Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B = Beta Reader: The A to Z Writer's Challenge


It was several years after I wrote my first novel before that I found out about the revered Beta Reader. I’d heard that phrase being thrown around five years ago at my first writer’s conference, and not wanting to seem as ignorant as I really was, I nodded my head and grinned when the conversation came too close to me to reply intelligently.  According to WikipediA, “a beta reader is a person who reads a written work with what as been described as a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public.”  

If you're a writer and you don't have a couple of beta readers in your contact list--get them! They do not need to be authors, although that would be a plus. But they do need to be avid readers and know what makes a good story. 


7 comments:

Margo Kelly said...

Yup. Beta readers are essential! Especially since we, the writers, can see the entire story in our heads ... a beta reader lets us know where we have miscommunicated that vision.

Kate N said...

I am getting closer to needing a beta reader and I have a couple I could call on, but a question I have and doesnt seem to be anywhere is how many is too few and how many is overkill? Great post by the way :D

J.L. Schmidt said...

I didn't really do beta readers with my first book, but I am definitely going to try to get a few for the sequel. What would you suggest my time-frame be? If I'm still making edits, but plan to release the book in mid-June... should I be looking for beta readers now, or wait a few weeks until I'm done with my "last" pass of editing?

Debra Erfert said...

Margo: my beta readers have asked questions that lead me to close serious plot holes that I never knew existed.

Kate: a good number is three, but if you can, don't give them the same manuscript. Let the second reader have an edited version--you know, the one you revised after you got it back from your first beta reader, and so forth. That way by the time you get to the 3rd reader, she/he won't be catching the same silly mistakes the 1st reader caught. But remember, with each reader comes a different point of view, and each may give you their "take" on how you should go with your story--if they are giving you their honest opinions and not just telling you "I love it". Don't give to your mother, or your sisters, because they fall into the "I love it" category of not being totally honest. It could be rotten at the core, and they wouldn't tell you--unless you aren't on good speaking terms to begin with. lol.

J.L.: wait until you're satisfied with your manuscript before you give it to a beta reader, or three. It may not be perfect, but June is fast approaching. Find at least two or three people who read your genre, and not people who will be willing to read your genre. Did you catch that? I've had readers who don't necessarily read romances beta read for me, but they would rather read sci-fi. They aren't written in the same way, and therefore the attention of the reader to my story is different, too. Good luck with your book!

ManicScribbler said...

Ah yes - such precious commodities - as valuable (and rare) as diamonds in my experience.

thelmaz said...

Yes, beta readers are great to have around. One of mine used to make notes in green pen and if there was nothing green on a page, I would call to see if she'd accidentally skipped it.

Debra Erfert said...

ManicScribbler, and they seem to be getting rarer these days.

thelmaz, green is much friendlier than red. Much.

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