Beta Reading

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“Get feedback — oodles of it. Along the way, show pieces of your book to lots of people — different types of people. Ply them with wine and beg them for candor. Find out what’s missing, what’s being misinterpreted, what isn’t convincing, what’s falling flat. This doesn’t mean you take every suggestion or write the book by committee. But this process will allow [you] to marry your necessarily-precious vision with how people will actually react. I find that invaluable.”
— David Shenk, Author of The Forgetting and The Genius in All of Us

Well. I did it. I finished my urban fantasy manuscript. Draft #1 is complete!

And now it is time for the hard part: beta reading and subsequent drafts.

What is a beta reader and why do I need one?

An alpha reader or a beta reader is generally a non-professional (that is, not someone involved in the editing or publishing industry) who reads and critiques a manuscript before it goes on to publication. In my case, my beta readers are members of my writing group who have seen this manuscript go from a few opening pages through to a completed 65,000 word project.

These readers are invaluable. They will read my first draft as if it were a completed book and give me feedback on plot, character, style, dialogue, and everything in between. No writer is an island. We need feedback and an outside perspective to keep ourselves on track (or at least from getting too terribly off-track). We can get so bogged down in our own work that sometimes we get lost in it and can no longer see the big picture.

The best beta readers will provide a comprehensive written reaction to a manuscript. The best writers, then, should help their beta readers along. I suggest creating a short survey with open-ended questions, which will help the beta reader form and clearly explain their feelings and thoughts on the book.

So that’s my February project: clean up the draft so it’s readable (close any plot holes and tentatively create chapter breaks) and create the survey questions for my beta reading team. Easier said than done, I’m sure. What is your February project?

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