And Then: Learning from your Beta

And then you kneel beside me. "You’re drunk."

"Very observant, Potter." I moan and roll toward you, but I misjudge and fall off the couch and onto the floor. And then I linger on my hands and knees for a moment, giggling as I try not to throw up, and then I feel your hands on me, under my arms.

You succeed only in dragging me to my knees. I wrap my arms around you, around your neck, and then I fall against you heavily, searching for your lips with my own.

"Draco, god," you mutter, and then you push me away and get to your feet. And then I wrap my arms around your hips and press my cheek against the front of your jeans.

"Don’t make me go, Harry," I plead, brushing my lips over the bulge in your jeans. "I’ll do anything."

Your fingers twist in my hair and then pull my head back. "Stop it." But your breath quickens and you don’t step away. "Please, Draco."

My biggest tell in a first draft is my copious use of ‘and then’, often at the beginning of a sentence. Posting the above first draft excerpt is, quite frankly, embarrassing, but it’s the way I write most comfortably.

It was a beta who called attention to this habit of mine. She would go through my fic, pulling me up on instance after instance, chapter after chapter. I think it took me some time to click onto this and actually edit out those ‘and then’ instances myself before she ever saw it. After that I started doing an extra read through of all my stuff just for those ‘and then’s.

Nowadays, I still write with copious instances of ‘and then’ but I do it with the awareness that I’ll take almost all of them out in edits. I don’t  need to do a separate read for them now because I’m very good at spotting them in line edits (in fact, they stick out a mile to me now) but early on that ‘and then’ read either before or after I’d edited for everything else was essential for catching one of my biggest problem habits while writing.

I learned something key from that beta, something I’ll be aware of for the years to come. I’m sure she thanked me for it, too, because she no longer had to correct that very pervasive error in my work.

By learning from your beta, you’ll make their lives a lot easier, and you’ll become a better writer.

I’m sure there’s other stuff I do now that drives my beta batty because she has to correct the same shit over and over again. If she’s reading this, it’s permission for her to kick my ass and tell me to learn from my mistakes, dammit ;)

So. What’s your ‘and then’? Are you aware of it? Or does your beta correct the same mistakes chapter after chapter after chapter?


4 responses to “And Then: Learning from your Beta

  • Sapphirescribe

    My “and then” is overly long sentences. I don’t think they’re technically run ons, they just drag on for ages, long enough to distract the reader or confuse them. I’m like you, its easier for me to write that way, so I still write with my super long sentences, I just force myself to be aware of them upon editing. Getting rid of overly long sentences has the added bonus of reducing the chances of misusing commas, something I’m frequently guilty of.

  • Danielle Shaw (@ItsAThinLine_ff)

    My ‘and then’ is that I have a weird addiction to commas and randomly breaking up sentences. It’s like I take the whole ‘use different sentence lengths often’ rule and tell it to suck my pretty little writing pen.

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