>Get the Most From Your Beta Readers

>If you use beta readers, then you may know it’s difficult sometimes to get what you need from them. It can be an interesting experience but also a frustrating one. My sister has been my prime beta reader for years, though I didn’t always know the technical term. And though you’d think she’d be biased or hold back to spare my feelings, it’s quite the opposite. Her feedback has been a major component in making my writing stronger, and getting Dead Locked up to speed. But it’s taken some work on my part sometimes to get the information I needed to improve. What can you do to make the most of a beta reader?

Pry for information. Don’t accept generalities. Ask specific questions to get specific answers. How specific depends on you, your beta reader, and how intense you want to make your beta reading. I’m usually interested in an objective viewpoint of the story and characters especially. But sometimes, I want to know about a certain scene, description, or section of dialogue. If you have a particular section of the story you want feedback on, ask your reader to pay special attention to it.

Write up questions. I tried sending a list of questions with the story recently and that helped us both cut to the chase a lot more quickly. Instead of spending a lot of the conversation digging for the right answers, my sister knew what I wanted to know and could pay attention to those things as she read and make notes. I based my questions, with quite a few alterations, on this set I discovered.

Listen! I believe one of the keys to a successful beta reading is not shutting down mentally when your beta reader is honest about something you need to fix. They could very well stop giving you much-needed feedback if you get defensive or act hurt when they tell you like it is. Remember, a beta reading is to improve your story, not just receive glowing accolades. Those are wonderful, but won’t really help you to reach your goals in the end. This is easier said than done. But swallowing your pride and getting down to business with your story is the best thing you can do.

An objective reader is a blessing. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees, or vice versa, after days, weeks, or months of writing and revising. So keep your objective readers close at hand. They will help you improve your current WIP and works to come.

Photo by Toms Baugis

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