Why I Need a Beta Reader...and So Do You...
I was asked this question at ACFW conference by a fabulous author who critiqued my first twenty pages and offered loads of good advice.
I had to answer her question with "no."
I have wonderful critique partners. I'm fortunate to have both an online critique partner and a face-to-face group full of astute critiquers. These people had all offered help that was invaluable.
Then there were the people who read parts of my story. Family. My husband. Friends. A member of my church. These people offered mostly their support. I am so blessed to have such encouragement.
Simple details. An opening of a door that didn't close. A cat that appeared out of nowhere.
Such details are in the writer's head and in my case I thought my on the page explanation was all present.
Deborah Raney explained that oftentimes other writers will miss these details as they write and as they critique. That's one reason why its so important to have beta readers, not to replace our critique partners but in addition to them.
If you are involved in the computer world at all, you are probably very familiar with the term "beta testing." My husband is an avid gamer and has been excited to be involved in beta tests for several computer games. In exchange for free play, he goes to the forums and writes about all the "bugs" he detects. Most of the people testing these games are just your average game player and have no inside knowledge of the software.
Hence the beta reader. He or she is willing to provide the service of testing your manuscript to let you know where the bugs are.
- Are your characters realistic? Are their motives believable?
- Does your plot move logically from one event to the next?
- Are there unexplained holes? For instance, in my case a character closed the door but hadn't opened it.
- Have we left out details that are necessary to the plot?
- Network, network, network. If you blog, its possible a blog reader might be a good fit. I am just exploring the world of LinkedIn, but it offers networking groups that might be excellent for finding beta readers.
- Sites like Critique Circle can be a great way to find those willing to read your work.
- Join a book club. What better way to find those who love to read than joining a book club. (Since my book club consists largely of my family this would not be a good fit for me).
- Think of college friends, MOPS members, moms of those in your children's activities, those you chat with at the gym. There are so many possibilities.
- Think target readership. This is a biggie. Who is the audience of your book? Where might you find these people? Hanging out at the local gaming shop? Going to bowling league after all the kids are in bed? These might be the perfect places to find a future beta reader.