My finished manuscript is with my betas, The Dawg Pack. I'm waiting...waiting...waiting. There are rules within the pack, and so I'm loathe to try to hurry them or to ask when they think they'll be finished. It's certainly bad form because ultimately they're doing me a great favor. It's not like they've borrowed money. They're reading and re-reading the book so it will be pristine by the time I offer the re-submit requested by an agent. I have to be patient. Patience is a virtue, one that doesn't come easy.
What to do when betas are working? Write. Write your little heart out. I'm writing, working on a new manuscript that will probably be finished by the time the betas return my current book. No, they've not had the resubmit for years, just weeks. During that time, I had an idea, polished it, and now I'm almost eighty-nine thousand words along. Do I still want to ask, "Hey, how's it going?" You betcha, but I won't...not anymore.
I tried that. Didn't work. I just got the "patience" thing repeated over and over again. These writers have lives, families, problems, their own work. Battering at their mental doors is not the way to win friends and influence people. It causes tension, unnecessary tension. The second great lesson in working in a writing group? If you pester, your work will fester, become an annoying boil on the (well, you can guess where) of your group members.
When John Keats lay dying from tuberculosis, he wrote his epitath: Here lies a man whose name is writ in water. If Keats had rushed his betas, had denied the concept of favor, those words would probably ring true. He would have received no concrete advice or help, and he would have been forgotten, left to lay beneath the sod, just another would-be writer. Instead, he worked with Byron and others, perfecting his craft. Now, his work is studied in every school and on every campus, and he's classified as one of the six great romantic poets in British history. I'd rather take Keats' route.
John Keats had no way of knowing how important he would become to the literary world, but he did understand the importance of perfecting his craft. That's what working in groups does for any writer. It helps that writer perfect the craft. There's more to writing a book that punching out the story. Craft is equally important, and it's craft that betas teach. Listen to the teachers, hear their words, never lose patience, and one day, you may be able to make a few calls in which you blurt out those all important words, "I just got an agent!"