I have written about beta-reading before, but about the giving aspect. This time I want to talk about the other side of it. In my previous post “The Joys and Reassurance of Beta-Reading”, I talked about beta-reading for other writers. I really enjoy helping others get their work polished. Sometimes I feel bad when I point out that I don’t particularly know what is going on in the scene or I don’t like it. But I realize that if I am having reservations about the writing someone else may be as well. It’s much more helpful if I, as a friend, tell the writer issues I found, rather than some stranger leaving an unfavorable review that could damage sales later down the road. I always have to remind myself that my critiques are to help the story become it’s best.
As a writer, there isn’t much that is scarier than sending a polished rough draft out into the hands of a beta-reader. I’m sure pushing that publish button will be the top scariest thing I do as a writer, but I’m not quite there yet, so I’ll let you know when I do it. I have now sent out two different books into the hands of relative strangers and people I know in person to have them critic it. It’s an unnerving process. The worst for me is handing my draft to a person I know (in person and online) relatively well. After all, I interact frequently with these people. What if they hate my writing? I know that scenario is just my own crazy fears getting the best of me, but it is a possibility. Though, I know the consequences of them hating my work are negligible at best.
Right now, I have Dissonance out with a second set of beta readers and I have to remind myself any unfavorable review is only to help me grow as a writer and make my book as strong as it can be. I find beta-readers to be invaluable. The first round of beta-readers found several mistakes that I didn’t even notice. I completely forgot to introduce a character, the plot line didn’t match up 100%, and other odd word choices and misspellings. So far all of my beta readers have been helpful, even if I didn’t agree with their suggestions they have helped me realize that I am not getting the point I was intending across and a re-draft was of the scene was still in order.
The biggest things I have learned in putting my work in the hands of beta readers are:
- Suggestions aren’t personal. They have nothing to do with you as a person or writer, the beta readers are attempting to help you get your book/story in it’s top form before being released to the public arena.
- They are only suggestions. If you don’t agree with your beta reader, then you don’t have to take the suggestion. The only thing to question is the motivation on why you don’t agree with the suggestion, and
- It’s helpful to have variety of people read your book. You might want to focus on your target audience, but you might even want to venture to find someone who might not read a lot of your genre. It’s interesting to read their take on your work.
But most of all have fun with writing. I write because I enjoy it. I have found sometimes the best ideas and scenes come from someone else’s suggestion (even if it has nothing to do with the suggestion).