Look! A post! About writing! Yay!
Ok, not about writing exactly, but it has to do with the whole process of writing and publishing.
Most writers know you can't write on your own. The image of secluding ourselves somewhere nature-y, far from the hustle and bustle of the real world is unrealistic. Not to say we don't want to, or even manage to, sometimes. But at some point we need the company of other writers and readers. We need outside opinions and fresh eyes to catch things we've missed, from grammatical errors and typos to huge, gaping plot holes. That's where the writing community comes in.
Some of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know I was beta-reading for a friend. I then realized some of you might not have any idea what I was babbling on about. A beta reader or critique partner is someone who does all those things I mentioned above. They lovingly rip apart a manuscript we deem ready for public consumption, only to have it handed back to us with big red marks and notes in the margins asking why the blacksmith is currently pulling turnips out of the garden when he hates vegetables.
A lot of times things are clear in our own minds, because we know how things are supposed to go. We automatically fill in the missing pieces without realizing we haven't laid it out for our readers. It's why writing sites like CPSeek are great resources for writers. Not all of us can get people clamoring for our latest offerings. Finding people who want to get their grubby hands on anything hot off the press is a huge plus.
You also need to have good critique partners and betas. People who just read and tell you it's good, while nice, aren't helpful at this point in the process. We need honest feedback about what does and doesn't work. Are there inconsistencies? Is there a plot hole big enough for the whole cast to fall through? These are things a good partner will point out. All the bad along with all the good.
Honestly, wanting to get a hold of people's work before it's widely available is one reason I offered to beta read, not only on PHREAK SHOW (first chapter is here, if you're curious), but a handful of other works. Getting to see how it's changed and developed is a side perk, knowing you've helped shape it in some small way.
Writing is a long process with lots of detours along the way. Having people to help us keep on track and helping others stay on their path, makes the journey that much easier.
If you have critique partners or beta readers that you love, how did you find them? For you, what's the most important part of having them?