Four Reasons Your Mom Might Not Be The Best Beta
Writing young adult narratives is deeply personal for most, especially if set in the contemporary world. Regardless of whether you’re crafting a RomCom Romp, a Fantasy Frolic, or a Historical Hamlet, here are four reasons why you might not want your mom to read your work.
You accidentally wrote your mom into your story
If you think this might be you, but aren’t sure, the best way to find out is to have a sibling or close family friend read the story first. If they ever utter the words, “that is so mom,” you know you’re sunk.
No matter how you field it, there will be something to set her off. Because you’ve perfectly written such lovely, flawed characters, your mom will get to see every amazing cookie she’s baked, every badass comeback she’s levied, and unfortunately, she’ll also find the tiny little thing you thought was funny. Then she’ll blow it up to epic proportions and wonder, “is that really how my kid sees me?” She’ll then rethink her whole existence and everything she’s ever done to raise you.
You’ll spend precious revision time making chai tea for your poor mopey mom who now doesn’t know what she’s done to make you hate her so much that you included her poorly timed bathroom humor or the fact that she’s been plucking her chin for the last decade in your novel.
Your mom thinks you’re the main character and that you need serious help
The great and terrible thing about writing Young Adult is that you get to relive every cringeworthy moment through the eyes of your character. Approaching topics like poor self-esteem, sports failures, unrequited love, and even mental illness are par for the course.
Of course, we all insert a little bit of our own personalities into the characters we write the best. Every once in a while, we write ourselves and every pimple, every wart that came with puberty.
But better call a psych if Mom catches a whiff of even the slightest problem. She’s got a padded cell with your name on it and might just camp out on your doorstep until she’s sure that you’re not about to die from post-apocalyptic teenage flashbacks. You’ll spend more time proving your own sanity than revising in this scenario.
Your mom sees you through rose-colored glasses
She can’t believe you wrote a novel, but of course she always knew you could do it. Every single word you’ve printed is dripping with the ichor of the gods, and anyone who says anything less is straight from…well, you get the picture.
While an adorable sentiment, this isn’t necessarily helpful in a beta reader. You want someone to help you look at the big picture, to dissect your character development, and to give it to you straight on the strengths and weaknesses of your piece of work.
For this reason, if this describes your mom, you could let her read the piece, but don’t count her in that ever important beta reader number. She’s just there shaking pom poms. And heck, we all need this person in our corner, so cherish that.
Your mom “helps” you by going through your work like a poorly-written high school essay
Every misplaced comma and dangling modifier is under scrutiny. Voice? Ha! Only if it fits into her idea of how her prodigy was raised. Anything less is asking for rejection from countless agents, editors, and publishers. She’s going to help you succeed, come hell or high water.
Unfortunately, she may not see that she’s actually killing the flow of your voice, or God forbid, changing it to be incorrect.
By the time you hit the beta stage, you might be looking for sentence-level help, but odds are you’re more on the lookout for plot holes and character development inconsistencies. Arguing over that semicolon with dear ol’ Mom is just going to slow your revision pacing.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that your Mom defies all four warnings. That’s fantastic! By all means, have Mom read your final copy, but just know that “Any similarities…” warning may not ring true when she reads your latest novel. After all, you got your character empathy and attention to detail from someone!
Jessica K. Foster is in the beta process of her second YA novel and lives with her husband and two toddlers in Zeeland, Michigan. She hopes her mama never sees this article, but knows that that wonderful woman wouldn’t be a bit surprised by it, either. Catch Jessica K. Foster on Twitter at @JessicaKFoster.