‘I finished reading it,’ the Beta Reader said, ‘I’m not sure it flows well. There are some parts that need revising or could be improved. I’ve left comments for you.’
Reading the comments, I think, this is fine, this is great, this is what I wanted. *cries*
Lesson 2 – Treat Beta Readers and Editors like wild deer.
Let’s start with Beta readers. Beta Readers are more precarious to deal with then Editors in my opinion. They’re generally people you know personally or at least met once. They’re either budding writers themselves or have read at least one big name author. This can be both an issue and a blessing. If they are a writer themselves then you have some common ground. You can swap work, share ideas or even collaborate. On the flipside though, you might feel a little protective of your work and them theirs. You might defend your work from their comments more rigorously then if a non-writer had commented.
It’s OK, you poured your heart and soul, and some of your afternoon beer, into your work. It’s a natural reaction, you’ve been hiding in this world you’ve created for so long that letting someone else in can be daunting. This is where the other type of Beta Reader comes in handy. They’re not a writer, but they are an adventurer. They’ve visited countless worlds, met countless protagonists and stopped countless bad guys. They will often know straight away if they are ‘feeling’ your work. If not, they won’t generally waste your time. Once again though, there is another side to this coin.
A well-travelled reader who is interested in your genre will do something all people do. They will compare your work to actual published authors. This can be extremely demotivating. You just spent nine months building a world from the ground up and they say, ‘Yeah, Branden Sanderson did this, it was a cool idea.’ Well shit. Better scrap your life’s work and start applying for jobs at Coles.
Wait, stop! Don’t delete it yet.
Just because it was compared to someone else doesn’t make it bad. It means you might just be on the right track. That published author must have done something right to be published. The fact your work is being compared to them could mean that you’re onto something too. Just be careful not copy them. Put your own flair and spin on it if you haven’t already.
Right, that’s done, you have work you’re comfortable sharing and a handful of Beta Readers from both types. Now what? Well, now you lay the ground rules. This is incredibly important. You don’t want your Beta Readers grammatically editing your work. It’s not their job and it’s important to make sure they understand that. This is where you want to let them know how harsh or real they can be with their feedback, all based on how well you can take criticism. I like to let my reader tear the work to shreds. I found it helped me thicken my skin for real reviews and helped me grow as an author. But everyone’s different.
You’ll also want to establish how their feedback needs to be presented. I have received some crazy formats. Although I did like the PowerPoint presentation, it can be unnecessary. It’s best just to get them to leave comments in the document itself, that way you can keep a digital copy for later reference. Try not to get verbal feedback from the Beta Readers, unless you are recording it or writing it down. It’s easy to forget everything someone tells you, especially if you’re asking questions back.
Don’t forget to check in with the Beta Reader. They might have some strange questions so let them know you’re approachable. This can also result in some great feedback as the reader will be more comfortable with you. As a rule of thumb, if the reader is asking about something and the answer isn’t in the book, then you should probably include it. Unless you omitted it on purpose. Just because you know it, that doesn’t mean the reader will and sometimes you just have to lay it out for them. I learnt this the really hard way.
Well, I didn’t expect to write this much on Beta Readers, so I’m gonna leave it there and pick up on Editors next week. I might also come back to Beta Readers a bit later because there is still so much to say. Don’t forget to like my Facebook page for updates on my new work, and I’m trying to be more active on Instagram but I’m not sure what to show you.