Beta Readers

Woman reading

It’s harder to learn to edit your writing than it is to learn to write. As a young writer it’s important to enlist the help of a few well-chosen beta-readers to look at your manuscript with fresh eyes and point the finger at what works and what doesn’t, to help you make improvements.

The best time to use beta readers is after you’ve written the story and are in the process of editing it. Sharing a work in progress is a distraction for a writer. The energy you waste speaking about what you haven’t finished is better spent in the story instead.

And then there’s always the chance than the feedback is negative, which can be discouraging and might even make you give up. Rating literature is tricky. It’s easy for others to misjudge your story, especially while it’s in the first drafts. So I don’t believe in using beta readers before the story is written down.

There are exceptions though. If you have someone who is close to you and who enjoys reading, whether he or she is a spouse, a parent, a brother, or a friend, then you have an ideal beta reader. I don’t have anyone like that, but it’s understandable, since I live in a shadowy attic and write in a foreign language.

“Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.” ― Samuel Butler

It’s impossible to be impartial when it comes to your writing. That’s why it’s good to have a few friends who can help you out by reading what you’ve written and telling you what doesn’t work. The more literature I read, the more I become convinced that literary genius is not necessarily exuberant creativity but a consistent faultlessness.

Beta readers should love reading. They should like your writing enough that they will approach it with respect and offer valuable advice. Maintaining a blog helps one find such persons, I am told. I have certainly found a few, and they will be the first to meet Oliver Colors, the moonbeamed painter.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to send a (digital) manuscript to readers who are writers themselves, as their opinion will be highly influenced by the style and genre they have embraced. If a professional opinion is needed, then an editor is the right choice, one who you don’t know and who doesn’t know you.

“When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” – Neil Gainman

While I look forward to the feedback my beta readers will give me, I will take it with caution. Readers bring to the stories they read their own ideas, and sometimes their prejudices also. As a writer you must have confidence in your writing and believe in it, and not change it easily. You must pick up your sharp pen and poke at the naysayers until they offer constructive criticism, or run away.

Who’s the first person you share your writing with?

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25 thoughts on “Beta Readers

  1. Nice post. You are so right about the feedbacks we get. I have to say all the paintings are really pretty you use in your posts are really pretty. ❤

  2. You are right for those that want to venture into book writing but for people like me that just want to say what I mean, it is very important, I wouldn’t use the pre-reader. I have no plans to go into any professional writing. I am a business degree that does not have the USA essay victimhood.
    But thanks for the tip.

      1. I am not sure what you mean here so I will take a couple stabs. My way has proven very successful for me so I have no reason to change it. As far as a degree I really have lost respect for a lot of them. The same degrees are guilty of much. All degrees everywhere. A dual phd down could have been a mass murderer or terrosit so why would I be afraid or even worried by a degree? Bitter, anger all those negative human emotions setting in destroys all of it behind what the public expects from the DEGREE. Degrees have suffered bias and cliche with everything else in the world.

          1. Well I said I don’t understand so please explain. I obviously didn’t get the right stab. You are in a “Hat”. Me or you still worried over something? You and perhaps a new hat?

  3. I used a handful of beta readers for my first novel, all of whom gave me invaluable advice. Now that I’m on my second, I find that the best person to read my work in progress and give me feedback is my awesome agent!

          1. Vincent, if you’re serious about getting published in English, you will want to try getting an agent. They are unbelievably helpful and most are super nice. They’ll get you book deals, they’ll encourage you when you’re down, and they’ll help build your career. And yes, 99% of them are female. Once you’re done with your novel, check out AgentQuery.com, which has all the information you’ll need to snag yourself an agent. I’m always free for a chat if you want more advice! 🙂

  4. Yes. This reminds me of Stephen King’s advice in “On Writing.”

    It amazes me that you write in your non-native tongue, by the way. *jessica tips her hat to the hatted boy.*

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