Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Some of the Best Stories Are Still Unpublished

For members of the Speculative Fiction Group on Agent Query Connect, this week begins an annual ritual known as Marathon. Twelve intensive weeks of posting work and critiquing the work of others with the common goal of helping each other and getting fresh eyes to see past our personal blinders. (If anyone reading this writes speculative fiction and would like to join the group you can find out more information here. People can jump in and out of the Marathon at any time.)

I usually critique and I'll tell you why. Some of the best stories are still unpublished or works in progress. I think this is what I love best about diving into a writing community, the opportunity to read stories that the general public doesn't have access to, yet. My inner reader is tickled when I come across a manuscript that I fall in love with. At times I wish I were an agent or publisher so I could say, "Yes! This! This needs to be published!"

Of course, I sometimes run across not so good material, but I don't want to focus on that today.

Whether in a forum setting or even privately as a beta reader, it's a joy to work with someone else on their project, to help them out, and even better, to be touched by what they've written.

One of the down sides is loving someone else's story, eagerly rooting for them as they go into the query process, and then being just as baffled as they are when no one picks the story up. It's frustrating. This is a book you'd actually buy. (And for me, that's saying a lot.) This is a story you couldn't wait to tell everyone you knew about. Whether it had a fresh spin, or an original idea, maybe loveable characters, or a plot that kept you on your toes. It makes you wonder, why isn't it being snatched up?

I'm not the type of reader who gushes over every manuscript I read. I only buy books I know I'll read again. Of course, I have my subjective tastes, but I don't critique subjectively. Yet I love it when a story not only appeases the objective critic in me but also excites the subjective reader at the same time. There are many talented writers out there, promising manuscripts at different stages of development, and so many styles to sample.

I'm excited for this year's Marathon. I know the writers who are participating have been working hard on honing their craft. Of course, I hope that every manuscript will be stellar and something I'll enjoy. And I hope that they go on to be published. Realistically, some great ones will not. It'll sting for the author and it'll sting for me, a supportive party. The one consolation is that because I'm active in a writing community, I'll at least have read their story.

If you want to find some true gems that aren't on the shelves, become a beta reader.

Tell me your frustrations, as a beta reader or critique partner, regarding someone else's work that you love who is still unpublished. Tell about the success stories, too. Did you throw a little celebration? Spam social media sites on behalf of that writer? Please don't pitch someone else's story ideas in the comments.


  1. I love this post. It's so true - I've read some great stories while beta-reading, both in the beginning and late phases of the process. Some have gone on to get publishing deals, while others are still waiting. It can be so frustrating, but the best thing we can do for each other is to support and cheer. I think you may have just inspired an upcoming blog post for me. :-)

    1. Hooray for inspiration! And you're right, we create opportunities to support and cheer each other when we are beta readers and care about the success of others.

  2. Yes! Oh the stories I've read, and drum my fingers waiting to say, "I READ IT FIRST! BAHAHA!"