Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Teen Betas

Most writers love their beta readers. (A beta reader is someone who critiques the early versions of your novel.) I have some dear beta readers (thank you, you know who you are). However, the problem with writing YA fiction is that I have four YA reading teens aged 19 to almost 14. This can be a good thing—I know what teens are like and they keep me honest.

On the other hand, they also will pick up pages and chapters that I’ve left unguarded. A few minutes later, one of my teen betas will burst into my writing bubble by shoving a page in front of my face.

Teen One: “Um, Mom, I don’t think character X would say this sentence.”
Me: “Fine. Mark it with a read pen.”
Teen: I don’t have a red pen.
Me: Here take mine.

With a sigh, I get back into my writing bubble.

Teen Two: I don’t want to bother you.
Me (muttering, “you already have”): Yes, dear one.
Teen Two: You forgot a closed quotation mark here.
Me: Here’s a red pen. Mark it!

I take cleansing breaths and try to remember why I put character Y into a wooden box. After remembering why said character is in the box, I begin writing again. Then my teen plops down next to me on my bed (my favorite place to edit). Now my lumbar support pillow is out of place, and I have to pay attention.

Teen (pointing to page): I don’t like this word.
Me: There are lots of words I don’t like.
Teen: You should change this word.
Teen: You’re cranky.

It’s no wonder that I buy red pens by the boxful.


  1. Have you considered teenager-proof safes for keeping your pages in? And a locked tower for writing? Small investments, surely :)

  2. What you need is some sort of sign that says "Do Not Disturb!! Red Pen Is Located On Desk!!"

    Of course, now that you've posted this on your blog, the betareaders
    will no longer disturb you. Hmm..

  3. Instead of a locked tower for writing, have you considered a locked tower for your teen betas?

  4. Oh! But how lucky you are to have teen betas! And involved ones at that. I'll admit, I'm a little jealous :)

  5. Yes, I do love my teen betas! They've been my inspiration for writing YA. And it's wonderful to have your own cheering section, so to speak. They also feel an ownership of my characters that surprises me.

    I just need to get them each a box of red pens.

  6. Hmmm. . . Maybe you should graft red pens to the hands of your teen betas.

  7. *lol* i'm so not looking forward to acquiring teen betas! But looks like I'll need to...maybe...

  8. Hmm...the way you've written this makes it sound like your teen betas are an annoyance, but truth be told, the reason we (or at least I) read-and-mark is because you've asked for that, not because we've connivingly cracked your "book-safe" ;)