Yesterday I offered a few suggestions for working with a beta reader. I thought it would be fun to do the flip side of that and talk to beta readers today. How can you help out your writer? Bear in mind that everyone works differently, but here are four suggestions that should help in most cases.
Ask questions. If you’re writer isn’t forthcoming about what they want from you, just ask. I didn’t used to be very specific and it led to frustration on both sides I think. Take the initiative and ask if you don’t know.
Make notes. It’s pretty frustrating if your beta reader tells you that ‘something somewhere in the novel didn’t quite work.’ Yikes! Jot ideas down as you read in a notebook or directly on the manuscript if that’s all right with the author.
Be specific. What exactly does or doesn’t work? If you’re not a writer and don’t know all the lingo, describe what’s missing, not working, needs improving in the best way you can. Even use examples from other books (or the one you’re reading) to show what you mean.
Be honest. Beta reading is really to help the author improve the manuscript and that means pointing out what doesn’t work along with what does. How you dispense your criticism will depend on the author. Some may be able to take it straight, while others will need a softer approach.
I value my beta reader and I can tell you an objective viewpoint is exactly what you need sometimes. Your feedback counts! So give it all you’ve got and the make the most of the experience.
Photo by moriza