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So, You Want to Write a Book Part II: Beta Readers

Congratulations! You did it! You finished what you think is the first official copy of your new novel! Your first draft is complete, you went back a second time and probably destroyed it and turned it into a second or maybe even third draft and you think it’s sounding pretty good. What do you do now? Good question! Part II of my series is all about the answer.

So, You Want to Write a Book – Part II

Call for Beta Readers

First and foremost, let’s address what a beta reader is. A beta reader is the first official group of readers for your novel. They are book lovers, maybe even writers themselves, but they don’t have to be. They can be family, friends, co-workers or teachers. The only two things your beta readers need to be are: passionate about books and 100% honest.

Beta readers will critique your story as a whole. They are going to dig into the plot, the flow, the character development and the story line. They will be your best assets. The one thing I will stress as mentioned above is that when choosing your beta readers, make sure they are not afraid to give their unbiased opinion. The more honest your beta readers are the better your novel will become.

It is through them that you will find out if you need to develop your characters more. You will understand if anything in your story needs to be elaborated on or removed completely. The best way I found to gain this feedback is to create a list of questions and send it to them with the manuscript (Find an example of mine here). They will read the list and have the questions in the back of their mind while they are reading.

How to Find Beta Readers

Your list of questions are created and it’s time to gather your group. My recommendation is to set up a Google Form submission and post a call in your blog and on your socials. Write a quick blurb summing up what your story is about so those interested can participate.

Keep your beta group small. I usually choose a maximum of 10 in a first come, first serve order. Any more than that and you’ll be overwhelmed.

Once you have your tribe selected, email them over your manuscript and list of questions. Give them a deadline. Two weeks should be plenty, but 3 weeks tops (unless it’s a massive 700 page novel).

Beta Reader Feedback

Once all of the feedback is received, look for consistencies in each person’s notes. You do not have to take everyone’s advice or input or take out everything they say, but if you see the same comments more than once, go back and take a look. Stand back from the author chair for a moment and sit in the reader’s while you mull everything over. It will help you better understand where they’re coming from and see if from the right prospective.

Then, guess what time it is? Yup, it’s editing time! Time to go through again and make any changes to your story you feel are necessary based on your beta group feedback.

In case you were wondering, this is only the beginning because next week we are going to dive even more into the editing piece. Part III is so eloquently titled finding the right editor. I’ll be talking about what to look for in your editor. What to make sure they do right off the bat and what types of edits I recommend. 

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