Sunday, February 9, 2014

Finding my Beta Readers

 My novel is complete, until I again revise it, and I need real, honest, not-afraid-to-hurt-my-feelings-and-maybe-chance-not-getting-a-Christmas-present-feedback. In other words I need Beta Readers.

If you are new to fiction writing you might be unfamiliar with the term. I certainly was until about 6 months ago. A Beat Reader is one who will read all or part of your completed but as yet, unpublished novel and then give you realistic, useable feedback. They will take the time to sit, read and comment.

And when they are done, the writer will hopefully be able to take that input, apply it to their sacred baby and revise to the point of...improvement. So, I had to ask myself what do I specifically need in a Beta Reader?

I need people who love writing their opinion in red pen. No, not green (too organic) and not yellow (too passive) and certainly not pink (too Jr. High) but real Sister Mary Frances Red Ink.

I need people who think incorrect use of a semicolon; is just as criminal as wearing lace trimmed anklet socks with sandals and Capri pants.

I need people who believe one typo on a page is one too many.

I need people who have read more than they eat or at least read WHILE they are eating.

I need people who will publically mock me if I use clichés like "high as a kite'' "right as rain" or "crazy as a loon," anywhere in my novel.

I need people who are not afraid to throw a thesaurus at my head when I use the same word (like "people") over and over.

I need my own Beta Reader(s)

So last week I contacted three nursing friends of mine and asked them to take on the job. Goofy women all said "yes." So three chapters of my novel went out to them complete with SASE for the return of their comments. Because I have traveled to Ireland with these woman, shared drinks and family woes at O'Loclainns Pub with these women, worked long grueling night shifts caring for the most distressing of patients with these women...I trust them to be honest with me.

Next I plan to hit up some near strangers. Specifically those I have never shared an airplane ride or jug of Red Breast with. Maybe my mail lady or a blog follower or that really nice woman in the gift shop in Sibley. (She is always reading a book when I come in)

And then I plan to compare.

If the good buddies and maybe a family member or two and then the strangers all find the same flaws, I'll know where to focus my energies. After that I am considering hiring a professional editor. Now you might ask yourself why would she pay someone to do the same job someone else was willing to do for free?

Well that would be like leaving the dishes undone in the sink before the housekeeper comes. And who would do that?

How about you? Do you have Beta Readers?  How did you find them? How many for each new novel? Do you ask family members for feedback or do you only trust paid professionals? Do you give them just a few chapters or the entire manuscript? Has the experience been beneficial ? Tell me. I'd love to know.


  1. I only had three, but they gave me really good feedback. All errors I claim as my own because some good editing was lost in interior formatting! That's a pitfall of self-publishing, of course.

  2. Oh! Me! :) I just found your blog - (yay!) and I love reading about someone else's writing journey. I am just a fledgling - a teeny, tiny fledgling. But someday... someday I will be published.
    I wrote a picture book and found a beta reader for it. I'm currently waiting for a working printer, so I can send out to a few more beta readers.
    I have had one rejection so far and two 'silences'. I don't think silences should be allowed. They are cruel. Generic rejection would be better! ;-)
    Anyways. I enjoyed your farm blog too. It's hard finding people who love ag and writing. I too, live on a... well, not a farm, but a ranch. And I write.
    Thanks for the fun blogs!