Writing Tip Wednesday: Beta Readers.

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.
Forums.
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 🙂

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23 thoughts on “Writing Tip Wednesday: Beta Readers.

  1. I also use my blog as beta readers. Every time I have a stand alone scene or short story, I post it on my blog and look at the reactions. Participating in the Daily Post writing/blogging courses will introduce you to a very supportive group of like-minded people who will comment and give feedback.

    1. Thanks.

      The family member I got to read mine was my sister and she was writing too, so that was a bit more helpful than just any family member, but yes, I think a lot of new writers use their family members because they are easily accessible and more likely to be nice, which is why you shouldn’t use them 🙂

  2. I have a writing group AND beta readers (well, and an editor now too). I have a love/hate relationship with criticism. It’s so, SO hard on me, but I actively seek it out because of how much it improves my writing (and me!).

  3. I love my beta-readers (I have three at the moment, looking at one project) They are my “Beta-Readers of Awesomeness” and I would be totally lost without them! I’ve found it helpful to have at least one who does know me, and my writing, well. They are able to notice things (like particular patterns and trouble points of mine) that others less familiar with my writing history aren’t… but it’s also important to have people new to your work, because they wont be necessarily looking for those things, and can give a new perspective 🙂

      1. If you can it’s great. If you get certain feedback from one it is easier to shrug off as personal preference. If two say similar things it’s harder to ignore. You can also get a wider range of the different ways people might respond to your work that way. 🙂

  4. I think CP and Betas are integral to a good book. Your CP should be reviewing chapters and giving you detailed feedback on what works/doesn’t work.

    Whilst your beta will read the manuscript as a complete book and give you overall feedback – did the GMC work? Was the heroine likeable? Did they see the character arcs for the H&H? Did they like the HEA? Were there any holes/gaps in the story.

    Great to hear you have a fab beta – hold on to her/him 🙂

  5. I’ve beta-read a number of books for fellow indies. One writer contacted me after I wrote a review of his first book; others were people from my critique groups. It’s an excellent way to get feedback. I agree with the suggestion to start with a few chapters to see if you’re on the same wavelength. Someone who is frank but not harsh or mean is what you’re looking for.

  6. For my first novel, I had a CP but we eventually both stopped emailing each other our chapters, haha. But I remember thinking: yes, this is actually great. The feedback she did give me was awesome, and it really improved the bits that were shaky (even if I didn’t know they were shaky). I’ve since finished that novel, and am well on the way to finishing my next one, but I haven’t shown this one to anyone yet.

    I definitely think that CPs and betas are important because they most likely see the things that you don’t. I think, as writers, we’re so invested and caught up in our characters and stories that it’s hard to see the little things, or the pacing – and I think CPs and betas can definitely help with that.

    Once I finish my current novel, I do want a beta or a CP but I am incredibly scared of sharing my writing with anyone. Maybe I will go back to my original CP, because I trust her, and her feedback was great.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found a beta that is helping you out, Rochelle! 😀

    1. It is scary sharing your writing with people, and it took me the longest time to be able to do it. But in the end it is really worth it. Good luck with the CP hunt when you are finished, if you ever want to swap chapters to see if we’d be a good match email me.

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