So I just found out one of my very close writer friends had no alpha readers for her recently finished MS. I literally gasped. I don't know how you no-alpha writers do it! Don't you get discouraged? Don't you worry about the choices you make as a writer? How in the world do you make it 60—100k words without falling into complete despair?
What? Maybe I'm just an insecure person? Sure...that might be a valid point, but let me just toot the Alpha horn for a second.
If you don't know what an Alpha reader is, let me give you a quick definition. An Alpha Reader is a person who reads a writer's rough draft as it is being generated. And they are awesome. Alphas don't have to be writers (though it's helpful), they just have to love you no matter what and be wildly enthusiastic about your desire to write.
The role of the Alpha is not to point out "messy" writing or little things that can be fixed later. That's the Beta's job. The Alpha role is two fold: 1) Point out anything they "don't get" or speak up when/if the story goes "off course." 2) Tell you after every single chapter that they are dying for the next and you're the best writer in the whole entire world and it's a crime you're not published yet (or something like that)!
I have two wonderful, perfect Alpha readers—my husband and my best friend. Getting their feedback as I write keeps me going, reassures me that I'm taking the story the right way, and stops me from making huge blunders right off the bat. I love it every time I get an "OMG that was awesome!" response, but I equally appreciate the "uh, that didn't go quite right...would MC really do that?"
Since I enlisted Alphas, I feel like my first drafts are in much better shape than before. The big plot holes just aren't there—I think more about what I'm writing because I want the Alphas to get the best possible rough draft. Of course, the writing is far from perfect, but still a lot better than if I was going it alone.
Consider finding an Alpha or two, you really won't regret it. Unless you find one who thinks they're a Beta and nitpicks you to death. That wouldn't be good. Make sure they know their role.
Perfect post, Natalie! I have several alphas and they are wonderful!ReplyDelete
Definitely helpful! I have someone reading my current novel as I write. It helps...A LOT! Great post! :-)ReplyDelete
In my opinion, the alpha reader is the writer. But that's just me. Terminology is beside the point, really.ReplyDelete
And you are so fortunate that your husband is so supportive and helpful in your writing cause--and your best friend, too. It's not that common to have close friends or family who can read and usefully comment on what you write. Mostly it's just "very nice dear" with that panicked look from your mom as she tries to edge away before you can ask her how she liked it, etc.
Natalie's Alphas are lucky, lucky people...ReplyDelete
And FREAKING AWESOME, too. She must have the single coolest alpha readers on the planet...I'll bet they're really good looking, too.
And humble. Let's not forget humble.
Seriously though, this is a great post, and I think a good point. Some people might be able to do it solitary, but we are not those people ; )
I usually just go for betas because I'm too self-conscious to let anyone see the rough draft. Though I have been known to let my cousin read the story as I'm writing it.ReplyDelete
Kiersten -- You're either Natalie's alpha or you owe Natalie's alpha money, right?
WW, I AM fortunate my husband loves my books. He's such an incredible support. Love him. So. Much. (Even if I never have enough fight scenes for him, hehe.)ReplyDelete
Kierst, my Alphas ARE ridiculously good looking. It's kind of intimidating.
Sara, she's my alpha;P Which is probably why my writing has improved so much...
Sara, I both am Natalie's alpha AND owe myself money. Right on both accounts.ReplyDelete
No Alpha's for me. Although at the moment I'm having a bit of Alpha envy.ReplyDelete
Alphas are amazingly cool. Even when they are not Kiersten. ;)ReplyDelete
I've done it both ways. Sometimes the pressure of writing when I know someone is waiting to read it, is too much to handle. I find when I'm just writing for myself I let myself write more freely and don't worry about the fact that I might need to go back and fix major plot points. Then I get the story out faster and without stress and can go back and fix things for my betas. But, that being said, if I'm having writer's block problems, alphas are invaluable because they've helped me force myself push through those.ReplyDelete
My Alpha is Elizabeth. She keeps me honest, but she is also very encouraging. I appreciate her input so much. In fact, without her enthusiasm for the characters and story this first foray into writing a novel would have probably never gotten past the first 60 pages--which is when she read what I had. It would have just dwindled into my insecurities.ReplyDelete
Lesson learned. ;)ReplyDelete
You are the bomb, by the way.
My beta readers know when they need to take on the role of alpha readers. :) When I need pure support, they support me, and when I ask for criticism, they provide that too. It's lovely.ReplyDelete
I don't have alphas, and no official betas, either. I kind of play both roles myself. It's a little risky, but that's just how I roll. :D When I run into snags, I'll share things with my writing group.ReplyDelete
My mom's breaking into her freelance writer career, and I'm her beta. So I get a lot of experience, there.
My sister is my alpha. It was a fun experience when last week she called me out of the blue JUST to tell me what she thought about my hero.ReplyDelete
Yes, Natalie. Yes, yes, yes. I like what you said about Alpha's not being responsible for messy writing and little things (although my wife was a teacher, so she sometimes can't help herself if I typed "your" instead of "you're").ReplyDelete
Having an alpha just proves to me that I could never be my own alpha. She sees things I am too close to the story to see.
oh. i don't have alphas either, i guess. i don't feel my novel is ready or knows who she is yet until i've revised her at least once. i just use betas. =DReplyDelete
Maybe tomorrow you can talk about Betas, Gammas, and even the Delta readers!ReplyDelete
Oh, if any of your significant others think their time is too important to be reading your books, just yell this at them really loud and charge them. I'm sure after that they'll reconsider:ReplyDelete
"Konohagakure Hiden: Taijutsu no Ōgi: Sennen Goroshi!!!"
Hi. I don't have an alpha reader... Perhaps I should get oneReplyDelete
I never wanted an Alpha before, but you've convinced me I should get one. (You and Kiersten have convinced me, that is, over the course of your blogs.) So I've talked to a couple people, and I think they're really going to help me in 2010. :)ReplyDelete
OK, I have these and didn't even realize there was a term for them! They're my best friend and a new friend I've become close to simply because we happened to have a conversation at the right time about the fact that I was writing a book. She offered to read it, so I handed over what I'd done, which wasn't much. She stayed with me through the entire first draft and did all the things you mentioned - loved it, gave me wild encouragement and pumped me up to write more for her read. She just happens to be a clinical psychologist, too, so she also gave me great insight into my characters' feelings and emotional reactions. ;-)ReplyDelete
I don't know what I would have done without my alpha readers. Probably still be languishing inside my first draft.
Now off to read the posts about beta readers.... thanks for all this great reference material!!!