a client deadline approaching. Nonetheless, if your goal is to work consistently and earn a living, you need to prioritize work you’re passionate about. So make sure to give it equal priority.

Flexibility and Openness

Have you ever taken a temp job and been surprised by the rapport you had with the company? Have you ever done a home repair and found a new skill in the process?

When you are laser-focused on your dream project, it’s easy to disregard other kinds of work you’re good at. As writers, we need to be open to the possibility that there are skills and interests we haven’t discovered yet.

Here’s an example:

I stepped up my freelance work in the middle of last year, submitting more proposals to different types of clients. As a result, I discovered, as many writers undoubtedly have, that a lot of work involves ghost-writing short romance novels. After submitting pitches for a couple of postings and soon had a commission. This led to another ghost-writing job, then another.

Now, I’m under no illusions that I’m reinventing the contemporary romance genre, but clients seem to appreciate my product. More importantly, I enjoy writing these stories. They allow me to write in a different key. I enjoy slipping into a voice that, candidly, is less jaundiced and more hopeful than most of my narrators.

So I made the conscious choice always to have a romantic ghost-writing job in progress. This time last year, I wouldn’t have imagined that would be in my repertoire.

Let’s Wrap This Up:

Goal-setting is key to developing and thriving as a freelance writer. If you focus on action-oriented objectives, make time for your own projects and remain open to new and different kinds of work, you’ll have a stronger sense of professional direction. Add a little elbow grease, and the work will follow.

 

About Paul Deines:

Paul Deines is a New York-based writer focusing on beer and culture, sometimes together and sometimes separately. His work has appeared recently in SR-Mag, Brew Studs, and Hop Culture.

As a freelancer for hire, he ghostwrites novels, crafts marketing copy and contributes dialogue for video games and other digital content.

An occasional playwright, Paul’s plays have been performed both online and on stage around the country. In his spare time, he enjoys experimental cooking, classic cinema, watching football, attending the theatre, and constructing playthings for his daughter.

You can read more of his work at his website, The Curiograph (thecuriograph.com) or follow him on Twitter @thecuriograph.

You can also read recent articles by Paul Deines by visiting the links below:

www.hopculture.com

wearebrewstuds.com

Ashton Rice

You Wrote a Book, So What?

You Wrote a Book – So What?

By Ashton Rice

Writing is like an onion. There are many layers to creating a work that will be well received by a target audience. Assuming that the skill and craft are near perfect, any writer should be good to go, right? Well, being a good writer doesn’t necessarily mean that your audience will care. A writer won’t find much of a readership if the target audience is non-existent and/or uninterested. Books that fly off of the shelf create characters and worlds that people connect to. Timeless movies are usually ones that involve some sort of emotional dilemma, or an evolving conflict throughout. So, how does a good writer get an audience to care?

The Secret Sauce:

The first and best ingredient to any great work is emotion. This may seem cliché, but a good story with no heart is no story at all. This is because humans have evolved to respond to emotion. A stronger understanding of emotions always leaves a positive mark on humanity and your readers. If you want people to never put a book down, dig deep into the heart and soul. No matter what you’re writing, always give your characters heart. This is what makes people believe in works of fiction.

For example, Stephen King’s It isn’t just scary, it forces the readers to experience trauma through the eyes of children. This is something that is uncomfortable for most, but that alone is the genius. Forcing out emotions that are difficult to cope with is engaging. If the book is written beautifully and only shows off fancy syntax and structure, it won’t be read cover to cover. Engagement in emotion will make any writer’s book relevant to a world that wants to feel more than anything. A sturdy plot is also necessary for a book that tells a story, but that’s another conversation. Just make sure that there is a conflict that is resolved through change by the end of the story, and it will usually work out.

This Applies to Non-Fiction Writers too:

For those writing more fact-based media, know that the same principles apply to you. Nobody cares about a hurricane without caring about the people who may have been hurt or killed by one. Connect statistical data with emotion and humanity when possible. If it is impossible because of the nature of the work, then at the very least appeal to a cause the academic community can relate to. When you write a book on writing, explain why writing is important, how it has helped shaped modern society. Books written about sports, at the very least mention the great culture and industry that has blossomed because of their growing popularity.

Let’s wrap this up:

Make your work relevant to your audience and once that happens, readers will want to immerse themselves in everything you write. In a book with a story, just remember engagement (particularly emotional engagement) and a solid plot is key to any story with a narrative. Once people are no longer engaged, the book is no longer reaching anyone. For those of you who stick to writing about facts, make it relevant, and the engagement from readers will happen on its own.

About Ashton Rice:

As a sequential art major out of SCAD, Ashton began writing as an intern editing for The Borgen Project. He learned valuable experience as an editor and writer while taking on this role, and discovered a passion for writing and sharing information and ideas through written language.

Ashton now writes for SOLRAD Magazine and Write-On e-Publishing. His passion for comics still persists, and he continues to write and illustrate his own comics while studying up and coming alternative artists for reviews and interviews for the SOLRAD Magazine. Ashton favors writing science fiction as well as contemporary fiction in his personal work.

Follow Aston Rice on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/ashy.rice.art/

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