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Beta Readers Are a Writer’s Best Friends

I’m looking at the January calendar of my blog and I see that, aside from the recurring features, I posted very little. That sounds like lazy, but believe me, it wasn’t.
The entire months of November through January, I worked on the revision of my novel, a version meant for my beta readers.

Beta readers are the bones and blood of a writerly relationship.

1129275_help_me_I believe it. I truly do, even if I had never had betas before. But I’ve been member of the Critique Circle for seven years now and I know the value of a good crit. On CC, I’ve received hundreds of critiques and I’ve given more than one thousand. Every single one of them was valuable, and I mean every single one, even the ones I’ve given.
Writing a critique means looking into the deep workings of a story, trying to understand how style and content relate to and enhance each other, and once you’ve done it, that’s a conquest. Whatever insight you offer to your critiquing partner is an insight you had to give to yourself first and it will remain with you, even when you write your own stories.
But there’s a limit to the workshop system, in my opinion: you post your novel chapter by chapter, even if you have the option (like I have on CC as premium member) to post the entire novel at once. Critters who read the entire novel straight, one chapter after the other, are very few. Normally, some time passes between reading a chapter and the next one and this causes critters to lose sight of the whole novel and concentrate on just the one chapter. Which, good as it is, is not really what I’m looking for after seven drafts of the novel.
So, after posting the first three chapters and seeing the kind of crits I was receiving weren’t exactly what I was looking for (thought they were all good per se), I decided to try this new adventure of beta reading.

Finding beta readers might be hard job.

You’re asking to read an entire novel and to give feedback on the entire structure of the novel and the story. That’s no small ask.
Who would you dare asking?
Jennifer Keishin Armstrong has a very good article here on how to go about looking for beta readers. Luckily, I didn’t need to start from scratches, because I had already done a part of what is suggested. I had already pinned down the places where I’d ask.
readingCritique Circle was a given. Of course, exchanging critiques on the workshop is something I’ve done many times over the years and with some of these critters a bond of trust has develop. I don’t hesitate to call of few of them friends (I’ve been even fortunate enough to meet a couple of them, even if we live so far away from each other). I trust their judgement because I’m lucky enough to have enjoyed it before. Besides, some of them have been hearing about Ghost Trilogy since it was jus tan idea in a nutshell. Some of them have even helped shaping up or sorting out part of the plot. Asking these friends came natural and I can’t wait to hear their reaction.
Then there’s the dieselpunk community. Contrary to CC, I’m very new to it. I’ve been part of it for roughly one year, so I was more hesitant to ask. But I have to say the truth, thought still quite small, the dieselpunk community is a very welcoming place. I soon felt at home, I soon started reading stories from these writers, exchanging comments and feedback. I’m already comfortable with a few of them, and so when it came to the matter of beta readers, I naturally think to them, especially to the ones whose work I enjoy and to the ones I’ve already exchanged comments with. And then, hey, they’re dieselpunks, they should like my story, right? (Here’s hoping)
I did the ask and a few of them agreed to beta read my novel and I can’t express how grateful I am. It’s a very big gift I’m receiving and I hope one day I’ll be able to reciprocate.

Build your personal community and you'll find your beta readers #authors #amediting Share on X

So actually if you’re part of a writing community (or a few writing communities) finding beta readers isn’t going to be that hard. Most of us write for the love of it, I this is why cooperation is such a common currency in this business. We should be aware of its value.

6 Comments

  • CW Hawes
    Posted January 29, 2015 at 01:09

    I agree, Sarah, there is nothing like a trusted pair of eyes (and maybe even a second or third) to let you know if you are saying what you think you are saying. Or to tell you a scene is dull or maybe too spicy. And to catch those typos and grammatical missteps, you still missed after your fifth reading of the typescript.

    Finding beta readers can be challenging. It also helps to know what the reader is good at. I’m fortunate to have two who are willing to read my work: my sister and my daughter. Each one is good for different things. My daughter is death on bad grammar, typos, and inconsistencies. My sister is good at overall flow and general movement of the story.

    A good beta reader is worth his or her weight in gold. If you need a reader, I’m will to sign on. I won’t say I’m gold standard. But I’m at least silver. 😉

  • Post Author
    jazzfeathers
    Posted January 29, 2015 at 07:07

    This: let you know if you are saying what you think you are saying.
    You wouldn’t belive what people read from my stories. The weirdest things I’d have never imagined. This is why I’ll never tire to tell people, have someone read your MS, don’t be shy, you’ll never ever regret it. I swear.

    As for typos, I don’t even see them in Italian, imagine if I can see them in English…

    • CW Hawes
      Posted January 29, 2015 at 11:11

      I hear you! A great big ditto!

      At least you get to make typos in both English and Italian. 🙂 I think it admirable to be able to write in two languages. I only get to make them in English. 🙁

  • Hiten Vyas
    Posted February 1, 2015 at 20:57

    Hi Sarah,

    Excellent post. I loved the point you made about it not being too hard to find beta readers, if we’re part of writing communities. These communities are fairly tight and helping each other in such ways is one of the main benefits of being a part of them. Thank you.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 07:11

      Hi Hiten, and thanks for stopping by and comment.

      Well, to be honest, my experience is that finding beta readers isn’t hard at all. But I know this is because I’m part of a couple writing communities… and truly I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to be part of a community. It’s such fun! 🙂

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