Beta readers and writing thieves

I think a lot about Henry Miller’s writing commandments about how you should finish what you’re working on and not think about the other things you can write later. I know it’s common to just get bored, or stuck, or burned out on what you’re doing. I have great ideas, then stop and second guess myself (this goes for a lot of other things I do as well as for writing.) But I’m trying to read more and get myself through the project even though I admit to dabbling in something else yesterday.

Of course, I wrote a bit, felt guilty, and will go back to the current work in progress.

So, I was reading an article on beta readers at The Creative Penn. I don’t really talk about what I’m writing, except here and there to my husband or immediate family. I’m a fairly private person to begin with, so spouting off ideas to the wide world of Twitter makes the magic seem to disintegrate. (Stephen King had a quote about that in On Writing, but I can’t find it anywhere.) But I asked Twitter about it, and people said they’ve found their beta readers in old friends in real life as well as on Twitter.

I distinctly remember a girl on Twitter a while back saying that she had a “good friend” steal her book idea. It was something about how she would talk to this friend about writing, told the girl her ideas for her next book. Later on the friend has a new book with the same exact plot line as the first author. Of course the first author was appalled and hurt by the whole betrayal, but what could she do? Especially in the realm of self-publishing if you had someone read a draft of a novel, couldn’t they feasibly life the whole thing and make it their own? Would there even be any kind of way to copyright that (not like you’d get any money from it, but the whole idea is pretty wrong so you’d want to get the thing off virtual shelves.)

My questions today are:

  • If you have beta readers, how did you find them?
  • Have any beta readers or even supposed friends taken your ideas and used them as their own?

About Suzanne Schultz Pick

Married to Steve. Mother of Jack. Librarian IT Assistant. Writer, teacher, blogger, podcaster, technological princess.
This entry was posted in All About Me, Books, Publishing, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Beta readers and writing thieves

  1. katemsparkes says:

    That’s a tough topic. On one hand, what you write is automatically copyrighted as soon as you write/type it (presumably you have to be able to prove you wrote it first, but I’ve read many times and from reputable sources that you don’t have to officially register it). On the other, it’s only your exact words that are copyrighted; you can never copyright an idea, no matter how much you pay or how officially you register them. I wrote a post not long ago about someone wanting me to sign a non-disclosure agreement as a beta reader (and why I didn’t sign), and it seems like most people think like I do: find beta readers who are writers themselves, good ones who have so many of their own ideas floating around that the idea of stealing yours is completely absurd to them. It would be to me. I can enjoy other people’s ideas, but I write my own a lot better.

    And I agree, I would never go spouting off about my ideas before their time. It’s not because I’m afraid of them being stolen, it’s that I’m afraid of them losing their magic for me.

    • That’s a good point. If the beta reader has their own work to deal with, they don’t need ours (presumably.) I’m with you on the losing the magic bit too – sort of gets to me when I see Twitter accounts giving blow-by-blow accounts of exactly what they’ve written for the day.

  2. J. G. says:

    It’s because of things like that I rarely share the “meat” of my novel-in-progress with anyone other than family. Sad thing, because I’d love to have an “outsider’s” critique, but…On more encouraging note I have been invited to a private blog by a very good blogging friend. I plan to throw up a chapter of my story there.

    If you ever find answers to those two questions you posed I’d love to hear.

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