How to kill a Beta…

Drew Barrymore in Wes Craven's "Scream"


Seems as though you and I need to have a little talk. This likely will be an uncomfortable conversation— well mostly for you, but listen to what I say very closely… And please don’t interrupt.

What’s that? I can’t hear you? You want me to remove the tape from your mouth?

All in good time, my sweet, all in good time.

You remember not too long ago when I was all about the finishing of my book? Oh how I toiled. And then one day! Start. Middle. Ending. It was finished! Done. Finito. Termine. Getan. Acabado. Fin. I typed the end…

I even sang Free Falling in the car, and rubbed my eyes whenever I looked at her sitting there within my laptop. It had amazed me that nothing had stopped her from completion, or from becoming a real living thing. Not the times I’d given up, not the busy-ness of my life, and not the ups and downs of being uninspired. Nope. She was my imagination that had somehow hacked herself loose from the inside of my head and ran freely onto the pages of a novel that would maybe cleave onto the minds of many readers someday. This was what I had hoped most.

You did not see me in that moment, rubbing my hands together in preparation. I figured that with a few edits, voila, B, you would see my work and applaud, maybe even sob at the sad parts, or send me messages about how the world was my oyster. I pictured myself and my reactions as you told me such wonderful things about my writing and encouraged me to mail it out RIGHT THEN to an agent. Why B, in this version, the one in my head, you even sent me the postage stamp!

But I was very, very, wrong.

As all things go, the marriage between you and I took a turn for the worst and unexpectedly careened from happy little notes of “Oh this looks good.” to “Hmm, I dunno that this will work.” You started to sound more and more like I might need to correct things and then more and more like I’d be working… And working… And working. But-but I was finished!

What about this part right here, huh? What are all these notes about me needing to make myself clear? I bet I’m making myself real clear now aren’t I! Don’t you shake your head at me. Stop that!

Okay, lets everybody calm down. There are quite a few pages that you said I’d nailed it, right? What’s to be so upset over anyway? It’s not real life. I should just take this as a learning experience and fix the mucked up lines. Yes, yes, everyone takes a step back before they go forward. Night is darkest before the morn. Only a fool does not want correction or some such saying…

I see, yes, you are nodding that I am right. Of course I am. We don’t have to stop being friends over this.

To be honest, I never thought those corrections were a problem, not really. It wasn’t them that really put me over the edge anyway. I had actually started to sort them all out in my head, but, you see, it was when I flipped the page then it became clear what deviousness you were about, when you started to dig away at my characters. Somewhere along the way I’d been overzealous in my making of them or this was how you so delicately put it, and you seemed to be saying that I was lumping them (the flaws) all too high, too much, and not enough of other things, too much here, too little there, here – there like a yo-yo of criticism.

These are my characters, B! They are who they are! OH THE IRONY of it all, that you would want them so clean when you sent back my book in tatters and dirty, so so dirty now with red marks and <<>>>> pointy things slicing away at my heart!

Can’t you see it? I will make you see it. Yes, yes I will!

What’s the matter? Am I scaring you?

No, no, it’s gone on too far my love, and I won’t stop now, can’t-won’t it’s all the same these days. Time to say goodbye … I’ve got to bury you, B, I’ve got to stop you from doing this to some other poor unsuspecting creature and… Shhh shhh shh… It won’t hurt— Much.

Until I can fix the supposed problems of my book you have to die a slow death as punishment. You see this will help me find the things I need, and I so desperately need them, to fix, remake, a little death never hurt a story.

What’s that? This is real life you say?

Well then… You should have thought of that before you decided to become my Beta.



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34 thoughts on “How to kill a Beta…

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  1. This is great. I have just finished a beta read and am actually right at the point of writing my opinion. Before that I thought I’d check my mail – and I found your post. Talk about serendipity! I’ll have to be very careful how I phrase things. If you never hear from me again, you’ll know I didn’t quite get the balance right! I’ll share this Well done.:)


  2. As a beta reader, I must say I’m shaking in my shoes and thinking about tossing out any tracking changes software I might own as well as any red pens. All kidding aside, this is a great post and focuses on the reality of when we have reached the finale of our book. Thanks for the laughter, and I’ll be reblogging!


  3. Fantastic and oh, so true. Like Megan (above) said: I used my husband as a beta reader ONCE and never again. His ideas totally changed the book. Of course, in the end he gave me some great info, but every time we sat down to edit, we’d end up arguing. I have one beta reader now and a back up one for emergencies. My beta reader is a niece, so I can’t kill her. I wouldn’t any way because I love her to death and she is very honest – which can be hard to take at times.
    Loved your article.


  4. This was so funny – but keep in mind the frustration can run both ways…
    I did a beta once. I assumed the writer would just take or leave anything I had to say about the characters but I did mention some edits – i.e. a character name changes from Sophie to Sophia throughout the entire book (a quick change with find and replace with Word no?). Anyway, I had a look at the final published book and that error is still there. My days of beta reading were over.


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