Beta Reading Experience for Future Beta Readers
I completed my first turn at beta reading a complete manuscript. I can verify, without a doubt, that I do NOT want to be an editor. (Read more at my previous post I don’t think I want to be an editor.) It’s exceptionally difficult to analyze another person’s work, especially when it’s someone you know. I did not know how honest I should be.
Then I started to think about the next step in my writing career: finding beta readers for my revised work. So, I attacked this assignment by giving the author what I would want from someone reading my book.
This is what I would like to see from the generous readers who agree to analyze my revised, first manuscript:
1. If you are not enjoying the read, STOP IMMEDIATELY! Don’t finish it. Write me a message on why you can’t finish it. Are the characters unbelievable? Is there not enough action or not enough dialogue? Have I not brought the world to life? A reader with no friendship or colleague connection is not going to finish my novel out of obligation. If it doesn’t grab him, he’s done with the book and, probably, me as an author.
Whatever made you put the book down, please let me know. (A child tugging on your elbow doesn’t count!) Give me a chance to fix the beginning or the character or the action to make the story grab you sufficiently to lead you through to the rest of the story. (As for the child, give him a pop tart and turn on Henry Hugglemonster. That should get you through a few more chapters at least.)
2. Don’t worry about the editing! I’m not asking you to fix my spelling or put in all the commas I inevitably left out. I will pay an editor for that. I need you to give me your impressions as a reader, not a grammar Nazi. If I continuously misused a word or phrase and it’s driving you crazy, mention it. If I use a specific word too frequently and it’s causing you to drink, mention it. If I put a comma outside of quotation marks, don’t sweat it. That will be fixed soonish.
3. Be honest. I need a fresh set of eyes, or four, to tell me if my construct is successful. I need to know about the things that don’t work from a person far away from the project. I’ve been working in this world for years. I see much more in my head than I’ve put on the page. Therefore, something that makes complete sense to me might baffle a reader. I need YOU to tell me where the gaps are so I can produce a publishable manuscript. If it was already perfect, I would not be wasting your time by begging you to do me this HUGE favor.
I’m a tough girl; I can take it. Having said that, I do have feelings. Try to throw me a bone, if you can find one. “I liked the yellow flowers trying to eat the annoying character. What I don’t like is the annoying character. Does he have to talk so much or can the yellow flower succeed?”
4. Be as detailed as you have time for! What I mean is, take notes as you read the document and leave them. No editing your words. It’s helpful as the storyteller to know what you were thinking as you went along. If you can give a chapter by chapter impression, I can use that to watch the progress of the book and hone in on boring sections or poor character development or overwhelming details. Finally, after you have finished the novel, type up a quick review that you might leave on Goodreads or Amazon. That read will let me know how the book made you feel after walking through the adventure with my characters.
Hopefully, after I make the necessary changes and successfully get my book published, you will be able to re-read the adventure and leave a glowing review on those sites! You helped make the magic happen! Since I’m writing fantasy, I mean magic in the literal sense. Well, literally written in my book sense.
What recommendations do you have for beta readers?
After ALL your hard work, curl up with an excellent book that requires no note taking, such as Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Oddly, this book was recommended to me by a friendly British woman at the nail salon as we were getting pedicures. I cannot remember her name, but she introduced me to two amazing British writers. (I’ll save the second author for another blog.) I am passing on the inside information to you. This particularly novel, one of three by this author I have read so far, has been my favorite. It is part historical fiction, part romance, part mystery. You stay on the edge of your seat the whole time you’re experiencing this tale. As soon as you think you have your finger on what is going on, the plot and the point of view flips. Incredible storytelling!
Read more books!