You’ve done it! You’ve finished up that manuscript after months of blood, sweat and fears. Now it’s time for a glass of bubbly and a little celebration, right?
For writers who are serious about seeing their work published and shared with the world, the real work is about to begin and it all starts with a beta reader.
Like your critique group buddies, beta readers offer authentic feedback about your writing.
However, beta readers — trusted fellow writers or industry professionals — often dig deep, really deep into a manuscript to catch its flaws and problems, unencumbered by the group dynamic or others’ opinions.
Let’s face it, we write our books in our heads. So, you may assume you’ve gotten your message across to the reader. But, if you haven’t done your job, a beta reader will tell you.
So, just what should a beta reader be able to tell you about your completed manuscript? A good beta reader will tell you:
–How well the characters resonate and work within the plot. They will be able to offer an honest assessment of how each character “reads” and whether or not their actions are in keeping with their motives.
–Where the holes are. Did you start off writing in one direction and then veer off onto an entirely different path? If so, a good beta reader will tell you where you dropped the ball and then give you ideas on how you can straighten up and fly right.
–Where the narrative is beyond believable. Even in the world of fantasy, the story needs to make sense and fit within a reasonable structure. If something feels way too far-fetched, a beta reader will tell you.
–If the information is delivered clearly. For non-fiction writers it’s crucial that your knowledge of a subject be shared in a way that is clear, concise and expertly written. A beta reader should tell you when they’re feeling lost or confused.
–When your descriptions leave a reader wanting more. If you haven’t done your job of conveying a scene through descriptive words and phrases, then the beta reader is going to have something to say about it.
You may have personal requests to submit to a beta reader — what parts are confusing? What did they feel when they read a particular passage?
Above all, be receptive to the feedback and use it to advance your skills.
Kerri S. Mabee