Monday, January 26, 2015

Share and (Don't) Share Alike

Most authors have someone--usually a few someones--they share their work with pre-publication. Typically, they fill the need for beta readers, last minute editors, and the like.

For me, I tend to be a bit neurotic. I like having feedback, but I've always been adamant about one thing: I don't share my work with family. Now, there are a lot of reasons behind this. And in talking to other writers, I've found my reasoning is pretty sound. A lot of writers do share with their loved ones before they publish, but a lot don't.

Reasons not to do so are myriad, and depend entirely on the person, but they may include:
Photo by Sybren Stüvel
  • No one reads the genre you write.
  • Your family doesn't generally read period.
  • They're not familiar enough with grammar or story to be able to give good feedback.
  • They are too judgmental and would be too critical.
  • Fear of gossip.
  • A belief they're doing so only to be nice, and any feedback given would not be very helpful.
  • A belief that you yourself would be mad at the person if they said no.
Now, this is, of course, not going to be everyone. I know plenty of writers whose biggest cheerleaders are their own families. For me, my family doesn't typically read mystery/science fiction books, so it's just safer for me to not bother. My husband isn't a big reader to begin with, so him even reading one of my books would be a form of torture (for him), although with audio books, maybe he'll be able to read them one day.

Of course, then there's the other factor--after publication, your book is out there for anyone to buy. Including your family. That can be just as nerve-wracking, especially if you write darker stories or about bad situations, as I do. The day I wrote this post, my grandmother, who is 91, told me she wanted to read my book as soon as it's in print (still only have it in e-book form as of this writing). I inwardly grimaced, even as I found my mouth was telling her I'd get her a copy as soon as it was available. But, Grandma, I write about murder! And government conspiracies! And I sometimes use foul language! And I have no problem having some heavy sensuality in some of my scenes!

Yeah, I know she's been around the block. She was married for nearly 70 years before my grandfather died. And she knows I'm not a kid anymore (I hope. I really sincerely hope that.) But for the slightly neurotic author, sharing that utterly dark part of yourself with your loved ones can be scary.

At least after publication, they can't very easily convince you to change something that's in the book, now can they?


Question for you: Have you ever used a family member as a beta reader? If so, how did that go? Would you do it again?

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Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador. She is the author of Emergence and Retaliation, novellas in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at LibertySpeidel.com.
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