I've Been Pregnant

  Tin Hau  before her name change, just before we acquired her.

Tin Hau before her name change, just before we acquired her.

I've “been pregnant" for the last nine months. Of course that's out of the ordinary for a man. No, I don't have some special physiology. But the metaphor isn't far off the mark to compare "birthing" a first novel-length work to what a woman might go through to reach a blessed event. There are long gestation and then a final agony of release that fulfill one's power to create life. Leading up to that event comes the long, slow march of ideas that starts with a climax of insight, and builds ever so slowly to another, and then another. Moments of new vision are some of our sweetest pleasures.

A baby starts as a few cells and gradually repeats all the stages of human evolution as it develops into that eventual sheaf of beauty and promise of a bright future, a new baby. Gestation lasts nine months, give or take, and that's how long it took to grow this book. Those weeks of toil were powered by sheer joy and pain recalled from my happiest years, the middle of my life.

Like many writers who may be new to fiction, I began with short stories, those sprints that prepare and strengthen a writer for the marathon. One day, three of my stories aligned like distant, luminous bodies on the horizon. They clustered to suggest one entity. On close inspection, they had gaps between them and like so many events in writers' lives, they pointed the way through to new work that a lizard-brain was trying to suggest, a new entity.

"What this needs," I realized, "is more narrative to close the gaps and flesh out this story into something whole and viable that can survive, and stand alone, strong and beautiful.”

Then came more months of revision, finding issues, fixing them, adding, subtracting; until that moment when the whole being emerged, complete. It drew its first breath and screamed out to my world "I live!" And it was not merely a tiny, squirming product of my intents. It was separate, powerful, a goddess. A Sea Goddess born of three parents; my wife, myself, and that trackless, watery wilderness full of life, that blood of our planet that we call the sea. Suddenly, breaking water astonished me. I had actually written a novel, forty-four thousand words in twelve chapters.

Sea Goddess is with her nurses now. She’s being readied by two sensitive, wise midwives who are helping dress her in her baptismal raiment. But soon, she'll emerge into the world, full of portent and for me, consequence, and maybe even some wisdom.

The release is soon to be announced and all are invited to attend, to meet her and enjoy her lines. Like a proud father, I'll sit on the side and absorb everyone's responses, both positive and negative, and learn. Then, after a little rest, I'll turn around and do it all again, hopefully even better.

Sea Goddess, a first novel-length work, lives and soon I'll be able to say where to find her.

JR

Qualified Beta Readers Wanted

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These days, every indie author needs expert beta readers who are also great to work with. I'm looking for more than one beta reader. Professionalism matters. I'd like to find readers who can provide some support for their quality of service other than merely, "Oh, I read a lot of books." Watching the circus doesn't make someone a trapeze artist or even a clown.

Go beyond the book list, please. Let me know why I should use your services for a particular book or story. Provide some credentials that add up to a sense of verified qualification, such as your publications, positive writers' testimonials from your past reads, education, job experience, your website, expertise, and so on.

A resume is not required but would be very helpful. If you charge for beta reading, I need the cost. Please provide a list of your deliverables, a description of your process and what you might need from me in addition to the manuscript. I usually work in MS Word using the Review process. Google Docs (G Suite) will work. I also have Scrivener and that enables several formats for review.

These are the minimum requirements for my Beta Readers as of 10/20/2018:

1. Education - At least a two-year AA or AS certificate of completion from an accredited, two-year, community college. Preferred – a BA or BS degree from an accredited college or university, with a concentration in something relevant, preferably in literature, humanities, sciences, or social sciences. Equivalent life experience is considered if it's relevant and convincing.

2. Experience - A significant reading history that demonstrates diversity of focus in as many different genres as possible. Readers who focus exclusively on one popular genre such as romance, history or sci-fi, etc. may not grasp how other genres work or even that they may be interesting and worthy. Diverse life and work experience matters.

3. Fees - The quality of work matters more than cost but the fee must not exceed something affordable. Like many authors, I have a small budget.

4. Testimonials - At least two or three positive reports from different satisfied authors may secure the deal for you.

5. Life experience - The older you are, the better you will use language and the more diverse you are in life experience, the better you'll get characters and plots.

6. Attitude - You understand and accept that the author is in charge and you act accordingly but you're strong enough to rationally defend your position. You're someone who won't feel intimidated or overwhelmed by reasonable objections; someone who takes deadlines seriously and will make firm commitments and go to lengths to honor them. You think independently, not locked into alignment with groups.

7. Communication style - We both act with continual respect for each other. We stay on the same page using frequent-enough communication via email or even possibly voice contact. If an issue comes up, we discuss it and settle it. Kindness is a practice that makes relationships of all kinds work better.

8. Security - You will *NOT reveal* any part of my manuscripts to any other person, at any time, without my specific permission. Nor will you save or archive any working copies other than a single backup, locally saved on your end. At completion of our task, when I have received all of the results, you will eradicate any copies you have under your control.

A perfect candidate would be someone like this: an articulate, college-educated, mature or retired person with job experience in teaching or tech (something cerebral) who works on a sliding scale or offers an affordable fee and has at least a couple of satisfied author-clients. Sometimes exceptional, younger readers also reach a level of mental/emotional maturity that will work. If you're published with a book-length work, that's a plus.

My current beta-reading task is novel-length, about 44,7xx words. A synopsis is available. The genre tends toward contemporary, literary, and memoir but the book is unique. It defies precise categorization.

I can provide candidates the synopsis. After you check that out, if you'd please answer with firm start and end dates to bookend a schedule that you will keep, we can go from there. If you need to deviate later, you'll discuss this with me.

I'm a professional writer who will need betas going forward. I believe in loyalty and ongoing work relationships. I make a point of providing accurate feedback and being professional and very good to work with. If we can learn from each other, then we may become colleagues.

Please respond via email (from my Contact Page) not through Goodreads onsite messaging which is inadequate for a business engagement, except for the initial contact. I’m a Goodreads Author.

Thank you for your interest in beta reading for me as I write and publish more books. Please review this website, especially the About page, to become familiar with who you’d be working with.

Joseph Riden, Author

The Best Beta Reader

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When writers and beta readers work together, the goal is to elevate the written work through linguistic purification. Beta reading coupled with ensuing revision ideally removes all manner of errata. It distills the final work into it's purest possible existence. And there's a second goal, too; for the writer and reader to become ever closer as professionals, in trusting interdependence.

Think about writing. It's a powerful force whether you're trying to express love for a desired person, or intending to birth a new nation; whether you're calling for an end to a shocking injustice, presenting an astonishing new theory, or anything in between. Some of us presume to make this writing thing that supposedly anyone can do, a life's work. It's best for us to take the work seriously but not take ourselves too seriously in the process. For the truth is, not everyone can do it well and even those of us who have some measure of genius must work at it with earnest sincerity and untiring energy. It's no wonder that we benefit so much from the sincere assistance of our editors and others who contribute to the effort. We rely heavily on our helpmates to uphold our work and become midwives of our creation.

Now think about reading and especially this thing called beta reading these days. Beta reading's the maiden flight of a work that requires outpouring of a writer's mind, and often their soul as well. There's no mystery in why we run variously amok from typos to tantrums, to successive approximations, and from rewrites to triumphs in the end, hopefully. It's damned difficult work at times, and our very beings are poured into our works, which become like children we birth and raise to be pure, proud and powerful. Any writer worthy of the name wants their work to be read and appreciated in some way, in the end.

Trusted readers willing to participate with us in the final stages of publication can smooth our paths or kill our motivation to continue, even in the very profession of writing. You betas penetrate our blindness to our own errors and suggest alternate routes to glory. We trust you with our most prized and precious things, our manuscripts. We want to know your thoughts, and at the same time, we cringe at the prospect of receiving them. Every writer wants their work to be understood and valued, even those whose primary motive is money. And even if the valuing is really about an as-yet unattained perfection.

We know we need honest reports from our beta readers and at the same time, we risk a lot emotionally in all stages of the writing process. For me, the stakes rise higher and higher at every step of the process from the seed idea to the final book before our eyes. We deeply need to look upon it and think, This was worth the effort, if we are to keep on writing.

At the same time, we need to find and correct any sort of flaw that has crept into our creation as we built it and this is why we collaborate with betas, for no other reason, and especially not to receive praise. We need cold facts about the manuscript so that we can distill the work into a purer state. Because we also fear what we need and want, and because we are universally our own most brutal critics, we need you to be kind as well as honest.

Now think about satisfaction for both writers and their beta readers. Like writers, betas seek specific goals though most of those objectives differ from the ones valued by their writers. Remember always that the writer chooses the beta reader, not the other way around and this alone sets the nature of this creative partnership. Betas work for writers and of course for themselves as well, but the main flow of benefits is from the beta to the writer and believe me, sane writers are deeply grateful for a good beta's contribution, without which it's likely some flaws may survive and pass into the publication. We turn to you only after doing all we can possibly do to make the work perfect, knowing we can't get there alone. We need you, and somehow you need us. Now, therefore, let us work as partners, both accurately and respectfully.

I'll try to be honest; in my work, at the beta stage, it's still easy to find flaws. Here's a typo, there lies a cliché, no matter how sincerely I may stretch toward perfection. Even egregious missteps can be found; the dreaded, tedious repetition or just a plain old boring passage or slightly purple-ish chunk of prose. The beta I need and want sees all of this and yet doesn't lose faith in me and my ability to make it right once I can see the issue with their help.

My ideal beta doesn't even dream of praise because it's wasted effort in a serious business yet they express appreciation in another form. They communicate neutrally as a caring professional always does. And the writer returns that respect, in kind. Think of a doctor you respect who is charged with telling you what malady you have and delivers even devastating news both accurately and compassionately.

I can't speak for other writers, but as for me, I want accuracy and truth but packaged in kindness. I strongly suspect this "tough love" nonsense that has crept into beta reading circles is a poison that diminishes demand for a beta's services except from masochists. Love is always strong but never tough, and I want betas who love what they do because it strengthens relationships. Think of that doctor again and how his revelations are delivered so tactfully.

And lastly, think what tact comprises. It's "adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues.” Synonyms include "sensitivity, diplomacy, thoughtfulness, consideration, and discretion." Tact is the loving, artful delivery of your findings, beta readers. It's a communication that merely conveys the findings and without judgment or shaming or any other tone that may discourage your client writer from gratefully incorporating your insights into their work. If you don't have this capacity in you, please get out of beta reading.

And so, beta readers, be perceptive and dedicated but never forget that tact is of the essence because it protects your relationship with your creative partner from dark forces that lurk in pejorative terms and comparative judgments and self-referencing statements.

Remember always the real goal is to to purify the work, not the writer.