I know you don’t like it when I shower you with sappy love and affection, so I’m going to try to keep it together.
But I love you a lot. So have mercy on me.
When I first came back to the fandom in January after being away for years, I pretty much knew no one. My first Facebook friend was LayAtHomeMom. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and you and Lay both completely fall into that category. Not only was I lucky enough for Lay to offer to pre-read for me, but I was lucky enough that she convinced you to take me on and beta for me. I’m very aware that you probably didn’t know what you were getting into with me, comma splicer extraordinaire, but you are exactly the type of beta I needed.
I don’t know how you always know what I need, but you do. You know when I need to be left alone to stew on my words. You know when I need to be pushed. You always have the right words of advice and encouragement.
You know when I need to be coddled, but you always know when I need to be yelled at. You listen to me spill out all my concerns, fears, and hang-ups, and you know when all I need is a signature Iris “SHUT UP, HOOKER.” Those are the moments I love the most, when you tell me you want to slap the shit out of me for doubting myself, but follow it up with hearts and “but ily” because it comes from the best possible place; a place of genuine belief in me.
THAT is the most important and most special thing you do for me. It’s not in fixing my horrific grammar (though that’s pretty great), it’s believing in me. It’s encouraging me to be the best I can possibly be and pushing me when I have those moments that I don’t believe in myself.
I’m just a tiny part of a massive fandom that you do so much for, but know that you’ve enhanced my experiences here tenfold. So from someone who struggles with feelings of inadequacy, thank you for making me feelings like just being ME is enough.
I can’t wait to smother you with hugs.
With my deepest, mushiest, gooiest love,
You’d think that two people living in two different parts of the country wouldn’t have much in common.
This is true of me and my beta, Michelle Renker Rhodes (right now, she’s probably reading this and cringing while muttering, “my beta, Michelle, and I” to herself). She’s a sweet southern gal, and I’m a hardy city chick.
Yet Michelle and I first bonded over my story, “Thief of Hearts,” which I initially wrote without a beta. She’d comment on every single chapter, and having been a college lit professor, she’d give me all this constructive advice. Then, one day, I was like, “Hey, do you want to be my beta?” And she was like, “Yeah!”
And that’s how our beautiful relationship blossomed!
Seriously though, it has worked out beautifully. Through this Writer-Beta relationship of ours, we’ve grown into much more than just two heifers (one of Michelle’s favorite words) bonding over “Twific.” We’ve become great friends. We’ve found that we have so much in common, from children around the same ages and stages to husbands we love but who drive us both batty, to an almost irrational fear of lice (long story), and most importantly, to a possibly even more irrational love of sweets.
Michelle is my girl, and her role as my beta is almost secondary at this point. We’re there for each other when the world pisses us off, and we reach out to each other when “Pentatonix” is performing (She loves them. Me: meh).
But while I put up with her love for Pentatonix, she puts up with my constant misuse of commas, my knack for repeating the same mistakes chapter after chapter, and my habit of sending her chapters for review twelve hours before posting time. I believe it all evens out.
So no, we’re not always perfect. Our families keep us busy, and things slip by. But we’re having fun, and most importantly, we’ve found a good friend. That’s what matters.
The date was January 19, 2012.
The message was from Songster.
She was recommending a quality Scotch for the first story I’d ever written. Because, in ignorance, I had called Maker’s Mark “Scotch.” It’s Bourbon.
I had no idea. I drink Vodka.
But Scotch seemed smart, manly, sexy. (Really sexy - I went on to write practically a whole story about Bourbon and Scotch, high on my new knowledge.)
But on that gray day in January, all I knew was that the validator for the Age of Edward contest had reached out to correct me in the most gracious way. I was timid and unsure. I’d been “in the fandom” for all of about a month—gobbling up my first favorite stories by TKegl, Patty Rosa, and Kharizzmatik. I didn’t know anyone. No one knew me.
I had no idea the depth and breadth of the Twi Fic community. I didn’t realize the kind of friend I’d just made.
Songster wasn’t my first beta. Originally I worked with the big-hearted, super-sassy Dragonfly336 from Indie Fic Pimp. I was on chapter six of High Fidelity—having fun (but not grammatically correct fun) when Dragonfly336 responded to my beta request. She was my rock through that story. She was my life-coach when I was unsure of myself, and my Twilight expert when my novice-ness left me stuck. Her laugh was contagious. She was awesome. But as I started to try Original Fic—and Dragonfly336 began to fade from the fandom—another editor emerged.
Songster had been quietly encouraging my writing since the beginning. Our friendship had gone from Scotch to Scots as we swooned over Jamie Fraser and the Outlander series. I never would have gotten through The Fiery Cross without her holding my hand. In 2013 she invited me to participate in my favorite contest: Age of Edward—after which I swore I’d never do it again. (I’m currently eating my words on that one… mmm tasty tasty words.)
But most importantly, she’s become my writing coach. She’s taught me what a gerund is and how to use them appropriately (as opposed to every other sentence). She’s taught me about passive and active voice. She advocates the Oxford comma and inserts en-dashes when I overlook them. She shares her insights and makes me laugh. She rewrites the end of my stories when my macabre ending leaves her needing an HEA. She signs her emails with a hug and a kiss… every time. Like she knows I need it.
I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with such gifted people. I’ve come a long way since my first story - and a lot of that is because of Songster. I miss you.
~IReen aka Aja
I have an incredible beta named Hadley Hemingway. I don't need to know how any other writer\beta relationships work to understand how lucky I am. Though we live in different hemispheres, 8,500 miles apart, and have only spoken a handful of times on the phone, we have connected. We’re similar in all sorts of ways. We have many things in common.
LayAtHomeMom knew this when she fixed us up. We started a friendship from that introduction, sending marathon emails, because that’s what Hadley is like. She’s open and open-minded, interested and interesting, engaging, humble and, most of all, caring.
We talked less about the story that Lay had been pre-reading and more about our everyday lives. It was easy, like old friends who hadn’t spoken in a while, and I’m a foreigner, so that was a very big deal. As we started to work together, I recognized the times she allowed my quirks through unedited and the times she straightened up my ordinary. She identified things that were invisible to me.
Hadley has the ability to suggest, rather than take over or coerce, a quality that helps her excel at what she does. She makes me focus and think about significant words and the way I place them together, but I never feel like she’s being negative. Instead, she’s forever encouraging. I call her “delicately ruthless”.
Receiving a notification that she has started working on the doc is exciting because I’m always thrilled to see what she will come up with. Sometimes, when there are very few changes, I’m quite disappointed, but I think she’s training me. I’m just not aware of it happening.
Occasionally a comment in the doc will contain the single word, “WHUT!” It makes me cackle with laughter, very aware that I’m using uniquely Australian words.
I especially like the way she asks me to explain why I’m heading in a certain direction and her advice during these forays in invaluable. She rarely stops me, but she protects me from being trampled under a backlash, tempering my words so they won’t offend. Hadley gives me the confidence to enter the fray, ready for a barrage of unknown reviews.
My bet is she just sprinkles magic dust over a chapter, stands back and watches for the bits that sparkle and draw her attention. I don’t know why I think that, either. Maybe it’s because of the red shoes or the many mystical images she posts. I do see a fairly tale in Hadley Hemingway.
She doesn’t know it, but in my mind, she is “Haderley”, another thing I don’t understand, but it has something to do with her importance in my life. She needs a more personal nickname than her usual moniker. Haderley is the person I send my vents to when it’s too crippling to tell anyone else, because she will take a few moments to listen and offer real words of support. The fact that I trust her with my truths is the biggest compliment I can give her.
Since the initial story stumbled (wholly because of me) we’ve done six others together. I cannot believe it's so many or that she has put up with me for so long. She drops images on my wall, reminding me there’s still one unfinished and that the day will come when she will polish it into something acceptable to upload. Haderley won’t let me forget that I must find the ending, and I will, because now it’s for her.
It’s not in me to gush words in public. I’m too private for that, but this lady, Hadley Hemingway, makes me feel an outpouring of love. And a whole lotta gratitude.
She should know this song, and hopefully, she will get my meaning from this snippet.
“That is why all the girls in town follow you around.
Just like me, they long to be… close to you.”
I just wrote this for a contest. Submissions are due tomorrow. Do you have time to look over it for me?
Just kidding! Although, I do kind of wish I could see your face every time I send you one of those emails. Do you ever think, “This girl is crazy!” If so, I don’t blame you.
When I was invited to participate in this event, I got to thinking…
If I could build the perfect Beta, she would have a superb grasp of grammar and punctuation. She would be well-read, with an extensive vocabulary, not just modern usage, but more archaic terminology, too. She would take joy in reading, but not be passive about it, always knowing when to start a dialogue that helps me see my own characters from a new perspective.
She would place equal emphasis on praise and constructive criticism. And if the entire story needs to be dismantled and reassembled, she won’t flinch away from telling me so. (Yes, I’m think of ROI. That first draft really was an unholy mess, wasn’t it?!?)
She would be a mind-reader, able to decipher my emotional flailing about my latest project, cut right through the mess and identify the exact lines or paragraphs that need to be improved or expanded. When I send back a second draft that is twice as long as the first, she would review it with the same attention and thoroughness as if she was seeing the words for the first time.
Finally, she would share her honest thoughts and feelings about the characters, content and readability openly, making me a better reader, a better writer, a better human.
Lucky for me, I’ve already found the perfect Beta. For that, I owe you about a bazillion hugs!
Thank you, Ankita! (Ninkita)
Maggie Chambers (NewTwilightFan)
This is an open letter to my beta.
There's so much I want to say, but it's hard for me to find the right words. I've been through a lot of betas and editors in all my stories. Sometimes, things were fine and we parted ways as friends. Other times, I've been dropped without warning from my betas, abandoned if you will, or my stories spoken badly--from these 'betas' who I'd trusted with my heart--and I had to fire.
Writing is the soul of me. It's the core of who I am. It hurts deeply when someone I trust stomps all over that.
Needless to say, time after time of bad connections, I was hesitant to let anyone beta for me ever again.
I've turned down people, who I adore and know well, who were willing to help, but couldn't allow myself to risk my heart again. It never felt right and I was convinced that I had bad luck with betas.
So, I just continued to edit my own work and hope what I'd learned over the years with grammar was good enough.
Then you came along.
And the funny part is, I didn't think twice about having you as my beta. The second you offered, I jumped at the chance. It was instinctual. Maybe I've always admired you and the authors you beta for, whatever the case may be, I have no regrets about that decision.
You're efficient, understanding, and honest. You make my words better. It's magic.
I told you once before, which you didn't believe me, but with a simple period here, or a comma there, and even just a little adjustment in a sentence, makes all the difference. It's insane.
How you're able to read my mind and capture my voice with your knowledge and beta skills is beyond me.
You've been a blessing. Truly. I'm so honored you wanted to work with me and beta SoCal.
Trusting my story in your hands is the best thing I could've ever done for myself and my readers.
You're amazing, and I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you!
Hopefully, this doesn't have too many grammar errors and you're not pulling your hair out. I just couldn't send this to you for you to beta... (for obvious reasons).
Your biggest fan,
TLS would like to thank all the participating authors for sharing their heartfelt words with us this past week. We are proud to have honored these ladies who do so much time consuming work out of the goodness of their hearts. Special thanks to SueBee Beta Fairy who so graciously gave us her words for the amazing introduction of this special feature.