What is beta reading? What are the benefits of being a beta reader? And how can it improve your writing?
What is beta reading?
Beta reading is the act of viewing another writer’s early drafts in order to offer constructive feedback about what works and what doesn’t. An author usually gives a story to a beta reader after the second draft and the story has been given a quick spelling and grammar edit. This is the point where the writer has labored over the story for an extended period of time and a fresh set of eyes is required to see through all the muck. Included, but not limited to, character believability, plot holes, and consistency.
It takes a lot of courage to be at a stage where you feel comfortable enough to let another person read your work. It also takes a very thick skin when you receive undesired feedback. It’s not always what you want to hear, but here’s the good news, it only makes your writing that much better. Would you rather people lie to you?
I’ve gone through the process of giving my work to beta readers and being a beta reader. The experiences were totally different, but both as enlightening to my writing abilities. I recommend participating in both practices as often as you can, which brings me to my next point.
What are the benefits of being a beta reader?
Now that you know what a beta reader is, I’m going to discuss how being a beta reader is beneficial to your learning and growth as a writer. These are a couple of my own personal growth examples.
I used the word “had” about 1,000 times in a draft. It took beta readers to reveal to me what words I was abusing. So, I learned how to write around that and developed a watchful eye when it comes to the repetition of words.
I had a nasty habit of telling things when they were happening, and not showing the readers. My manuscript felt very told and when I received that advice, I made it a mission to discover the differences between showing and telling, and when applications were relevant to serve the story. It made my writing more immersive and pushed my skill forward. HINT HINT. It makes your writing a lot less amateur.
Character development and plot were a big one. The most important parts of a story were lost and all over the place. A beta reader told me that painful truth, so I sat down, learned, and re-wrote a story that was more cohesive and believable. This turned my bland writing into writing that was better!
Lastly, spend time reading books on the craft of writing. Any educational opportunity whether it be a writer’s workshop, writer’s retreat, or a friendly writing critique, I recommend being a participant– help those who help you!
Advice for receiving beta feedback
- LISTEN TO YOUR READERS. If you’re under the idea that given feedback is invaluable and that the reader just “doesn’t know your characters well enough” please remove the blindfold over your eyes. Readers are more often than not right. That’s right, you heard me correctly. Sure, maybe they weren’t attentive enough to piece together all your subtle nuances, but if the average reader can’t make sense of your work, then somethings off. After all, scholars won’t be the ones to be picking up your book, the average reader will be buying it. LISTEN TO YOUR READERS.
- DON’T EXPECT PRAISE. You’re not always going to receive the words you want right off the heels of your new story idea. Believe me, everyone thinks that their story is the next BIG IDEA and it can be, but there’s a long road for it to get where it can be and your beta readers are here to help you navigate!
- STUDY THE CRAFT. If beta readers inform you that your story is boring, don’t let it discourage you from writing. Take the time to study the craft. I recommend reading Andrew J Chamberlain’s “The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook” or the infamous “Save the Cat! Writes a Novel” by Jessica Brody. These are two books that I pour through often and have taken my writing to new heights!
Are you looking for a beta reader? I’d love to help! Contact me!