So what exactly is a Beta Reader you ask? Well…if they’re good they’re a God-send.
Because a writer reads their own words hundreds of times and often loses the ability to objectively view their work. This is where a beta reader comes in.
But who do you choose? Family members and friends? Co-workers? Neighbors? Well…before you choose your reader/s consider what you need from them.
Adventures in Children’s Publishing recently did a phenomenal blog post listing the critiquing criteria used by Betas. I strongly suggest reading this post before you embark on asking everyone you know to critique your work.
There is so much more involved than just having someone read your manuscript and say…”I love it.” This does not make it ready for agent submission. Betas are used for the purpose of revision. They notate as they read, picking out things that stop them or make them ask a question. They check for structure issues and proper pacing and some even check grammatical issues.
But do you always listen to the advice given by a beta? Well…not always. Sometimes you have to go with your gut, but if 5 out of 10 readers pick out the same flaw, you understand that there is obviously an issue that needs to be fixed.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Wrong. Having your work critiqued is not easy. Constructive criticism is sometimes hard to take….no one likes having their imperfections pointed out, but it is a MUST in writing if you really want to do your best and become a better writer.
But…not everyone is a Beta. I love my husband and best friends for reading for me, but something in the back of my mind is always saying they have to love what I write because they love me. They are biased.
Granted, I believe if there was a real flow or consistency issue they would point it out, but I know they have no idea about scene and structure, first line hooks, inciting incident, story problems and story goals. I use them more as Alpha readers (read linked post for Alpha criteria as well) to tell me I’m on the right track… that my story makes sense and provides characters they can fall in love with.
And then, after their eyes have seen it and my eyes have revised and edited to the best of my abillity, I send it to the Beta.
So…now the reader selection process just became simpler because your average person can’t remember the difference between a past participle and an independent clause. Mention the word Gerund and they’ll say…”Who?”
But still…how do you find a good Beta? First of all…if you’re not on Twitter get on Twitter. It is one of the best tools for connecting with other writers who will often offer to partner with you for critiquing purposes. Also….the site I mentioned above allowed their comments section to become a beta-writer-match-making event….this is how I found my Beta.
Good Luck and Happy Beta Hunting!