Yesterday I discussed the first of two schools of thought when it comes to editing our WIPs: the School of Betas. The school where the teachers gently hold your creation in their hands, helpfully mark it up with red pen, and hand it back saying, “Again. This time with feeling.”
But, not every writer agrees with the use of Betas. *pause for collective audience gasp* It’s true! I’ve read their advice online exclaiming, “Don’t show your work to anyone under any circumstance!”
This group of writers vehemently oppose the Beta way of life. Instead, they are strict believers in the Vamp and Hide System, or VHS. (Yes, I made that up, so I wouldn’t start throwing that term around expecting people to know what the fark you’re talking about, unless you have a penchant for people looking at you like you have two heads.) They vamp and revamp their work all on their own and hold it so close to their chest that their skin begins to grow around the edges of the pages, fusing creator with creation in a grotesque display of paranoia. (Ew, that was gross. Sorry.)
The thought process that drives a VHS user is simple: no matter who your Betas are, once they have their grubby little paws on your unpublished – extremely vulnerable – manuscript, there’s nothing stopping the Beta from stealing your ideas, your words, your babies. Instead, the VHS-ers trust in their own abilities to write and edit the perfect story until the time comes for them to boldly submit their work with only a single set of eyes ever gracing its pages.
Wow. That’s intense, right? Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that the VHS-er is wrong or convoluted in their way of thinking. In fact, I still haven’t decided which school I’ll be attending when I’ve reached that glorious false-sense-of-manuscript-perfection.
My inner (and quite possibly over-trusting) literary soul cries out for the use of Betas. I need to know what others think. Did the story work as well for them as it did for me? Is there anything I’ve failed to explain properly? Did I over explain in some areas? Are there plot holes I’ve blinded myself to? And, damn it, I want to know if it’s genuinely good!
But my soulmate (who is always wisely cynical) says I shouldn’t be bandying my ideas about a circle of people I barely know, like a lukewarm version of Hot Potato where the players get to hold it as long as they want and take a hunk off here or a slice off there. I shouldn’t trust anyone not to sell my baby on the black market or run away with it into the night, cackling at their good fortune and my naïve trusting ways.
Maybe there are ways to use Betas and not have to worry about the security of your ideas. What about using people who are knowledgeable in the craft of writing, but who aren’t pursuing novel writing careers? Or using Betas who are in a different genre than you.
Or maybe there’s really no reason to worry at all and the people we meet on the wonderful world of blogging are just as I am: out to connect with other writers and sincere in my wishes that they succeed just as I hope to.
So, which school do you attend? Beta or VHS?