Recently a friend bestowed an honor upon me: Beta Reader.
As there are many writers out there, and many authors, I have offered this “service” to many friends. Really, I just want first dibs at reading the next great American story. Well, i want dibs on the next great ANYTHING story, but it would be hard to read outside of my language… So let me open that up to the next great story written in the English Language.
Anyhow, this friend was very worried. It is a new friend, one whose history I am still not completely aware of. I am uncertain if she has ever published before. I do know she was worried about the quality of her story. She held it close to her heart for a long time, and when she finally opened it up to be read by others she received little feedback. It seems the world is quite busy living their own lives.
As it is, I was not busy at the time. And I love to read. And I was between books.
And the story gripped me.
I have to admit, I was worried that it might not be good. I was worried I’d have to tell this friend of mine that it wasn’t fantastic, or point out its flaws. I am certainly not the all great authority on authorship, world building, or authorship. Being a writer does give me some ground to stand on, but it is still a relatively small patch. My island, though i love it, is still only big enough for one. It has no indoor plumbing. It has no refinement. It has only dreams of beaming bigger. Anyhow, I was terrified that I’d “have to be honest” with her, and destroy her heart. I was so grateful when I realized this would not be necessary.
Let me also say, it was a relief to see someone else’s first draft look like it needed the same amount of work as my own. I’ve gone back to old stories before to realize that i had misspelled everything, entire passages made no sense, and which words I had spelled correctly were used incorrectly. It seems that I am not the only writer to make these mistakes on my first draft. Boy does it feel good to not be alone.
The story line was inventive and new, unlike any other story I had read before. I expected to say “it’s like a fantasy (or some other) version of (insert book here)”, but there was no such comparison available. For so long I’ve thought that nearly every story had already been written… but my goal was to rewrite those old story lines with new takes and new twists. It inspired me to see that more can be done. I’ve kept some stories to myself, thinking they must be just some regurgitation of a story i cannot remember. That i surely was not original, and someone somewhere was going to compare me to a lamer version of something else. This taught me that just because we are new authors, and still budding writers, doesn’t mean that we are not capable of creating something fantastically new.
The moral of this story, kids?
Read. Read EVERYTHING.
New books should not scare you off. Who says the “classics” are the only good stories out there. In fact, who says you have to like the classics? It is OKAY to prefer new stories. It is okay to prefer previously unpublished authors. It’s okay to scour the internet to find those new writers who have sold near to no books, but DO write about topics near and dear to your heart.
In fact, I deeply encourage it.