Writing a book is like carving words into your flesh in reverse. It hurts and it’s messy and it’s terribly personal. And when we finally make the decision to open the door and let someone else in, it’s terrifying.
Because it isn’t just some story. It’s my story. Each and every project is the culmination of my entire identity at that point in time–my hopes and fears and imperfections–all of it buried beneath some fictional character’s quest for self-enlightment.
My book is me, whether I’m like the characters or not, whether I share their beliefs or not. My book is me and when I send it off to a complete stranger to be critiqued, I’m the one who feels like she’s exposed and I’m the one who’s afraid of being rejected.
Negative feedback, especially from a stranger, has the unfortunate power to totally crush a writer’s spirit. And even though it’s necessary, that initial sting stays with us, resurfacing every time we sit down to write, our own voice trapped under the opinion of someone else. Because they didn’t like it. Because it wasn’t their style. Because it wasn’t their genre. Because they just didn’t get it. They didn’t get us.
But then someone does.
They get it. They feel something. They connect. They understand. They just get it. And that’s the true beauty of beta readers. Besides all of the technical benefits of having a critique partner and besides all of the obvious connections that can be made with someone who shares our love of writing, it’s that one moment of finally being understood that is truly worth waiting for.