Jack of Many Trades

Theos Logos: Blessed are the Betas

Originally posted: 2013-04-06

the virtue of revision and constructive criticism in sacred writing

There is a moment in considering the sanctity of writing, especially the sanctity of one's own writing, in which one looks at the words on the page and says "This is perfect! This is just as it came to me!"

The latter may be true -- it may even be a word for word dictation from the main character, or even from deity. However, that does not mean it is perfect. Just as important as the act of writing itself is the act of revision, and that's not possible without good feedback and criticism.

How can that be, when writing is a divine, magical act? It's true for several reasons.

First, the writer has a responsibility to herself. Spirituality is meant to be a process in which one touches something greater than oneself and seeks to become part of it. It is not a stagnant state, especially during the highly changable process of being incarnate. In order to refine and expand any spirituality, outside insight into our progress is necessary.

This is where the beta reader or reviewer is invaluable. A good revision requires as much energy as the initial setting-down. It requires clarity of vision and an erasing of ego.

Ego is a terrific problem for a writer. Someone who is too impressed by the brilliance of their own prose serves neither the charcters, the story, nor his true self. An egotists's writing will ring hollow because there is no spark of soul in it.

The writer must constantly pursue improvement in form and in word, in characterization and in structure, as part of the process of tempering the soul and training the self to see the world more truly.

Second, a writer owes it to the characters to revise. This is particularly true in the case of channelled writing. Would you want to pour your life story out to someone so it could languish in a drawer or a computer file? Of course not, and neither do they. The author is not just a glorified typewriter for his characters. Like celebrity ghostwriters and authors of historical fiction, he is not a glorified typewriter. He is an artist, and just as a sketch is not a finished product, so is a first draft something that must be polished and finished.

A good beta shows us our faults and suggests the paths that may help lead us forward, as better writers and with a better understanding of our place in the world.