This week I selected my BETA readers, delivering the first chapter of our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” It feels like I ripped my heart out, placed it on a platter and gave it to a team of television soap opera surgeons. Now, I wait trusting them to keep it beating.
Selecting my readers was tough. They’re friends I trust to pack my parachute, defend my honor and point out food stuck between teeth. But I just handed them my writing, as nonchalant as a basket of baked goods. What if it’s one of those bad fruit cakes we pretend to like but secretly wonder why someone bothered to bake it?
After reading volumes on choosing BETA readers, I gleaned and personalized three essentials.
- They must know me well enough to tell the truth, dodge the verbal rock tossing and believe me when I tell them I want honesty. They cannot be wimps, easily intimated by short bouts of crying, cursing or whining.
- They cannot be Teacher Wannabes. You know the ones like those kids you played school with? The bossy Hitler types insisting they be the teacher. This reader would demand a flogging for using a dangling participle because they like saying the word “participle.” And kind words or encouragement would be nonplussed.
- They must be people whose yes means yes and no means no. People willing to commit with no hope of a reward beyond a sincere thank you and a hug.
After an excruciating process sparring between trust and distrust, I came up with four + one BETA readers. Here’s the rundown of who made the list and why:
A salty, “tell it like it is” guy with a big heart. A great choice. Ray’s one of those remarkable people with experience on both sides of the fence. He’s suffered, made stupid choices, fought losing battles. When friends had nearly given up on him, he flipped over in his self-dug grave surprising us all, resurrecting new-found humility and strength along with the uncanny ability to keep on loving people… even though. He’s a long term friend of both my husband and myself. Most importantly, Ray knows… who we used to be… how different we are today… and WHO helped us.
A lovely woman of great faith. The most determined woman I know. I’ve watched this lady persevere through unimaginable circumstances. Jackie’s that special type of friend who won’t let you give up. She cares. She prays. She asks the tough questions. Jackie feeds me hope, reminding me that God is behind my work, pushing me forward.
Analytical, intellectual, thorough… a woman who won’t settle for mediocrity, not for herself… not for others. My history with Ande is intense. We don’t always agree, but after a volatile reaction (mine) we find ourselves standing side by side on an island of mutual respect. She is a hard choice for me because… well… she won’t make it easy. That’s good and bad. She passionately believes God’s blessed me with a gift to write. How awesome is that? The problem is Ande’s passion means there’s work to be done. She’ll show up at my door with 75 books I need to read, a list of 700 people I should contact and before she leaves give me some personal advice. I’m fortunate to have her on this list. She’s an avid reader, hyper-intelligent and a good friend.
A solid, stable, bright and Godly young man. Our 16-year-old grandson. I’ve asked this special young man for his input for extremely personal reasons. Our book is not of interest to teens. It’s not an adventurous, action-packed tale of senior citizen zombies. It’s the truth about his grandparents… no polish, nothing omitted. All the stuff we’d rather he didn’t know… but knowing it proves God’s grace and power. We need Evan’s wise heart to witness the miraculous restoration God performed on his not so admirable grandparents.
Natalie Phillips: (the plus one)
I refer to Natalie as “plus one” because she’s more than a BETA reader. This delightful, fun-loving, super resourceful friend plopped into my life “ka-plunk” like an angel from heaven. God’s timing is perfect along with his choice of helper. Who else would selflessly give of her skills to edit for an unknown struggling confidence lacking writer? Who does that kind of stuff? Her friendship is invaluable. Together we’re learning how to trust, be vulnerable, share our love for God, respect differing doctrines, and most importantly, let our hair down and have fun. She’s much more than my comma Nazi. She’s a sweet spirited, Catholic raised woman, reading about our messy past tales, celebrating God’s power to change hearts. Her opinion holds a place of honor.
That’s the lineup. My BETA readers for my first book. My pit crew… my friends.