Since when am I a beta reader? I Write, round three, week eleven
I read and write fanfiction for How to Train Your Dragon, and have a list of authors I follow. One of them, Random, is a faithful once-a-week poster. At the end of a recent story, Random asked if anyone could beta-read the newest chapter of their upcoming novel. Their beta had to bow out, and they were stuck at chapter sixteen of a nineteen-chapter novel. In a fit of sympathy, I contacted Random and suggested where to look for a beta. I offered to look it over, stating I wasn’t a beta. I’m just a chick with opinions and a passing familiarity with the English language. They took my offer, and I dove into the exciting world of Google docs. I have no understanding of how to beta read or use Google docs. I highlighted passages and made remarks, including parts I enjoyed. I was tired, and the quality of my critique was questionable. I hoped I wasn’t required to hit some mystical Google save button when I finished. I contacted Random and said I’d read it, then went to bed.
This morning I found a response. The author made changes based on my suggestions. I know the point of critiquing someone else’s work is to improve the writing, but it feels odd. My opinion moved a writer who doesn’t know me to change their story. They asked if I’d beta the remaining three chapters. Part of me wanted to say no—I’m invested in this sequel, and don’t want to know the ending. Another voice in my head is telling me I’m not done when this story ends. It’s the voice that says don’t argue, you know I’m right.
I hate that voice. Listening to it forces me to put myself out there again, to allow people to notice me. I’m finding and meeting other writers. What if they don’t like me or my writing? I’ve been asked to help teach children. What if the children I’m working with hate me? What if their mothers think I’m doing a bad job? Then I hear it.
Don’t argue, you know I’m right.
Okay, I admit it. I can beta, write, and teach. People are serious when they expect something useful from me. When I step up, the ground is firm beneath my feet. I am capable. It is an odd conclusion, after years of “I can’t” and “I’m not” coming from my mouth, but not an unwelcome one.
Of the many ways I can describe this—satisfying, empowering, liberating—the nearest I can get is the pleasure of kicking the former me to the curb, rude hand gestures included.
Now that the old, anxious Whiskerface is gone, I’ll sit down and read chapter seventeen of Random’s novel. I am, after all, their beta.