Mad Love to Your Beta Reader

 

Beta reading is hard.

Beta reading is awesome.

Beta reading is something I love and hate, both having to do it and having it done to my books.

What is a beta reader? Someone who reads a work in progress with a critical eye to find plot holes, character weaknesses, typos, or whatever you want them to look for. They can be readers, editors, or other writers, it’s all up to the author to decide the type of reader and therefore, critique they want to receive. I like using a mix of readers and other writers for my betas. Why? Because writers read differently than readers do, at least I think so. Jenny Hansen had an excellent post about this some time ago. It’s worth a read ~ make sure you peruse the comments as well. Interesting stuff there.

Recently I gave my first draft to my friend Nicole to beta read and she ripped it up. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty when I started getting texts from her that began with, ‘Don’t hate me…’

The funny thing is, I could never hate Nicole ever, ever, ever. Β When she rips my book apart I love her even more. Why? Because everything she marked was spot on. I don’t know if I would’ve spotted the trouble spots on my own. Maybe after a few revisions, but maybe not.

Does it hurt to see her circles, dashes, and comments? You betcha. In a sick way, I welcome the pain. Of course, a shot of Godiva chocolate liqueur helps. Why do I like the marked up pages?

I fervently believe critiques we get on our work helps to make the book stronger. The caveat to this is the critiques should be of the constructive kind. I’d rather have Nicole rip apart my work before it gets published than have a cranky reviewer nail me on Amazon. At least with Nicole’s critiques I have the time to take a break, step away from the MS and think about how to fix things.

Which is what I’m doing now. Thinking, napping, napping a little more, and stewing her ideas in my mind.

After a few rounds of revisions I’ll give the book to three other Betas to get new perspectives on the work. For now though, I am totally in love with what Nicole has done for me. If any of you need an awesome Beta, I’m happy to share. Send me a message for Nicole’s email. Seriously, she’s good. A little too good. πŸ˜‰

Jami Gold had a few excellent posts on Beta readers, if you haven’t read them yet you should. They are here and here.

What do you think? Do you use Beta readers? Have you ever been one? Do you prefer critique groups? Share with us! We love to know other’s processes into the creative fields.

Just for fun, here’s a little Big Bang Theory humor. I’m fairly certain I’ve said this to the Hubs at one point or another. The funny part is around the 1:05 mark.

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69 thoughts on “Mad Love to Your Beta Reader

  1. I am supposed to be beta reading for a blogger friend and haven’t started because I have been so busy!
    It is hard for me to generalize, but from what I have read many writers hate rewriting because they feel WIP is just the way they want it. Most are well-educated in the craft and know all about it.
    I am not coming in from just left field, but the cheap seats and don’t “own” any of my writing. I really am open to rewrites, cutting, ripping and shredding! In the beginning (last year) it wasn’t that way for me since I hadn’t really done a lot of typing and I was soooooo slow! It took me forever just to type something and I wasn’t even that familiar with the “cut” and “paste” key! Hahaha! Now I have huge sections that I may cut completely from my book! We’ll see!
    It’s a process, but I love it!

    • Beta reading takes time to do a good, thorough job. It’s fun to get to read other’s work before it’s published, but you have to devote some serious hours to it. I don’t know about those writers who hate rewrites, but I don’t think I’ll ever know everything about the craft of writing. I’m always learning something new. Being open to new ideas is a great way to go, Susie. In the end, it’s your writing so you always have final say, but you just never know when someone will give you a gem of information that will take your writing to a whole new level. Keep on writing, my friend!

  2. Great post! I love my beta readers, too, they always catch stuff that I thought was clear but isn’t, or make suggestions that solve problems I didn’t realize where there.

    • Warm fuzzies are great for building your ego, but not at the extent of the work. I’m totally with you, Bill. I want to improve my work, not stroke my ego. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Of course I love my beta readers! I love them so much, I give them props in my acknowledgments. Sometimes they’re harsh, but it’s for my own good and I appreciate that. They help me write a book that’s better than my best – who could complain about that?

    PS I was on a panel at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and I was a little surprised that some of the folks didn’t know what a “beta reader” was. Once we explained, many of them had used them, they just didn’t know there was a name for it!

    • Exactly! No minx mittens for us, please. I love how you phrase that ~ They help me write a book that’s better than my best. Words to live by, my friend. That’s so cute about the Santa Barbara writers. What were they calling them? Just readers? Honestly, I never heard of beta testing until the Hubs said it one day. Hence, the Big Bang video. Then when I heard someone refer to a beta reader, I made the connection, otherwise I might not have known either. Thank goodness for engineers. πŸ™‚

  4. I totally agree! My mentor nicely ripped apart one of my short stories at our last critique group meeting. There were three new people there who just sat, eyes wide and jaws agape lol. My attitude is that I’m more concerned about hearing how to make what I’ve written better than hearing a false “how wonderful.” I’ve told my mentor there’s no way I can repay her for the intensive class in writing she’s been giving me except to thank her publicly in my books πŸ™‚

    • Oh my! Those poor newbies. I bet they went home with slight shakes. Public acknowledgment is indeed a great way to repay your mentor. I find a really nice bottle of wine works well, too.

    • Just remember that any critiques they can give you aren’t meant as a personal attack. They are just trying to get the book as great as they know it is. I’m always flattered when a beta finds something and thinks it’s important enough to bring to my attention. I’m kind of weird that way, but if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t say anything, right?

  5. Beta readers are necessary. The more savage they are with your manuscript, the better for you in the long term, so the bloodier your work comes back to you, all the better πŸ™‚ And there’s no law that says you have to agree with every remark or criticism.

  6. I love my betas, even when they rip my ms to shreds and leave me huddled in the corner rocking and staring at the wall as if all the answers for fixing my WIP will come from the plaster. I’ve always tried to be a fair beta (I point out things I don’t think worked, as well as things I loved), but I’ve had one once whose only comment was “I hate their names”. Well I’m sorry, but I hate your critique and won’t be using you again πŸ˜‰

    A good beta is priceless!

    • That is such a cute image of you, Rebecca. I tell my family I need to go huddle in a quivering mass of goo. We do what we’ve gotta do.

      I like to think I’m a fair beta reader, but sometimes I can be harsh without trying. Names rarely bother me in books, I’m curious now what your beta thought of the rest of your MS. What a goof.

      If you ever need Nicole, she’s good.

  7. I guess the only difference between betas and critique partners are betas read the entire manuscript at once, and crit partners go through chapter by chapter with you. I work with critique partners, and the experience is just as valuable. Sometimes my stuff sucks and the critter helps me fix it; other times my stuff is decent, but the critter helps me make it rock. I’d be afraid to publish without their input!

    • I think crit partners are much more invested in the story overall as well. They are in on the WIP from near the beginning so they have a skewed perspective. Betas get the MS as if it’s a finished book and everything is new and shiny to them.

      I love that you call them critters. I think I need to use that!

      Now, when will we get book 2 of Dreamwalker? πŸ˜‰

      • I suppose that’s true, but I always try to apply initial feedback to the entire manuscript before continuing to send chapters, so by the time we get a third into it, the rest is much closer to a final draft.

        I can’t take credit for that, I saw other people call them critters. πŸ˜‰

        Lol. Is no one excited for Elemental Magic 3 this fall? πŸ˜›

      • Of course we are, Darlin’ but since I already knew it was coming out, I thought I’d nudge you for Dreamwalker. Oh heck, I just love all of your writing so it doesn’t matter which book you come out with, I’m reading it!

  8. First, I’m glad you don’t hate me! 😊. Second, I’m so harsh because I know what an amazing writer you are!! I feel honored that you are including me in your journey to being published ( which I believe is right around the corner!!!). I can’t wait for the world to meet Taryn and Rhoanne and with a bit of polish, Liam and Elizabeth. I absolutely love to read and if the story is believable and the characters engaging, I’ll read pretty much any genre. You definitely have the rare talent of making the reader believe. Thanks so much for letting me be a small part of your creative process. You rock and I can’t wait to see your books on the shelves at Barnes and Noble!!!

    • You are so freaking cute, Nicole. As I publicly stated, I could never hate you. The fact that you can be honest with me while kicking my ass in the gym is doubly awesome. When I’m published, there will lots of celebrating for both of us. This has been such a fun journey and I’m so glad you’re here with me to enjoy the ride.

  9. FAB post darlin’ and I can’t wait to get to Beta Reading point! I think like you, I will always opt for someone who is brutally honest with me. It only makes me a stronger writer. When I was studying journalism in college/university, our professors TORE our stuff to shreds. And it was always hard to bear because you always thought “there…I’ve mastered it…surely”! But in the end, all that did was toughen our skin and help us grow and expand as writers.
    Long live the betas and good ol’ fashion critique!

    • You’ll get there! When you do, I want to beta for you. πŸ˜‰

      I had a Lit professor tell me once I was so far out there I needed therapy. I took it as a compliment. She was an ass. πŸ˜‰

      Now, get writing your super fabulous chick lit that will keep us in stitches. Then, when you get it made into a movie, I want to go to Hollywood with you!

  10. If given a choice, I’ll take a Simon Cowell-like beta-reader over one who puts things gently. I know what you mean by welcoming the pain. πŸ˜‰ Then once we get feedback, it’s important to take it all in stride and with a grain of salt. I think most writers know that it’s all pretty subjective. Asking lots of questions (the reader and the writer) helps, as does trusting our instincts…

    Thanks for this post, Tameri. I can’t wait to read your books one day!

    • Excellent advice, August. It is all subjective and not every critique must be addressed or changed, etc. It’s just someone opinion and maybe they were having an off day. You just never know.

      Thank you so much for the support!

  11. LOL! at the clip. Great post!

    And I agree with you that I have a sick desire to be ripped apart by those I respect. It’s the only way I’ll know where I need to improve. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for linking to my posts!

    • Your posts are awesome. I’ve sent the one on how to choose a beta to several friends since that seems to be a question many writers have. Thanks for all of your great writing advice!

  12. I stumbled upon this just as I was feeling serious beta-love. I have a story that’s had 20 rejections, but with personal letters from editors like Margot Livesey and Colleen Donfield, so I knew it was worth saving… but had read it so many times myself I’d gone numb to it. I’d pretty much given up until a beta reader responded with the exact comments needed — willing to rip out entire sections, but with surgical accuracy to what it was I was trying to accomplish. A good ripping like that is so freeing.

    Great post!

    • Hey Elissa, I’m so glad you stumbled over here. Personal letters are sweet! I’m so glad this story has a happy ending for you, now you can reinvent the WIP and hopefully get letters from the editor with a nice contact attached!

  13. Good info, Tameri. In any endeavor, it’s always best to get some outside feedback. We get too close to our projects and self-evaluation can only take something so far.

    I love the Big Bang clip – it fit so perfectly with this post.

    • Aw, thanks MJ. You are so right. After working on a novel for so long, we tend to read the parts we might’ve cut out, but a beta doesn’t know they were there and can find the holes we were filling. Not that I’ve done that or anything. πŸ™‚

  14. As fate would have it, I am using betas for the very first time as we speak. My publisher closed up shop suddenly, so I am being forced to go fully indie. Thanks for your perspective on this as I learn this new part of the business of writing.

    -Jimmy

    • Hey Jimmy! Good for you giving your work to beta readers. It’s terrifying and exciting all at the same time. That’s such a bummer about your publisher, though. This might be a sign from the Gods something better is on the horizon. Best of luck to you moving forward.

  15. I do love having some beta readers. But from some of the things I’ve seen and read, I think authors have to be careful – or their story may wind up being so different from where they started that they won’t recognize it. There is truth to the saying, ‘Those who can do…those who can’t criticize.’

    So far it’s been a good experience for me…mostly. Most often I find I get nailed on style issues. Sometimes I change it, sometimes…if I think it will negatively impact the scene…I won’t. For the most part though, I agree. While warm fuzzies are great for the ego, PLEASE tell me what you have a problem with. πŸ™‚

    • That’s an excellent point, Kristy. That’s where I think being confident in your story and having a bit of thick skin definitely comes in handy. I re-wrote chapter one of my fantasy 29 times in attempts to please my writing group. Duh! That was the lamest thing I ever did and it taught me a huge lesson. It’s important to remember some of the things betas mark just might need to stay for the story’s sake. In the end, trust your gut. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  16. Betas are the best friends! They have to swear to be honest and never ever ever beat around the bush. That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, we like it! They help us to be better than we ever imagined we would be! Great post!

    • Honesty is so important. You are so cute with your, what is that, 70’s or 80’s song? I’m thinking 70’s. Man, I’m old! Now it’s stuck in my head. Betas really do makes us stronger, better, faster writers. (See what I did there? I brought in a 70’s icon image to go with the music ~ Six Million Dollar Man if you weren’t sure). I’m such a dork.

  17. I’ll be using betas. I have two lined up and would love to include your friend, Nichole! I’m sure it will need a good deal of ripping to be the best it can. I know the comments will sting at first, but the MS will be better for it.

    • I’m so excited your book is getting beta ready. That means it’s that much closer to being published! I’ll send you Nicole’s email address. If I wasn’t slammed already I’d love to beta for you since I absolutely adore your genre.

      • Aw, thanks, Tameri! I’ll have plenty of future books for you to chose from. πŸ™‚ Yes, I’d love Nicole’s email, thanks!

  18. Hi, Tameri, I have to agree with you. I think of it as like dentistry: painful but necessary. It is painful when someone says “this scene is unrealistic because…(whatever the reason is), or “this character is behaving in a juvenile way” and you realize you based the character’s reaction to a situation on something from your own life!! In my case I paid for several professional manuscript assessments from experienced authors or editors as the book developed. So it hurt money wise and ego wise. One catch is people who say they’ll do it for you and than can’t /don’t sustain the interest to actually do it. a good rule is that is <> people say something doesn’t work, believe them.

      • That’s a good point – if it’s only one person out of four who take issue with a specific problem it might not need to be looked at. If more than one, take a close look at it.

        You know, the dentist scenario kind of works here. I love my dentist, but don’t necessarily look forward to my visits with him. By the time I leave I’m really happy I went.

  19. Yes, it’s a love/hate thing, but I so need it. It’s so hard to get distance from my stories–even when I set them aside for a time. But over time, I get better with receiving the critiques–slowly building up my sensitive skin–ha ha!! Logically I know it’s necessary to get a better story. One of the harder things is finding the right people to read! πŸ™‚

    • The right people is key. I’d say since you write YA, find a few adults who are avid YA readers, at least one teen, and then another person who isn’t a YA reader. Nicole’s a big fantasy reader, so she was a natural shoe-in for my fantasy novel, but one of my betas hate, hate, hates fantasy (and he’s a guy), so I figured if I could charm him with my book, I probably had something. He loved it. Yeah, that made me glow for about five minutes, then I looked at his notes and started building up my thick skin. Again. It’s a process, but I agree ~ one that is so very necessary. Our egos are fragile little creatures when it comes to our babies. At least, mine is.

  20. what an awesome post on betas! Mmm. Godiva liquor, that sounds good. I usually just drown myself in chocolate bars. πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Ellie Ann! Yeah, chocolate bars help, too. We need food to go with our alcohol, right? My new favorite is mixing Baileys with my Godiva. Chocolate mint. Mmmm. πŸ˜‰

    • Tim, there are never any pesky questions! You can ask me as many as you’d like and I will answer all that I can. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you. I’m looking forward to reading your stuff!

  21. I love beta readers. I’ve currently been working with critique partners, but am looking to send my work out to beta readers again shortly. Each time it can only get better. I agree, though, that you have to know which advice to listen to and which advice to take with a grain of salt.

    Great post Tameri!

  22. I’m in a group and we beta read for one another on an ongoing basis. It is really great to get other perspectives that let me know how a reader might perceive what I have written.

    • Having a group like that is a great thing. Getting a good sampling of what others think on a consistent basis is what a lot of my writer’s friends prefer. I’ve never done that, but might give it a try. Thanks for sharing with us and best of luck with your writing.

  23. I use them and I love them! And I read for others. I know I’m nuts, but I really like seeing the red on the page rather than hearing “it’s great” with no corrections. I know I’m not perfect so I appreciate every tiny flaw someone finds and takes the time to point out. As a friend recently said, “A less than honest critique helps no one.” I just want my stuff to be the best it can be. πŸ™‚

    • To soften the blow of the dreaded red pen, I like to use pink. πŸ˜‰ You are absolutely right about being appreciative of all the feedback we get. It really does help us be the best writer we can be. Thanks for stopping in, Rhonda!

  24. Wow Tameri, this was a very popular post! Just in time, since you and I are beta readers for someone we both know. Shall we exchange notes? LOL! I already warned him I’ve never been a beta reader before and it didn’t work. Darn. I couldn’t get out of it! Just kidding. I look forward to it. Thanks for the post. I feel kinda important now. I feel the pressure mounting. Oh this writing gig is so crazy. This will be interesting. πŸ™‚

    • This writing gig IS so crazy and I’m loving every minute of it. You are too funny. I think you’ll be fine since I already warned him I’m brutal and he basically said, ‘bring it!’. I’m waiting for the hard copy, but have snuck a few looks at the digital copy he sent and I don’t think we have anything to fear. It’s going to be a great read. Let me know if you need any tips or just want to exchange notes, as you say. πŸ˜‰

  25. I’m glad to be getting to this part in the process and looking forward to numbing the pain with copious quantities of chocolate and liqour. What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger or some other metaphysical bs! LOL!

  26. Pingback: Writing Prompts: “A Great Place for Murder” « crime thriller girl

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  28. It’s a relief that I was able to come across tamerietherton.com: it has the info I was actually searching for. It’s extremely useful and you’re definitely highly knowledgeable in this field. You have opened up my mind to countless insights involving this kind of topic using intriguing and effective content.

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