Beta Reading



Beta's are one of your first lines of defense before sending your manuscript out to be shopped.

They are a fresh set of eyes. A new perspective. A trial run. And, they might also catch a few mistakes too. =p

Don't rely on just one though. Not all Beta readers are alike. Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to technical reading. Some are better with flow and feel. Some are sticklers for the rules. Some are just good at responding (like laughing when they are supposed to. Think of them like the person screaming at the blond in a horror movie "don't go in there!! That's where the killer is hiding.")

It's best to gather a wide variety of reads before you move on to sending out your manuscript to an agent (or for those who self publish, sending off for final editing.).

A good Beta reader can really help you polish a manuscript. But, what makes a good Beta reader?

Well, an eye for detail is a good start. You want someone who can read with an active eye for problems.

I'm asked to beta read on occasion and I am happy to do it for my friends. Whenever I read I try to keep that active eye working.

In my opinion, and you can disagree, it's the way a Beta notifies you of problems that separates the good from the ok.

Notice I didn't say bad. I am not trying to be nice here. Sometimes blunt honesty is all you get. That's ok.

I'm not saying a reader that coddles you is ok either. You don't improve if you aren't told where the issues are in your writing.

What separates the good from the ok is the explanation.

To me, it's not enough to have a problem pointed out, I want to know why it was pointed out. Was it a rule I broke? Was it something that took you out of POV? Was it something that was out of character? Was it a grave mistake of some kind?

Pointing out errors is ok and will help you to improve but a Beta who will really dig in and give you a problem backed up with reasons is the best kind you can find.

I'm certainly not saying I am a great Beta, but I keep this in mind when I am asked to read.

So remember, lots of Beta's are great find as many as you can to help improve your work.

If you are asked to be one, remember to be a great one and back up all of your nits with good reasons.


Comments

Danyelle said…
Very good thoughts on betaing. :)
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Those are great points. I think you're right about giving the explanation. When I crit, I try to point the thing out, then say--maybe try it this way or strengthen this, etc.

And I never do plugs BUT since it's on topic, I'm hosting a crit fest over at my blog (where me and my readers offer critiques on excerpts.) If any of your readers are looking for feedback, stop by and sign up, I'm still taking volunteers. :)
L.T. Elliot said…
Beta's and crit groups are, I think, a necessary element in writing. It's easy to understand where I'm going in a story because I know it. The real kicker is if my reader is seeing what I see and hearing the story I mean to tell. That's where Betas become priceless.
Elana Johnson said…
I think second reads are so important. And third reads. And fourth. And yes, it's the person and how they say it that matters. That's why I really like to have a personal relationship with those that are making my MS bleed. That way, it doesn't hurt so much.
Guinevere said…
Great post. I've been working with my first beta reader recently, and it's been a very positive experience -- I appreciate the advice on how to be a good beta reader myself!
That's great!

One of the best things you can do for your book is to have another writer read it. Request feed back on "what is wrong." Do not seek a pat on the back. The good writing will take care of itself.

Look for areas in which you can improve. Solicit strong feedback. For example, any writer who will offer solid critique on chapters of my book will receive a "free" autographed copy.

Some writers and publishers believe readers should be chosen among writers of the same genre.

I disagree. People who like to read books are better at giving critique. If the reader does not read my genre, then I have done a good job if I have developed his or her interest.

God Bles all of You,

Barry

barrywrites.blogspot.com
Amy said…
I appreciate your PO very much the article with the picture. Continues to refuel!!
Al said…
Great post.
Getting other perspectives is invaluable.
My MS was read by a number of betas. Some very much just for the feel and others looking at it from a more technical point of view.
All liked it, but some pointed out a couple of problems with the plot. As a result a whole sub-plot disappeared from my book and the problems were fixed.

Al

Publish or Perish
Kate said…
There is nothing worse than vague "it was good" comments. A good beta is worth there weight in gold.