Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why You Need Beta Readers

I'm not quite ready to come out of blog hibernation, but I wanted to say hello to everyone because it's been WEEKS. I've been reading some blogs but not commenting much, and I feel really out of the loop. Does anyone have exciting news they want to share?

So my question for today is: do you use beta readers?

I've been wondering how many of you take advantage of this WONDERFUL resource, because during my break I've been rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting some more.

After weeks of rewriting my manuscript stops looking like that story I thought was so fun and starts looking like a bunch of random words I threw together so I could make it to 40,000 words.

That's when I send the manuscript to my betas. They've only read it once or twice, so to them it doesn't look like a jumble of words, it looks like a book. They can see the places where it needs work and sometimes they can even help me figure out how to fix the problems. Their critiques are awesome and invaluable. I learn something different from every one of them. And while I don't take every little bit of advice they give me, I do use a most of it. They make me a better writer.

But that's not all they do.

They also let me read their manuscripts, and in some ways I learn more from reading their brilliant work, than I do from reading their comments on mine. I'm pretty sure I have some future bestsellers and award-winners among my beta group, seriously.

I know not everyone has this kind of experience. I've read horror stories about beta readers who are unhelpful, overly critical, or just rude. I know I'm lucky that I found my girls before they were snatched up by other writers in need of awesome betas. But here is the thing-- you can be lucky too if you try.

Post an invite on your blog. Trade manuscripts with a few different people and find the ones that you click with. These people will get your writing and you will enjoy reading theirs. There might be some people who don't work for you as beta readers. That's okay too. Just keep looking until you find someone (or several someones) who are perfect for you.

Their might be some genius writers out there who can make a book perfect all by themselves, but I'm not one of them and I'm willing to bet most of us could improve

Do you have beta readers? Do you need to get a few?

43 comments:

Candyland said...

I recently found two awesome betas after a couple of bad experiences. There are good ones out there...

Susan R. Mills said...

Welcome back, even if it's temporary. I couldn't survive this jungle withoug beta readers.

Dolly said...

I do think about it but I don't think I am ready for that yet. One issue is time - I barely have time to do my own writing and editing, let alone focus with quality on someone else's writing. But more it's just psychological. I know when the time is right for me, I will know it.

Matt said...

"After weeks of rewriting my manuscript stops looking like that story I thought was so fun and starts looking like a bunch of random words I threw together so I could make it to 40,000 words."

I'm so glad you wrote that, because I'm in exactly the same place. Please let someone think it makes sense.

I've used real life beta readers, but I've been thinking it's time to reach out to a wider audience. Once I finish my latest re-write I'm going to try to find some online.

Janna Qualman said...

I do! And you're right; they're priceless.

Hoping your break is uber productive, and that you return to us soon!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I have two beta buddies, Bethany (Aspirations) and Valerie (Something to Write About), who are a Godsend for me. Angela Ackerman (The Bookshelf Muse) has also generously critiqued my manuscript twice. She is brilliant! Without them, I think I would truly suck. You're right when you say things run together and stop being fun. It's also wonderful to have a fresh set of imaginations tackle our stories. Oh, the things that have been born of the casual, "what if..." and "maybe..." comments! :-)

Suzyhayze said...

Oh! I don't know what I'd do without mine! She has had recent success and I'm so excited because I feel like I'm in the work too. (She feels the same way about my books) So many emails and drafts, so much brainstorming and phone calls with interesting ideas. Moral support. A necessity. Thanks for this post!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Hey!

Just popping in myself. I say hooray to Betas like you. ;)

DL Hammons said...

I am a FIRM believer in beta readers! I find their input invaluable and rely on it heavily. But you are right, good ones are hard to find, and I don't mean the ones that just tell you what you want to hear.

Welcome back...no matter how brief! :)

Mary Campbell said...

It has been weeks - I saw your comment on someone's blog and came over to see if you had posted anything and you did. Right now I have an alpha reader while I'm struggling through my rough draft - she's there to let me know when I've gone astray. When I'm finally finished I will be sending it to some beta readers and I think I've found some good ones. I do beta for a few people as well and your right - I learn so much from reading and critiquing their stuff. Hope your getting lots of writing done.

Melissa said...

I joined my crit group in October and it's the best decision I've made since I started writing. My CPs give wonderful feedback and my story is so much better because of them.

paulgreci said...

I do use beta readers and do beta reading. I agree, it's an enriching two-way street! I hope to send my ms (i.e jumble of words) to a couple beta readers tomorrow if I finish this last read thru.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

I have the BEST betas :) My CPs give awesome feedback. I have three--and one of the greatest things is that they each have very different writing styles (sparse prose, lyrical prose, fun lighthearted prose... ok they're all fun to read, but you know what I mean) so I get to read all different styles and get really effective feedback from each of them in their specific feedback giving ways!

Aubrie said...

Welcome back! My beta readers keep me grounded and let me know when I've taken a wrong turn! I don't know what I'd do without them!

Jen said...

I had never even heard of a beta reader until I started blogging!

My news: I finished my first draft!!! The first one ever!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I have the best betas in the world. I think I'm even luckier than you because I have one really awesome one that you don't have. Her name is Natalie. And no, you can't take her from me. ;)

All of my betas are future best sellers too!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Great to hear from you, Natalie! I've just found my first beta reader TODAY! How's that for a relevant post? I don't have anything for him to read yet, as I've gone back to outlining and just now starting the second first draft :P But I'm looking forward to working with him on our MSs.

Happy writing, sista!

Sandy Shin said...

I don't have a beta reader for my works, but from all that I've heard about them, I'd definitely try to seek one when I'm ready with my WiP. I'm glad you've found yours! :]

Vonna said...

I couldn't imagine sending out my ms without having my betas read it first. After drafting, redrafting and drafting some more, I need their fresh eyes. They are wonderful. And I agree; I learn so much from reading their mss, too.

L.T. Elliot said...

Betas are invaluable! I'm glad you love yours so much and that you're seeing the good in your own story. =]

Stephanie Thornton said...

I've had wonderful beta readers- they catch things I never would have seen and don't let me be lazy with things I know needed fixed.

Enjoy your blog hibernation! I'm about ready to take one myself.

Tracy said...

That's great that you ladies have worked out so well. I remember when MeganRebekah put out the call for the Wordstringers group, but I wasn't "in the market" for new betas at the time. I really wish I had been able to, but the timing just wasn't right I guess. I'll be looking for some new ones very shortly though!

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Yes and I've loved my experience.
~ Wendy

Shelley Sly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darlyn said...

This post really reached out to me since I've been looking for a beta reader lately. It gave me a couple of ideas on how to find one. :)

I'm glad you found cool beta readers. Good luck with your manuscript.

L. T. Host said...

Betas are AWESOME. They are like air to me. I write something, I think it's okay, I send it to my betas and they either agree or tell me it sucks and why. Either way, I'm not crazy or inflated, and I get some good feedback on my writing.

Marybeth Poppins said...

I'm having a hard time fishing myself out of blog hibernation as well. I've just gotten so used to staying away from the computer. It's kinda nice.

I love my beta readers! They have been a tremendous help!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I'm also struggling to break away from my own hibernation. I've been preparing to query, and blogging takes so.much.time.

I have 3 critique partners, two of which I work with more regularly. But I also have a whole slew of beta readers who give me their general impressions. For betas I try to find people who are particularly interested in reading the genre, as they are my target audience and I'm mostly interested in seeing how they respond. My CPs are all writers--and amazing at that--so their critiques are invaluable.

I agree it's really essential to find others to read your work before you send it out. For the critique and for the encouragement.

BTW, now a follower ;) Great post.

Sarah Skilton said...

Hey there, nice to see your post! I definitely use Beta readers. They're invaluable. They really help me shape my thoughts and consider stronger paths. I have four I trust and rely on, and I'm hoping to expand my circle. My work doesn't feel finished until they've seen it and given me their notes and comments.

And I agree that reading other people's work --published or unpublished -- is the best way to get better!

Tamika: said...

Miss you Natalie! It's so good to hear you are making great progress!

Jamie D. said...

Glad you're enjoying your hibernation, lonely though it is. :-)

I have both alpha and beta readers, though just recently realized that. LOL A few people have critted my first draft work, and I'll be sending out revisions pretty soon. It definitely helps to have a second (& third) set of eyes looking things over...amazing how much they catch that I wouldn't...

Jessie Oliveros said...

I found one of my CP's on your blog when you had a like post. Way to be useful.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Natalie, I don't have any official betas, but some awfully sweet writer friends who are always there in a pinch and one in particular, Mary at Play off the Page, who has been my beta many times. I guess I have them, just not in an official capacity. But outside thoughts are helpful, definitely. Glad you've found such an awesome group. I hear it can make a huge difference.

Erica Chapman said...

Hey there! Nice to see you ;o)

Yes, I have 3 awesome Beta Readers and a couple in the wings, when I'm done with this thing. I couldn't live without them, they keep me grounded. Sooo important, and I do learn a lot by reading theirs as well. They are all good at different things, so I can see the variation ;o)

Enjoy your time and good luck with the MS ;o)

Linda Kage said...

Dude, I have a beta reader for my beta readers! Seriously, I can't send anything to my crit group without letting my sister read it over first. Betas rock.

VR Barkowski said...

I'm a critique junkie. No matter how many groups/individuals read my stuff, I still like to put it out there for more comments. I always come away learning something, even if I make no edits.

As for betas (and I consider betas those folks who read a completed work), they're essential. Must admit I've had difficulty finding non-writing, non-friend/family betas. While it's important to hear from other writers, it's also important to have non-writers who aren't vested in your work give it the once over.

Voidwalker said...

In my situation, I have not needed them quite yet. I'm planning on soliciting for some once I get my first draft wrapped up on my WIP.

Lola Sharp said...

New here, from my friend Nicole's blog.

And, I just brought you up to 200 followers! (Congrats)

YES. I have 1 alpha (husband, he's excellent at catching plot snags), and 3 good betas. They're invaluable.

Happy weekend,
Lola

Tahereh said...

i think beta readers are SO SO important. i've always wanted some, but i think i'm just too shy to ask. somehow i managed to find an agent without them, but.. i dont know. i think it was a lucky fluke.

beta readers are invaluable treasures.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Hi!! Me again :P I wanted you to know I left you a little award on my blog today :))

Terri Tiffany said...

Yes I have them and what a difference their input makes:))

Amy Tate said...

Just the gals in my critique group and I've had a couple of historians review it for accuracy.

Jessica Hill said...

I don't currently have an beta readers; I don't think I'm quite ready for them yet. But I'm definitely going to try and find a couple when the time comes. I'm sure I'll need them!