Forum: Beta Reading

When our heroine decided to look into the topic of beta reading, dear Reader, she had no idea how difficult it would be to find resources. Oh, there are plenty of hits in the old search engine, but they’re almost all to do with fanfic beta reading. Nothing wrong with fanfic if that’s your genre, but I was looking for information pertaining to the general application of beta readers.

That said, you might be surprised that my first link is to a fanfic site called KatSpace, by Kathryn Andersen. Please don’t reject this one out of hand because of that. It’s titled simply Beta-Readers and it speaks to the process well. It also has some important points about how to choose a beta reader and how to be one.

Literary Rambles also addresses the question in What is a Beta Reader & Where Do I Find One? Casey McCormick gives good insight into how a beta reader helps a writer. She also gives good ideas on how to, you guessed it, find beta readers. At the end, she turns the question to her readers and their comments give more ideas.

Beth Bernobich wrote a compelling essay on her blog called Alpha and Beta… which details the responsibilities and qualities of good alpha readers as well as beta readers. Moreover, she speaks to the subject of critiquing styles. This is a good read for anyone with questions about the process.

One of the most common suggestions for finding beta readers is to join a writers group. Holly Lisle has an article on her site titled The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, or How to Choose a Writers Group. It’s a good and thorough look at the subject. Be picky about what group you join by making sure it suits your needs. Holly gives some ideas on how to do just that.

I’ve had the honor of reading for others. It’s an exciting role in the process of birthing any form of writing. It’s critical to make a good match between writer and beta. Without that, the process falls apart. It offers nothing to the author which will improve the writing and ends up frustrating all involved. Trusting instincts and knowing how to sift through the advice are abilities that some have naturally. I expect that all, even they, improve those skills with experience.

As I get deeper into the revisions of my current novel, I’m aware that the time is coming for beta reading. Nervous? You bet I am. Eager? That, too. How do you feel about the beta process, either being the beta or using the advice?

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6 thoughts on “Forum: Beta Reading

  1. Karen Collum March 17, 2010 at 7:57 am Reply

    Funny you should address this topic today – I’ve just sent off an email to a writer friend asking her to be a beta-reader for me when I finish the edit on my novel. As I’ve been writing and editing, I’ve been thinking about who I would like to give me some feedback in the final stages of the editing process. I’ve decided to get a cross-section of writers and non-writers (I want some people to read like a reader, not like a writer) and samples from across my demographic (it’s aimed at the 25-45 year old age group). I also want to have people who are familiar with my genre and those that aren’t (it happens to be a Christian science fiction novel so that narrows the field a little!). I’ll be looking into the best way to make the whole process work as the time draws closer, so thanks for the links. I will indeed be needing them!

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    • Jessica Rosen March 17, 2010 at 8:15 am Reply

      Karen, thanks so much for sharing how you’re making your decisions about betas. It’s a terrific example of what a helpful process it can be if the writer takes the time to do it well. I especially like that you’re including readers of other genres. That’s something important to me as well. People who read like readers, not writers, another good idea.

      Thanks for taking the time for such an informative comment.

      Take care,
      Jess

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  2. Jason March 18, 2010 at 3:58 am Reply

    I agree with Karen that this is a good topic you’ve brought up, one that doesn’t get much attention or thought put into it as others. I’m a bit beyond the beta-reader stage with the first book in my series, and I found it difficult to get the kind of responses I was looking for. Most people are well-meaning, but not all have the sort of analytical mind or time that allows them to enmesh themselves in someone else’s work and really dig deep into the details. I guess my point is you’ll have some constructive thinking to do to stretch their comments deeper into your work. But hopefully you get lucky and find the right people!

    Definitely let me know what your work is about if you get a chance!

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    • Jessica Rosen March 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm Reply

      Hi, Jason. Thanks for stopping in and leaving your comment. You’re right, it doesn’t get much attention. I do wonder why, though. Is it the nervousness that can surround it? Hard to say, really.

      You raise good points about not only finding the right mix of people, but analyzing their input for your best use. Not everyone’s cut out for beta reading, at least not the first time at bat. I like to think that many can learn to be good betas if they’re well read and have the right mentors giving them the reinforcement they need.

      Thanks for the interest in my work. I’ll share more about it as it comes closer to being ready for reading. It’s a group of stand alone romance/thriller novels loosely related as they’re set in the same fantasy world. Cross-genre much? I also write Flash Fiction, which I post on this blog.

      Take care,
      Jess

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  3. rahmama March 28, 2010 at 12:14 am Reply

    Thanks for posting. I’m glad to see someone addressing this issue. I didn’t know how hard it would be to find someone to critically read my book. It’s a lot to ask because most people are busy. I’ve not had much luck so far.

    Do you ask friends you know and trust? What happens if there feedback just doesn’t work for you? What then? I will check out the links you’ve posted and see what else I can glean.

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    • Jessica Rosen March 28, 2010 at 12:18 am Reply

      Hi, rahmama, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. It can be very difficult to find anyone interested in being a beta, much less the right fit. I’ve found that being available as a beta for someone whose work you admire helps. They return the favor (much to my nervousness).

      As for input that doesn’t work for you, I stick to the old adage, “Examine all you have been told and discard what offends your soul.” If it doesn’t fit your vision, it’s probably not right – but don’t reject out of hand until you genuinely look at it. Just my thought on the subject. I’m sure there’s plenty in the links that will help. They did for me.

      Take care,
      Jess

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