So I’ve been pretty busy lately. If you don’t know, I work at a school. The year is winding down, and I’m trying to keep everything in order. I’m also a minister, and that means with the ending of school comes the beginning of summer. Or as I like to call it, the beginning of keeping a bunch of teenagers occupied and out of their parents’ hair for a while. But it’s all good.
However, I haven’t written a story in a few weeks. Which is odd for me these days.
But what I have been doing, is just as important as writing new stories. I have been consulting with several of my beta readers on some of my stories. It’s been really great to get so much feedback, and it gives me a chance to fix any problems in my writing. I’ve also been doing some beta reading myself, so I get to tell them how terrible their writing is too! >:)
Not really. I enjoy beta reading and giving feedback just as much as I like getting it. I know how much it helps.
So we’ve talked about how important beta readers are, and some things they can help you with. Now let’s break down how to be a good beta reader, which will help us choose even better ones!
Read the work more than once
If you read something more than once, you will catch things you missed the first time. This will greatly improve your critique, and give you something to tell the author. Really get into the text and ask yourself how you feel about it. Which brings us to the next point.
Ask a few questions
It’s important to know what you’re looking for as a beta reader. If you have just started reading an author’s works, then they are basic:
What is the overall style?
What is the voicing?
And once you get to know an author’s style and voice, you can get into some more in depth questions:
What is the plot?
Where is it going?
Do I like this plot?
Do I like the characters?
Questions like these will help you make a good report for the author. If you answer these questions, the author will most definitely appreciate your feedback. and remember to give it a positive spin..
Authors are fragile (well most authors). If you’re mean and nasty about their writing, you won’t be getting any more free manuscripts to read. And that doesn’t mean suck up and tell the author that their work is awesome when it needs some retooling. We (authors) need to know when something is wrong or bad. But it doesn’t have to be:
“Hey this sucks.”
And this is coming from someone who has been called the most insensitive human on the face of the planet!
(When one of your best friends comes to you with misty eyes because you attacked them instead of gently correcting, maybe you can understand what I had to go through to gain some kindness. Being a jerk all the time is what’s terrible.)
So be kind and lead your author to conclusions. And obviously this will ebb and flow with your author’s personality. One of my beta readers asked me how I wanted one of my stories critiqued and I said ‘shred it’. I knew the story needed work, so getting heavy editing suggestions wasn’t going to hurt my feelings.
But unless that happens, be kind. Your unsavory comments could destroy the will to create and end a career.
Keep Reading. And Writing. And Reading.
I hope this encourages you to be a beta reader. And that goes double for authors. You need to stay humble and help others out. And who better to go over manuscripts than a fellow author who knows about writing? Strict readers are always welcome, but writers will definitely help move the story along. Consider this: two of my readers had read the same story. I got an hour long phone call from one, who isn’t an author, and he wanted me to develop one aspect of my story. The other reader, who is an author, sent me a very detailed email wanting me to further develop a different aspect of the story. Both were great suggestions, and came from two different ends of the reader spectrum.
So keep writing in order to keep reading in order to keep writing…