Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beta Readers Galore!

Hello out there in the Blogosphere!  It's been a while, I know! Sorry about that...

I have been hard at work on revising/editing SOLSTICE, writing new scenes for TIMELESS, and exploring new ideas for LOVESTRUCK.  A lot of work for a busy teacher in the month of May!  Also, my characters have been strangely quiet the past few days.  Ever have one of those weeks where absolutely NOTHING is coming to you.  It's been one of those weeks.

So, silent treatment aside, I wanted to discuss Beta Readers for a minute.  When I first started writing my first novel, I was terrified of the thought of someone reading my manuscript.  How about you?  Then when I finished it, I was itching for feedback.  So, I let my family and friends read it.  They ALL loved it, of course.  I do value their opinion, and I don't think they are wrong, but they don't see the mistakes that other writers see in the manuscript.

Then, on the YA Rebels (Yeah, they are the bomb, right?), Jenn mentioned having a beta reader read her manuscript to get it ready to query.  And I thought to myself: What the freak is a beta reader?  So, I went on some fantastic websites like Absolute Write, Query Tracker, and Writer's Digest, and learned that a beta reader is another writer who reads your manuscript for the sole purpose of finding flaws in the plot, characters, editing, etc...Then, the fear set in.

What if my manuscript is crap?  What is my manuscript has so many holes, I can't fix it?  What if...What if...What if?  Then, I met a few writers who seemed very interested in my story through my query letter and sample scenes on Writer's Digest, and through a lot of dialogue, I came to really value their opinions because they liked my story and still found places where I could improve.  They even wanted to get my opinion, which shocked me because I was very new to writing novels myself.

So, long story short, I have four fantastic beta-readers who I share my writing with who have truly made my manuscript so much better.  I have writer friends now that I can go to when I'm stuck, or need a writer's ear to hear a new scene, and generally talk about writing.  I love them and couldn't see writing any new manuscripts without their very generous advice and expertise. 

Please, before you send out anything:  GET A BETA READER!! 

But, be cautious.  Here are some tips that I found useful when finding my beta readers:

1) Have many conversations with them first.  Get to know their personalities to see if they are a fit for you.
2) Share small bits first to see what kind of feedback you get.
3) Never send your whole manuscript to a beta reader at a time.  This is a HUGE NO-NO for me. 
4) Beta Reading goes 50/50.  You send something and they send something.  It works best that way!
5) Have a schedule:  Send chapters/Critiques due every Sunday or something like that to keep everyone on the up and up!
6) Always have a comment sheet (list of questions) that summarizes their thoughts of the chapter. 
7) Be positive, but be brutally honest as well.  We don't need more sugar coating evaluations of our manuscripts.  We need real critiques!
8) Find a writer that is close to your own writing style or interests.
9) Give Suggestions, not demands.
10) Remember it is all about the writing!!!

This is kind of a long post, but I am glad I had a few seconds to write it.  Thanks for reading, and leave a comment on your own beta reading experiences!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Melissa,

    Great post. You know, I had no idea you had a blog until I saw one of your tweets on twitter. Go figure. I'm sort of slow, lol. But, anyway, you really nailed the beta reader fears. Great advice !