Monday, March 12, 2012

The Value of Truth, or Why a Good Beta is Hard to Find

Sometimes we give our work to trusted friends and family to read, but they are not always the best ones to judge our work.  They may not always be entirely...unbiased.  They look at our work through the eyes of someone who cares about us, and does not want to hurt us, and wants to "build us up" not "near us down."  But, honestly, sometimes you  have to tear something down in order to rebuild it stronger.

I am in the process of re-writing, and editing, and fleshing out my book, and I am starting to appreciate more and more those who have the strength to point out the things that still need work.  If you EVER beta read for someone, please heed my words:  It is better that you point out any flaws or weaknesses NOW rather than allow them to be pointed up in a review later. 

I am lucky in that the readers that I have do tend to read with a critical eye.  It may go against their very nature, but they do try to be ruthless, and for that I am unspeakably grateful.

"Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro" (the better craftsman)
Since I have been thinking so intently on criticism and its benefits, I am reminded of Ezra Pound and the assistance he offered to T. S. Eliot and so many others...  (Disclaimer:  I have a HUGE soft spot for Ezra Pound...always have.)  He worked tirelessly to promote other writers, and in the grand scheme of things, the stars of many of the writers Pound promoted now seem to outshine him.  But without Ezra Pound, their stars would not shine nearly as brightly as they do...

One of my very favorite poems is T. S. Eliot's Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  When it was first published, Eliot dedicated it to "Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro" (the better craftsman).  For some reason, this still breaks my heart.

I understand the value of good criticism.  I respect it.  I long for it.  It is what all writers hope to find.