Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beta reading part two - what betas have done for me.

Why would a person want to beta read? Seriously. I've been thinking about the amount of time it takes to not only read, but make comments in an entire manuscript, and I've only beta'ed YA so I can't imagine a book over 100K words. Not that I would mind that, just haven't beta'ed anything that long, ever.

Why would someone want to send their work to a complete stranger, or at most, someone met in a chat room?

What responsibilities does a beta reader have to the person who's work they're reading?

First let me sum up what a beta is for someone who isn't in the writing community and stumbles on this blog. A beta reader reads an unfinished manuscript (by unfinished I mean not published) and gives feedback.

I remember the first time I had someone beta something of mine, it was scary. I was afraid that my book sucked and was about to be told I suck. (You do realize that my self-worth is wrapped up in a book, right? Yeah, not.) And guess what. The reader told me how wonderful so many parts were, tore it up completely with line crits and then told me it really needed to be in first person. The other beta reader said I should drop it to MG. I realized that book was no where near ready to be unleashed on the world of publishing. It was technically the first book I'd written since the drivel from middle school and needed a major overhaul.

Since that first book, which is patiently waiting to reveal it's voice, I've gone on to complete another book that was so much better than the first. A beta pointed out a habit I had that was bad and gave me examples to fix it. I went through the entire mani and fixed it. And for the next mani I worked on - the problem was gone and I now write better because of it.

Another beta I have constantly replaces verbs with better verbs, plus she adds description to some characters. Her feedback makes my work stronger. I never think about what the character may be wearing and adding a simple, "tapped her pointy heel" tells a lot about a character.

Another beta lets me know when I switch to passive voice and leaves great comments about showing instead of telling.

If those betas wouldn't have pointed out those problems, I wouldn't have improved as a writer. With every manuscript I write, I get better and I will continue to get better. I am grateful to these betas for being honest. I am grateful to all of my betas for the feedback they give. And I've never had a beta that I would not ask to beta again, even though some of the feedback was hard to take. And some of the feedback needed to be ignored, but that is what betaing is about.

All of my betas have opinions and those opinions may differ from my vision of the book, but that is great. What would the world be like if everything was red? It would get old fast. The next few posts I do will be on betaing, because I believe it is an important part of writing and has been on my mind a lot. Tomorrow I blog at GotYA, don't know what about yet, but I'll pick up these thoughts on Wednesday and share with you what I do as a beta.

If you want to leave a comment about what your betas do for you, please do. have a Happy Father's Day!


  1. I love this post! And also my betas. They amaze me.

  2. Great post! and yes, I see just how much better I'm writing since I started beta-ing and having mine combed over in return! :)

  3. I don't have betas yet, but I'm in a crit group. I always worry that I won't have time for a manuscript exchange, yet this post is very persuasive. You've received wonderful feedback and had good experiences.

  4. sounds like you have some pretty awesome betas :) I love the whole beta thing and actually get a lot out of betaing for someone - although I do get a bit nervous - it's such a big responsibility and I want my crits to reflect the books vision, not my personal preference (or how I would write the story) if you get what I mean :)

  5. Nomes, I know exactly what you mean and I think a little of our personal preference will always carry over into our crits. And it is definitely a responsibility.

    Medeia, I wish you well in finding a beta. It can be a rewarding relationship with someone you've never met :)


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