Basketball, Bullies and Beta Readers

The playground is such a big place. 

Over the  years, my youngest son has enjoyed the attentions of his fellow classmates.  Granted this is his first year of formal education, but preschool and a few hours a week at daycare have made him a tiny legend.

He’s sweet, smart, funny, self-assured and just enough of a dare devil (read little sh*t) to win him the awe of his peers and caregivers.

Apparently, however, this charm of his does not extend to the school-yard bully.

When I dropped him off this morning, he immediately rushed to the basketball hoops where he likes to spend most of his free time.  As I have to drive around the entire playground to get back home, I had the opportunity to watch him shoot a few buckets and get pushed down by a BIG kid.

It wasn’t one of those accident–oops, you got in my way–things.  This was a malicious shove that landed Youngest on his kiester.

It took everything I had not to slam my truck into park, wade through the wet grass and push Bully Junior down.  Sometimes it hurts to be a mom.

Needless to say, I refrained.  But it did get me thinking….  Emerging from our safe little worlds as aspiring writers into the big world of submissions is not an easy thing.

Our beta readers and critters love us on some level.  They are inspired by our ability to write an entire novel.  They are charmed by our styles.  They gently steal the ball from us and shoot their own baskets, but inevitably, they pass the ball back to us and let us try another shot.

They do not shove us to the ground, tell us we stink and go off to play with a different circle of friends.

Nope.  That pleasure is reserved for us when we venture into the bigger world of publishing.

The second we start submitting, we open ourselves up to a vast playground of rejection.  We are bewildered by the fact that agents and editors don’t fawn over us the way our betas and critters do.  Bruises from from getting our egos battered and our manuscripts returned.

We learn rather quickly that the publishing world is not always a kind and loving place. 

I read a statistic once that 88% of people surveyed said they wanted to be a writer.  That’s a big playground.

I’ve not yet found the statistic that tells how many of these wanna-bes give up before penning 80,000 connected words.  I can guess by the NaNoWriMo stats that roughly fifteen to twenty individuals out of 100 who attempt to write a novel actually complete one. 

Neither have I stumbled across a stat that lets me know how many individuals submit past the first rejection.  I have no clue how many aspiring writers have enough gumption to stand back up, stare Bully Junior down and refuse to walk away.

Instead of crying and pouting up against the wall, Youngest stood his ground.  He got up, hitched his back pack over his tiny, little shoulders and held his arms out for someone to pass him the ball.

Eventually, someone did.

I can’t help but wonder: is it his charmed life before school that allows him to stand up to the bully and keep playing?  Have those kind words from caregivers and the belly-busting support from his peers given him the confidence to know he has as much right on the playground as Bully Jr. does?  Or is he just one of those stubborn kids who refuses to give up when someone shoves him down?

On some level, I think that being a beloved in one group makes it easier to venture into another group.  Yet it also makes the blow of rejection sting more and could potentially make one languish in the comfort of the loving group and refuse to live outside the realm of that comfort.

As a writer, do you think the support of betas and critters helps you withstand the rejection of the submission world, or does it make the transition into the cold, ruthless playground more difficult?  How? 

Could this possibly be the driving factor in procrastination? 

Conversely, is the drive to prove the bully wrong the reason some writers refuse to give up even when their only byline will be through a vanity press?

Where in this process are you?

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17 responses to “Basketball, Bullies and Beta Readers

  1. My beta readers definitely keep me in the game. From my target audience, they have all been enthusiastic about the story, all requesting a sequel and one asking for a series.

    This keeps me going when I am told by adults that it might be a book for younger readers because the characters aren’t twisted or jaded enough for YA. Holden Caulfield they are not, but he’s kind of whiny, anyway. 🙂

    • Layinda,

      LOL. I just read a blog post about him today. I wasn’t so much a fan myself…

      It is nice to have supporters (especially your targt audience) who believes in your book and is engaged with it. That tells you that you are on the right track. Have you started writing the sequel yet?

  2. Dear Cat,
    The writer’s job is to get their piece as good as they can. At some level, who chooses to publish your work is someone else decision. Of course, it does take work to put out your written product. That is another job–writing is the first and then you must somehow put your work out there. I have struggled with that, So do many. I write still for a simple read: it matters to me. Of course an agent can fight for you. I do not have one and do have quite a bit difficulty getting my work out there. In my case I simply give away my work away (to friends and open mikes). I have that luxury because I do not need the money. I am not rich by any means. I still write after forty years because it matters to me. That encapsulizes me. Not every person has the same luxury.

    Siggyscafe.com/Blog (Siggy’s Blurbs)

    • Siggy,

      Ultimately you are right, writing is between a writer and his/her keyboard. I’m glad you have the luxury to write because you want to and don’t need the validation or money from publications–not that you’d turn them down if they came your way : )

      Keep writing from the heart and don’t ever let anyone take that from you.

  3. Truly is survival of the fittest, isn’t it? And “fittest” translates to “toughest hide.”

    My critique group is detailed, accomplished, and honest, but the members are writers, not agents and editors. My first reader is a reader but not a writer, so she has a totally different point of view (and she’s also not an agent or editor). Once I take that next step and put a real query/partial out to a professional, I’m playing a brand new game.

    I suffer less these days because I know the odds, I understand that these professionals vary widely in their likes and dislikes, and I’ve been rejected enough times to dull the pain. The competition is fierce. The only reason to keep writing (in my humble opinion) is because something inside you won’t let you stop.

    • Patricia, words of wisdom. Chances of many (if any) of us getting rich off our writing are slim and we all know that Slim left town. But, we do write because we have something within us that won’t let us quit.

      Regardless of what others say in their critiques or rejections.

  4. Interesting post Cate. My critters and I have agreed to be brutally honest with one another. I think that will help somewhat in prepping for the harsh crits to come out of queries. Sadly I have no betas. 😦 Gotta get me some. I guess I should have something for them to read though. I’m working on that. 🙂
    I’m a fairly tenacious person. I’m sure I’ll hang tough through most of anything thrown my way. I’m here ’til I hear the big lady sing. Have a great weekend!!

    • Lisa,

      I will definitely be a beta for you if you ever need one. The big gal doesn’t even need to warm up her voice for that. And I’m glad you’ve got tenacity because I’m not ready to let you disappear from my writing community.

      Hope your weekend is filled with warm fuzzies. I’ll be planting trees!

  5. Visiting your blog for the first time and loving this post. I once saw my baby brother get pushed by a BIG kid and it brought out the fiery beast in me!!

    That’s incredible that your son stood up for himself!

    I think that this entire process is what we make of it. When I received my first rejection, I ate a lot of chocolate and moped for a few days. But now, I see them as tests. When I received detailed ones, I view them as expert perspective.
    Best of luck with your writing process!

    • Saumya,

      I love the idea of rejections as tests. I’m okay with rejections and actually love the personal ones. They make me feel warm and fuzzy inside–like I got that much closer to opening the proverbial door.

      Thanks for your wishes and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your time.

  6. I’ve been submitting now for about five years. Some days, I can blow rejection off like no big deal. Some days, it hits me harder. I take a day to mope and then get back in the saddle. I can do this because of the support system around me but also because I’m strong-willed, and like the Chumbawumba song says, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.”

    I think support structures help some and hinder others. If a person isn’t confident in herself, she may not have the strength to leave her support group and send her ms to the wide world. However, I think support groups have a responsibility to not only be loving and supportive, but also constructively critical to help shape a writer into the best writer she can be. Thankfully, they can also help boost her confidence to the level where she can submit and be there to console her when the inevitable rejections come in.

    Submitting is hard. Doing it for the first time is hard. Doing it for the 300th time can be hard, too. I mailed a story last night, and I paused before I dropped it in the mail slot, asking myself if I wanted to do this yet again, if the magazine would buy it, if I was good enough. I pause each and every time, and I hear my writing group and my supportive family in my head, encouraging me. And they know that if they pause in front of the mail slot, and they call me, I’ll have six simple words. “Believe in yourself. Drop it in.”

    • Barbara,

      Thanks for the detailed comment. It’s helpful to hear others stories about the process. From reading your blog, you have a great support network of readers and critters. That is invaluable. You also raise a good point for those involved with critique groups. We need to uphold a baseline of truth, otherwise we aren’t doing our buddies any favors.

      I love the reference to the song. It may become my writing motto.

  7. I hope your little guy continues to stand up for himself – that kind of determination makes the bullies think twice.

    I sent out only 10 queries on my 1st ms before setting it aside. The feedback I received from a couple of agents made me wonder if the story line just won’t sell in today’s market. It’s marinading for a bit while I decide.

    My current ms isn’t finished yet. I hope to maybe take the querying leap in the summer or fall. I’m scared to death!

    • Jemi,

      I am in the same boat as you with a manuscript I’ve been peddling. I’ve been told the market is too saturated for my topic. It’s nice that you jumped right in and started on another manuscript. Although it must have been hard to put it away. I still haven’t quite done that yet.

      Like you, I hope youngest continues to be faithful to who he is and doesn’t let others push him around. Growing up is hard enough. Not being strong makes it ten times harder.

      Wishing you the best with your new ms. Is this your YA?

  8. jmartinlibrary

    I believe the tougher the critiquer, the better the WIP. At least in my case.

    Having my work scrutinized by fellow workshoppers made me a better writer. If my friends and crit partners were only about butterflies and kittens, I wouldn’t have grown nearly as much as a writer.

    Harsh critique? As long as it’s honest, bring. it. on.

    • Jenny,

      You must have had one heck of a great critique team. That and a lot of raw talent on your behalf. I’m so thrilled for you! And I totally agree: bring me honesty. It’s the only thing I can effectively work with.

  9. Pingback: On Giving Up « Layinda's Blog

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