Monday, February 18, 2013
When I wrote my first novel (A Bridge of Her Own) I had no idea what a beta reader was. I had friends read it before it was released but otherwise I didn't really know what I was doing (most days still don't). I was introduced to the concept of beta reading when I saw a random tweet on twitter. The author, Christie Palmer (love her!) was looking for a beta for her novel Shadow Play.
I don't just love to read, I, if my house was on fire I'd be like one more chapter, love to read...So, this unknown beta reading tweet captured my curiosity. I responded to the tweet and shared some DMs with Christie. I'll admit I was a total dork about it. I Googled beta reading so I would have an understanding of what was expected. The article I read suggested reading the book twice, once for story line and the second time to pick up any issues you may see. I personally don't do that.
As an author I know what it feels like to wait (impatiently, I wait impatiently and have been known to stalk my beta readers) for feedback. So, when I beta read I send my feedback one or two chapters at a time. So far the authors I have worked with seem to appreciate this.
What do I comment on when I beta read something? I let the author know if a character description changes over the course of the book, like if a character is listed as having a certain hair or eye color in one scene but a different hair or eye color is listed in another scene. I also let the author know if any sections confuse me as a reader. One of the main things I catch as a beta reader is random word corrections in a sentence. For example, sign versus sigh. As a writer (ask my editor) I seem to type signed many times when I actually mean to say sighed. When I saw the same word mix up on a recent beta read I felt a little better, sometimes it's nice to know I'm not alone.
Beta reading, particularly for indie authors is such an important part of the process. Being able to provide a clean document to your editor will allow them additional time to polish your manuscript. For me, I know my biggest weakness will always be punctuation. I speak in run on sentences and that translates into my writing. I have a very patient and kind editor who puts up with me and am happy to pass along her info to anyone interested.
Moral of the story, if given the opportunity to beta read something understand that you are in the unique position to help mold the story into something better. If a section needs more detail tell the author, if a character doesn't feel real tell the author, if there is one random thing that would make the difference between liking or loving a book tell the author. Just remember to be diplomatic, I am still developing a thick skin when it comes to taking criticism, so when its constructive its much easier to take. That being said if you are ever interested in beta reading Twitter is a good place to find authors who may be looking.
Thanks for reading, feel free to share any other feedback you would love to see a beta provide...