Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing on Wednesday: Lipstick and Beta

One of the benefits of wasting many hours playing games on Facebook is that I have well and truly learnt the meaning of beta. So, I suppose it wasn't a complete waste of time as you won't find the definition in a dictionary. Did you look? Mine says, as I already knew it would, that it is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. I found a closer definition under beta-test:
n 1 a test of a new or modified piece of computer software by customers who volunteer to do so. *
A beta-reader is slightly different in that they are:
a) not testing a piece of software;
b) not volunteers.

Instead your beta-reader is reading your lovingly brought to life baby.  And in my case my beta-reader was chosen partly because he wouldn't let me open a bottle of champagne when I finished my first draft. But in retrospect it wasn't the only reason. During the month of November my beta-reader was abandoned every Sunday and for many hours in the week. Giving him the job of being the first person to read the whole thing all the way through is a kind of repayment in kind: Look, this is what I was doing when I wasn't with you. The last reason the Frog is my beta-reader is because he isn't going to beat around the bush and be kind just because he's my friend. On the bottom of chapter 2 was written:

Pas d’action, pas de suspense, pas d’émotion,
 He can get away with that, even though it went on for another line. The Frog aka my beta-reader is also taking the time to explain what he meant by the above. He liked reading it enough, it just lacked the punch of the opening chapter.

I took a while to allow myself a beta-reader. Even this time round, I thought to myself I'll just do a wee little polish and shine before I let the Frog read it. I tweaked and tweaked. Rearranged words, commas etc. and then hit send. And boy, the mistakes that were in it. Sometimes you need a beta, gamma, delta all the way to omega reader because you just can't see any more. You're so close that you either have to shut it away in a drawer until you forget about it, or you need your beta-reader who can see for you.

On the subject of the unopened bottle of champagne, Nicola Morgan suggested that we reward ourselves for all we have achieved this year. At the time I wasn't sure what I could reward myself with, but while the Frog was buying his mother some face cream or other I chose myself a new ... LIPSTICK. I then worked out that it has been a very long time since I bought one, an embarrassingly long time.

* definition from my Collins English Dictionary


Rick said...

I like the idea of a beta-reader. I could probably use one for my blog (I think I've only ever deleted two posts, but I often look at stuff I've posted the next day and... well, you know...). Fortunately anything I write for work tends to be a little more, um, disciplined. It might be tough, though, to have a beta-reader for fiction.

Maybe I'm reading between the lines too much, but this Anglo-Canadian is somewhat "shocked" that your "beta-reader" is named "The Frog"! ;-)

Joyeux Noël!

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

But he's French! What else could he be called? OK he's called Pierre, but there are many frog jokes knocking about in this household.

It is quite tough to hear the bitter truth, but it does make the writing better.

Happy Christmas too Rick and I enjoy the rants, the Kayne West review had me in stitches.


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