Structuring beta reads, blurbs, and other critiques

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Peyton Stafford

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What is the best way for an author to manage these? For instance, get some beta reads, and then ask for critiques of blurbs and agent letters from the entire colony, even though most of the comments will come from people who have not read the ms? Anyone else see this as a problem or have thoughts on it?
 
What is the best way for an author to manage these? For instance, get some beta reads, and then ask for critiques of blurbs and agent letters from the entire colony, even though most of the comments will come from people who have not read the ms? Anyone else see this as a problem or have thoughts on it?
Peyton, I agree the whole critique process feels like navigating uncharted waters. As each writer has to write and rewrite on their own, I suppose there's no way to create a template that works for everyone. What I've learned over the past year is that regularly watching PopUps, attending Huddles and reading other people's beta experiences is hugely helpful. It helps you understand which comments to take to heart and which ones to consider as input or even discount. I think there is a danger that people can be sent in the wrong direction if they don't take the time to really let everything settle. Still, if someone has a method or pathway for processing all this good stuff, it would be welcome! Maybe bring this topic to a Huddle?
 
I prefer to get initial blurb and letter crits from people who haven't read my MS. Both blurb and letter need to grab folk who don't know anything about the story. That's how I test whether or not I've got the essence of the story in just a few words. If the uninitiated 'get it', then I'm on the right path.

When it comes to actually working the blurb, I think it's enough to know the main happenings in the story (what would go into a synopsis) That's why Huddles are so good. We can explain the story, then work it into a blurb.
 
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I prefer to get initial blurb and letter crits from people who haven't read my MS. Both blurb and letter need to grab folk who don't know anything about the story. That's how I test whether or not I've got the essence of the story in just a few words. If the uninitiated 'get it', then I'm on the right path.

When it comes to actually working the blurb, I think it's enough to know the main happenings in the story (what would go into a synopsis) That's why Huddles are so good. We can explain the story, then work it into a blurb.
I agree. Blurbs and letters don't need the person to have read the story. After all, the agent/publisher/browser hasn't read the story before getting to this part. A brief synopsis should clarify anything that needs clarifying when constructing a blurb.
 
Specify what feedback you are looking for and ignore anything that doesn't fit your brief. For example, does the blurb grab attention or just confuse?

On a full ms or an opening 3 beta, I specify whether I am looking for feedback on plot holes, believability or emotional engagement and that's generally what people give.

If someone decides that I need feedback on passive language, for example, I just ignore it, as I'm happy with my command of English and didn't ask for that. The feedback in this group is generally high quality and relevant.
 
There just is no formula. When I had my son the best advice I got stop worrying and just give him what he needs. I rolled my eyes at first, but it is the most sound advice I've ever received. Sometimes it's discipline, sometimes its making cookies, sometimes it's routine, sometimes it's mud and firecrackers. Give your WIP what it needs.

Blurbs and synopsis are a good way to test your concept and then your structure at Huddles. Don't inflict 1st drafts on beta readers. Set them aside for at least 3 weeks. Dont give any draft to a Beta reader to try and fix. If there's something wrong and you cant figure it out do a synopsis and bring it to Huddle. Never more than 10k words to a beta reader then ask if they want more. It's a lot like asking someone to listen to your first violin lessons.

The Huddle is triage. The best it can offer is a reaction to your concept, your story structure and characters. The blurb should be the amuse bouche for all of those things. If it doesn't work then it gives you valuable info about what you may have wrong in the larger manuscript. The synopsis even more so. I think this is the most valuable thing you can bring to Huddle because you need to know asap whether your structure/development works and it shows here like a skeleton in an X-ray. So No dont bring the finished perfect form-bring the one you are struggling with. Pete enjoys helping in the development stage. I think it is also easier because you dont have to be defensive about it. You are looking for answers.

Huddle may not seem valuable because you tell yourself "Well, they haven't read the whole manuscript." The thing is it is a rare privilege to have your whole manuscript read. The goal is to get to a stage where people actually pay money to do so. It is a VERY high bar to get there.
 
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