Why Be a Beta Reader?

One of the most important parts of my writing process is to find beta readers. Oh, there’s different types of beta readers and all of which I use for different reasons. They are indispensable in the process of getting your writing in shape.

YOUR STORY AND THE READER’S

Oh, yeah, there is always more than one side to a story. I’m sure you heard that one before. Well when it comes to writing there is the story you’ve written. The story that’s in your head, and the story that the reader reads.

The best part of reading a book opposed to seeing a movie is that no two readers play out the exact same story in their head when they read. Having people test read your writing shows you the things you forgot to tell them. Let’s you know when you tell too much. Picks out the times you forgot to show the story.

As an author, we know the story we want to tell in detail. And those parts that are our tough spots – places in the tale where we get too lazy to figure out. The reader picks up on them with clarity and reminds the author to fix those vague spots.

WHY WRITERS SHOULD BETA

In order to turn your caterpillar of a story into a butterfly, don’t skimp on the Beta Readers. I have several sets of beta readers that I use. I break them up into groups and my expectations for them are different. I also find that coming up with questions for that group or a checklist helps them to focus their reading and gives them permission to be nitpicky.

AUDIENCE – This is the age, gender, group that the book is written for. I usually get a hand full of kids to read my YA books. They usually flush out lags in the story, dialogue issues, believability and story likeability.

PEERS – These are fellow writers. This is my secret weapon. Other writer’s are really good at picking apart grammar issues, plot holes, character issues and structure problems. They are golden and definitely never let anything go out without running your stuff by this group of beta readers at least 2 times.

RANDOM READERS – This is usually adults I get to read my middle grade and young adult books. They don’t usually read YA, but can give me a good indication of hidden audiences. If the story is strong enough to transcend the intended group and go mainstream.

AUTHORS SHOULD BETA TOO

As an author, beta reading others’ work is invaluable. I’ve become a better writer, editor of my work and others through beta reading. Also, it is a give and take. I love doing beta switches with other authors and critique their work at the same time they are critiquing mine. It ensures that they have an invested interest in helping my story succeed as much as I do in theirs.

LM Preston, author of The Pack and Explorer X-Alpha, www.lmpreston.com and http://lmpreston.blogspot.com