Monday, January 30, 2012

Alphas, CPs, and betas

So, the last time I got to go to a writing meeting with my Idaho Falls peeps, I got to do a presentation of different types of editing partners. It was thrilling. But since I typed up all that information anyway, I figured I might as well share it with you guys too.

Now, before we get into the meat of the post, you just need to remember that, unfortunately, this terminology is a little interchangeable (particularly CPs and beta readers). I'm just giving you my interpretation. Okay?

Alpha Readers
  • What are they?
    Alpha readers are the people you give chapters to while you're in the middle of writing your manuscript. They're all about mid-draft idea bouncing and morale boosting.
  • Why do you need them?
    Alpha readers are kinda rare, but that's because many people don't need one. They're the cheerleaders of the writing world--the people who give you a push to keep writing or offer you a second opinion early on.
  • Who should you look for?
    An alpha reader can be anyone, though spouses are pretty good. The general idea is that your alpha reader isn't going to critique you on anything, so don't expect your hardcore critique partners to be alpha readers.
  • So who are your alpha readers?
    Boyfriend and Kirstin. Boyfriend has some magical brainstorming powers and Kirstin is very good at not letting me fall into a vortex of despair and self-loathing.

Critique Partners
  • What are they?
    Critique partners are the hard-hitters. They read your finished drafts, make all sort of edits, and help you determine what needs to be changed. These are the people who know your story as well as you do, love your characters to death, and will help you succeed.
  • Why do you need them?
    You are biased towards your story. Critique partners are not. They are the voice of reason and can help you make objective editing decisions.
  • Who should you look for?
    A writer who is a) not afraid to tell you when something sucks OR rocks, b) who is capable of separating professional and personal, and c) will not let you get away with anything subpar. Past that, everyone wants something different in a critique partner. Maybe you need a male CP to help you tweak your male POV, or someone who can understand your characters' motivations better than you can. Every writer has different strengths and weaknesses, so you and your CPs should compliment each other.
  • So who are your critique partners?
    Well, the lovely Brenna for one. And Daniel and I have been talking about trading pages. However, past that, no one yet. :) I'm definitely interesting in chatting with any interested parties . . . though be warned, I'm a super slow editor and am nowhere near ready for, well, anything.

Beta Readers
  • What are they?
    Beta readers are the final step of the editing process. After you've edited your manuscript into the grave, it's good to let some fresh eyes take a look. These are the people who will check your manuscript for readability and consistency.
  • Why do you need them?
    They haven't read your manuscript before, so they don't have outside knowledge and they aren't attached to any previous versions of it. Thus, they're representative of an actual reader, which is important.
  • Who should you look for?
    You want someone that likes to read. That's all that's really needed, though fellow writers are always good at paying careful attention to story elements.
  • So who are your beta readers?
    Uhh, good question. I don't really have any now. I might hit up my NaNoWriMo group or do a call-out on Twitter. *shrug* We'll see when I get that far.

So there you go! Next week I'll talk about where you can find a fabulous alpha reader, critique partner, or a beta reader to help you with your manuscript. Look forward to it. *thumbs up*

But until then, what do you think about all of the different types of editing partners? Have you heard about all three of these roles before, or are any of them new to you? And do you have alpha readers, critique partners, and beta readers? Tell me in the comments!