Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

IWSG Sept #1: On 'Beta Partners'

 Each month, IWSG challenges us to share our thoughts around a question (or some other issue that preoccupies us), to support and encourage writers at all stages of their careers.

Here's the September 2 question - If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why? 

This month’s question sent me back to those earliest days when I dreamed one day of becoming a writer. Then, my ‘beta partners’ were the classics. Hemingway, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck, even, quoth the Raven, Edgar Allen Poe. And the women came along, starting with Louisa Mae Alcott, Ursula LeGuin, Pearl S. Buck, Amy Tan, and Joyce Carol Oates.

I looked up to all of them -- until at a writer’s conference, I stood in line to ask the keynoter a question. She glared at me. “Don’t do that. Don’t put me on a pedestal. I’m a writer. I got here by hard work, and you will too.”

Maybe like you, I tried various writer’s groups that ranged from outright attack fests to unending praise. Once my writing was greeted by someone saying, “A new star has come to San Miguel.” I nearly giggled. None of those experiences led me to trust my own voice. And then I taught writing for 26 years and learned from my students.

A few published novels later, I still fall into the current story and rewrite until it seems reasonably complete. During the pandemic, those times to meet face-to-face with my ‘beta partner’ are rather few. But even now, once a month, I pack my folding chair into the car and head to a local park where Annette Drake and I sit the proscribed six-feet apart and share our current writing.

What I appreciate about Annette is that she listens and responds first as a reader (does this scene intrigue her?) and as a writer (does this scene work on as many levels that a writer can revise?). Most helpful are her comments about authenticity of characters and plot, and about opportunities to improve pacing and conflict. I try to do the same for her, for I treasure Annette’s thoughtful analysis.

When I go home to my office and lean back into my story, her comments energize my writing. When I look back to all those years ago, when I dreamed of becoming a writer, I realize the simple act of writing that next story has become my daily reality. Deep down, I'm happy to be a writer, thrilled when readers like my stories, and ready for tomorrow, pandemic or not!

Now that staying at home, quarantine groups, and the ever-present mask seem almost normal, how are your writing projects coming along? 

Why not join IWSG and post an update or visit other writers by going HERE. Or, you could visit this month's IWSG hosts to be inspired: PJ Colando, J Lenni Dorner, Deniz Bevan, Kim Lajevardi, Natalie Aguirre, and Louise - Fundy Blue! After all, September begins another season of change. 

May this be a good month for you.

"Autumn Teacup" by congerdesign on Pixabay









18 comments:

  1. You're lucky you two found each other. I have an online writing group--Echo Chamber--in Scribophile.com. If you're either of you are interested in meeting more writers let me know.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Thank you for your kind invitation, Anna, and for stopping by. I will follow through on Scribophile!

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  2. I have a critique group and we meet on Zoom. We're meeting tonight. Glad you found an writer that you really connect with.

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    1. Glad you find Zoom useful. We meet weekly with relatives on Zoom, and it's so hard to facilitate any kind of a discussion. Your group must be much more focused! Glad to see you have a writing group that nurtures your writing.

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  3. I have been to many writing conferences over the years, and your description is spot on. I'm not even missing attending them this year. You seem to have found the perfect arrangement that works for you, and that's really the key.

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    1. Hello, Lee. Thanks for your comment that affirmed my experience. Haven't we all been rethinking how best to nurture our writing? Conferences have been useful in the past, and I miss that bounce that comes from connecting with other writers and kindred spirits.

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  4. That sounds wonderful! Especially the part about being able to discuss the story in person. I have lots of lovely writing friends, but none in my own city...

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Deniz. In these times of pandemic, 'tis a rare thing to meet face to face! (Sorry. I've been writing a little Scottish dialogue this morning). Once again, we'll give thanks for the great resources the internet brings!

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  5. How I loved your post. The experience sharing was wonderful. And must be so nice to be able to discuss your writing.

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    1. Hello, Sonia. Yes, meeting with Annette is truly wonderful (and helpful). Even if it's only once a month, I look forward to our sessions. May your own writing do well during this time of pandemic.

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  6. How great that you can still meet, even at a distance, with your partner and talk writing!

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    1. Thank you! Nearly every critique partner brings gifts, even if only online. I still like to 'read' those eyebrows.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experience! In-person discussions, even with the mandatory 6 feet in between, sounds so lovely right now.
    Damyanti at Daily (w)rite

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    1. Thank you, Damyanti. That whole process of reading aloud, listening to what others read, and thinking about (and commenting on) whether this particular scene works helps me look under the surface of plot twists.

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  8. I actually haven't done a ton of writing during the quarantine, but I have done lots of editing, submitting, marketing that kind of stuff. Once the new book is out and I can focus on writing again we'll see how that goes.

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    1. You said the 'bad' word -- marketing! I'd rather write than sub and market any day. But, I do try to write every day because the act of writing keeps me connected to my stories. Just now, I'm working on a reader magnet, so that combines writing and marketing. May new stories easily come your way when that new book is out!

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  9. I wish I had a beta/critique partner like Annette. Discussing your book with somebody in person, especially another writer (and being able to help back) is so important.

    Despite the supporting blogging and writing community, I have felt quite alone in my process to publishing my travel memoir. I’m such a newbie! To me, hiring an editor filled a gap of not having anyone to discuss important content questions with.

    That being said, I recently visited with our current upstairs neighbor (socially distanced) and she was interested to learning more about my book. So, we discussed parts of it in depth. It was incredibly helpful to me as she opened my eyes to a few themes and I was happy to discover I’m still passionate about the project myself! :-)

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    1. Even reading your own drafts aloud can be helpful as well. Good on you for finding someone to actually talk to as you continue polishing that travel memoir. Good to hear your editor has become an important resource as well. And so we go, one step at a time. I wish I had some publishing tips for you, but hopefully, that path will open for you as well.

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