Monday, November 25, 2013

Sharing Your Story: The Awesomeness of Beta Readers

I've finally made it to the Beta Reader level on my novel writing journey. YAY! I'm so excited!! Beta Readers are those brilliant, amazing, fantastic people who volunteer their precious time to read your completed novel or whatever other kind of writing you create.

They are super heroes for writers! And I LOVE them!! 

You may be wondering, "When should I look for a Beta Reader?" Or, "How do I find one that's amazing?" and "What exactly does this awesome Beta Reader do?" These are questions I asked when I first got serious about writing. 

The first thing is to have your novel completed and polished to the best of your ability. That means you've had other people look at it besides your mom or loved ones. 

You've received some feedback, looked for errors, read it through from start to finish more than once, etc. Most Beat Readers aren't first draft readers. Unless you've made that agreement with them.

How do you find this amazing person that is willing to spend at least 12-16+ hours reading your novel?

You must put yourself out there!! Join a writers' group, critique group, or critique website. I found my awesome Betas from conferences, critique partners, and just by talking with other writers.

A quick list of some online resources are:

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators or SCBWI
WriteOnCon (It's where I met some super amazing writing buds!)
This article at Squidoo lists tons of online groups.
Check out local groups through Meetup, ask your local librarian, or start one of your own!

And if you are looking for a group, you should read this blog post by Holly Lisle about group expectations, and if a group is toxic! Watch out, because some are!

Once you've caught a Beta in your sights, it's best to get to know them a little bit. If you don't know the person very well, you can always send a few chapters of your WIP and read a few chapters of theirs to see if you're a good fit. Offering to swap novels is always an option too.

I'm separating my Beta reads into three rounds. My first round consists of some of my critique partners who have already read the book chapter by chapter. The second group of Betas know something about the book but haven't read it entirely. And the third set is made up of people who haven't read it all. Those last fresh eyes on my work will really make a difference if I've missed something.

Having a list of questions for them to answer about your WIP is also very helpful. Ask about things that concern you. If you're not sure about a character or pacing for example.

And, always, always show appreciation to your amazing Beta Readers! They've spent their precious time on you, giving suggestions and catching mistakes when they could've been doing something else! Show the love!!

How about you? Where are you at on the writing journey? Any ideas on Betas?


  1. Separating your Beta readers into three rounds is a GREAT idea. Those fresh eyes are priceless when it comes to continuity. And thanks for sharing that link to Holly Lisle's column. :) I'm going to send it to a friend of mine who's thinking about joining a group.

  2. Ah, I love fresh eyes! And Like Rina said, having rounds of beta reads is so smart. Great post!

  3. Thanks guys! I'm really excited about being at the Beta stage! I can't wait to see what they all think! :)