Friday, May 21, 2010

why lovers with high blood pressure should not be beta readers...

INTERN has been quietly working away on a novel for the past year, which she is trying very hard to complete before summer. INTERN and Techie Boyfriend are also in the process of paring down their stuff so they become nomads (i.e. shed pesky strictures like "rent" and "utilities" so they can continue to not have normal jobs and also possibly find ultimate reality). These two activities collided yesterday in a way that really gave INTERN some insight into her beloved Techie Boyfriend's mindset.

In the morning, INTERN was throwing giveaway clothes into a bag when Techie Boyfriend showed up and immediately became alarmed (OK, totally freaked out) by her heartless methods:

Techie Boyfriend: Wait, where's that wool sweater? The white one?
INTERN: You mean the nasty yellow one that used to be white with the half-unravelled sleeves? Gone to the Free Pile!
Techie Boyfriend: YOU PUT IT IN THE FREE PILE??? But-but-that's the sweater you wore all the time when I first met you! When you were hitchhiking and it was your only sweater! YOU HAVE TO GET IT BACK!!!
INTERN: Oooooh boy....

Later that afternoon, Techie Boyfriend convinced INTERN to let him see her latest manuscript revision. Against her better judgement, and perhaps to make up for the morning's trauma, INTERN acquiesced.

Techie Boyfriend's terrible trials were not over yet.

Techie Boyfriend: Wait—what happened to the first chapter?
INTERN: It wasn't the right place for the book to start anymore.
Techie Boyfriend: YOU CUT IT???? But that's how the book STARTED!!!
INTERN: (gleefully) Not anymore!
Techie Boyfriend: AAAAAAAUUUUUUUGH!!!!!!

Now, Techie Boyfriend is, in fact, quite a valuable beta reader, and his suggestions have often saved INTERN from veering in terrible directions with her long-suffering WIP. But he doesn't share INTERN's cold, cruel, and (to him) terrifying approach to editing, which (for this project) has mostly consisted of declaring everything utter garbage and starting again. When Techie Boyfriend looks at INTERN's manuscript, he sees INTERN. INTERN just sees a pile of words that aren't good enough yet, or a truly derelict wool sweater that looks like it was peed on by llamas.

INTERN wonders if she and Techie Boyfriend will ever sort out this difference. Maybe it doesn't need sorting out. In a weird way, having somebody else be sentimental about these things makes it much easier for INTERN not to be. As long as one person's mourning the darlings, the other person's hands are free to sharpen the editorial knife.


  1. Aw. He loves you for your sweater and your MS. How sweet. My fiance just gives me a blank stare when I start talking about my book, like I started speaking in a different language.

  2. Better this way than the other way around.

  3. Don't break Techie Boyfriend's heart. It's rare that a man remembers the little things like the sweater, it's rarer to be wounded when the thing is gone. If he knows how to fight like Jason Bourne, put a postage stamp on his butt, and send him over.

    I'm still cutting some darlings. Intern has created a beast, and maybe a better writer.

  4. So sweet! My husband always tells me not to delete so much but I'm like you and sometimes I want to just start over. I think it's a good balance. Like you said, you can be the ruthless one and he can love every sentence you throw down--even the ones that are actually utter crap.

  5. Me <=> Brandi G.

    I know what you mean about someone else loving it making it easier to cut though. When I have to argue with another person about my convictions, it makes me see where they're accurate (or not).

    Best of luck with the WIP!

  6. Techie Boyfriend sounds wonderful!

    I'm no good at throwing stuff away so when I cut a story I put the outtakes in another file for when I need them. I never do need them but at least that way I can bear to cut!

  7. So sweet- Doesn't want to lose a single part of you- even if its just words on paper. My husband is the exact opposite. He's french and has the attention span of a flea. He's always all 'this runs on too long, you said this already, you've used this word ten times, CUT IT!'

  8. You're much more likely to finish a novel if you don't show anything to anyone until you've made it as good as you can. Then show it to people who have learned how to solve the problems your work still has: people who write better novels than you do.

    Everyone else will either tell you your book is great when it isn't or tell you things are all wrong that are close to right but need work.

  9. My husband simply says, "I thought it was pretty good." This is also his standard response to my culinary efforts, so I'm not sure how to take that.

  10. mourning the darlings

    One of those "wish I'd written that" phrases, y'know?

    Mencken used to insist all the time that the stereotype of women as sentimental romantics and men as the hard-headed practicals got it exactly backwards. He'd be laughing reading this post, methinks.

  11. If we weant world peace, we must let go of our attachments and truly live as nomads. That's where I no mad at you and you no mad at me. That way, there will truly be no madness on the planet. (Swami Beyondananda)

    Good luck with your nomadic endeavors.

  12. I wish my husband worked as my beta reader but he is german...and he sucks at beta reading.

  13. That is so adorable!

    However. Techie Boyfriend may have a tough time as a nomad if he attaches so much sentimental value to things. My husband is the same way. We once had a stockpile of unusable items stored in bins... stashed inside of a non-running truck. We had to get rid of it all before the apartment complex declared the truck an eyesore and had it towed.

    But it's awfully poetic that he does the mourning for you. Ruthless editing is a valuable skill for a writer.

  14. That is sweet. Is this a different WIP to the Seniors on Vacation?

    Fairyhedgehog - I do exactly the same thing!

  15. Well, it's all been very cute, as these posts show...but, I come from a different culture that has some difficulties interpreting the USA.
    Can you just tell me, have you had a book that you have authored, published?
    Can you give us the name of that book?
    Or is more of the known knowns, the known unknowns the unknown unknowns etc?
    How cutely Rumsfeldian.
    I like your blog very much; but I don't understand your coyness about your book's title.

  16. Frances: Apologies for the coyness, but INTERN is ANONYMOUS, which means that she doesn't do things like throw up a link to her Amazon page. It's really that simple.

    To answer the first part of your question, yes, INTERN has authored a book that has been published.

    and that is all you need to know!

  17. Nomad gypsy lifestyle? Color me envious.

    I dont' have any problem throwing things away. And how I dealt with reluctant-to-purge partners was to bag/box the stuff as "not used lately therefore in the way and we are JUST going to STORE it"...then after a couple of months when he forgot what was in there, I haul it to the charity shop.

  18. You probably don't need to hear this, but it gets even worse when you have kids. They produce things at school, at home, every holiday/mothers' day/I'm bored day, everything. We are up to our ears in marble runs, things to grow cress in, things shaped like animals made out of loo rolls to put pencils in. Everytime I try to get rid of one, my husband says "you can't throw that away! Xkid made that in Xgrade!"

  19. (ww, I do this too. No one has missed a single thing yet.)

  20. Awww. ♥

    I know that's not the reaction you were probably going for, but it's so sweet to hear about how much TB loves and truly values you. ♥ You guys are such a lovable couple~ ^^ (well, not that I know you outside this blog. But yeah--glad you guys are who you are, INTERN!)