I had my first beta reader recently and after going through my manuscript and looking at her comments all I could think was why hadn’t I gotten one earlier?
I always knew why writers would suggest other writers get critique partners and beta readers, but now I truly understand the importance.
I don’t know if you’ve had experiences with CPs and beta readers before, and whether they were good or bad, but the beta I got turned out to be brilliant. She went into such depth in her comments. She was very nit picky, playing the devil’s advocate, as she would say, which is what I wanted. She was honest without being mean and I know I’m going to have a much better book after I do another edit based off her comments.
The main thing I have learnt from the experience is to not wait so long before getting a CP/beta next time. I had gone through so many edits of the book I sent her, and I wonder if I would have had to do that much work if I had just gotten someone to read it earlier?
The main reason I hadn’t is because I’m shy about asking people to CP/beta. This was the first non-family member to read the entire novel. I had previously won a few comps to get my first chapter critiqued, and I have swapped a few chapters with another writer, but hadn’t gotten past that.
But I decided to focus on this book and I told myself it was time to find someone willing to read the whole thing. I ended up approaching a blogger friend which read books in the genre I was writing in.
I was terrified about asking, but thankfully she said yes.
Here’s a few things I learnt from having a beta reader:
Your book isn’t as good/as close to being finished as you think it is.
You want someone that will tell you the truth.
You want someone that reads and likes the genre your book is in.
You won’t be able to digest all the feedback straightaway. You might think something along the lines of ‘this person is crazy, did they even read my book, how can they not like that?’
But let the feedback settle over a few days and reread it with fresh eyes and then start to tackle the issues they found.
And remember you don’t have to change everything just because they suggested it. Go with your gut, in the end it’s your book and you know your story best.
On critique partners: the best advice I have heard is to only swap a few chapters at first to see if you are a good match before diving into a whole manuscript. It might take a few, or a lot of false starts to find a match right for you.
If you are at the stage of finding a CP/looking for a beta there are plenty of ways to find one:
You could approach a blogger/twitter/facebook writer friend.
You could put the call out on your blog.
Sometimes writers put critique partner match ups on their blogs. Maggie Stiefvater does this once a year. Other writers do it too. Just Google ‘critique partner’ and you’ll find some helpful results.
Writing organisations: I am a member of the Romance Writers of Australia and they have a CP scheme I am going to look into.
How about you? Have you been reluctant to get a CP or beta reader? What experiences have you had with your own beta readers and critique partners? Share your wisdom below 🙂