Tuesday, May 24

Better Get a Beta Reader

Beta readers can be a very useful thing for a writer. They read your work and keep an eye out for those glazed-over typos you missed, plot holes and more.

The question for me always remains: When is the right time to let a beta reader read your work?

You don't want it to be too early in the process, because you should give it a second and third look yourself in rewrites, but the perspective of a reader – particularly a fellow writer – can be golden as long as you are open to their comments.

The insight of a beta reader can help you target and refine areas of your manuscript that haven't caught your attention. Confusions you didn't know were there can be addressed.

A beta reader is like an in-between. They read your writing from the perspective of potential readers but still have enough insight into the writing process to target what needs fixing.

It is always a timid thing to let someone take a look at your writing when it is still a work in progress. While there is that usefulness of having an extra eye, that eye is peering in at your faults, seeking them out and studying them.

Judging, judging, judging. There is a lot of that when it comes to reading, whether your writing is on its way to being published or published already. Whenever I start reading a story, whether I have high hopes for it or am very sceptical, I have preconceptions and I judge. Judging a book doesn't make you a bad person, it just makes you perceptive to what you read.

Writers need to embrace other writers. These people are not the enemy. They are our kin. You can have as many friendly rivalries as you want if it helps to motivate you and keep you on your deadlines, but shying away from the help of another writer – or someone who has keen literary knowledge – is a wasted opportunity.

How many people have read my writing? Not many and yet not too few. Okay, that's a warped answer. I haven't had many people read my novels-in-progress, and thinking back to some of the earlier draft chapters that I have shown a couple members of my family makes me cringe. I have never really handed over my novel to a writer friend and asked them to comment and critique. Will I when I have reached my stage past my personal rewrites and edits? Absolutely.

Beta readers = good. It's something that people – myself included – need to remember. Don't shy away from them and don't be too discouraged. I learn so much from reading, so why shouldn't I learn from others reading what I write?

Beta. A second. A support. Build a network with fellow writers and you'll find your perfect beta readers. Who knows? You may even become one for someone else.

So when you are next working on your writing, whatever medium, be it a short story or a novel or a script, think about who you might get to beta read for you. If you're at a point where you're stuck, or your project is gathering dust in your drawer, hand it over and ask for feedback. In the end, whether you choose to take in your beta reader's comments and advice is up to you.

Do you have any beta readers?

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