Friday, July 13, 2012
The Beauty of Beta Readers
What a difference a year makes! Although I'm a newcomer to the writing world, I'm a fast learner. Recently, I enlisted the help of 8 wonderful beta readers to critique my first completed manuscript. Over the next four posts, I will be sharing all I learned about the process and what I've gleaned along the way.
For those unfamiliar with the term "beta reader", it refers to someone who voluntarily reads an unpublished manuscript in order to give the author constructive criticism. "Betas", as they are often called, are a wise author's first stop in the critique process, before going on to the next level of professional editors and paid critiques. I've noticed several published authors, and writers in the blogging community recommend the use of trusted beta readers to not only test a new author's storytelling ability, but also to edit manuscripts for grammar, punctuation, plot and characterization problems. That's a tall order!
Did you know the "beta reader" is a fairly new term and is derived from the software industry. According to
www.wisegeek.com,"beta" refers to imperfect versions of software given to testers for the purpose of detecting and finding flaws. The tester's purpose is to "break" the software if possible, so the manufacturers can correct the problems and make a more perfect product. Beta readers serve much the same function.
While some authors struggle to find reliable beta readers, I was blessed that my betas sought me out.
My Bit of Back Story:
Originally, I began my novel as a gift to my mother. She'd asked me so many times when I was going to write a book for her, so I began a book I never really expected to finish. But God had a different agenda, and I began writing for Him.
For 18 months, only my immediate family knew I was writing a novel. Last fall, my husband let it "slip" to his family, after I won second place in my first contest. He was proud of me, but it was an uncomfortable time. When friends and family members wanted to know more, I couldn't even discuss my plot or characters without blushing and stammering. I couldn't see myself as an author, but they could. Their genuine interest and support spurred me to finish and edit my manuscript.
Earlier this spring, my three sister-in-laws and a niece asked when they could read my book. By now, I was ready to let them. I had edited "my baby" to the best of my ability and was proud of my progress. It was time for new eyes to take a look at it. My two daughters, my sister and my mother also joined the group, bringing the total to 8 beta readers. Best of all, they were all experienced readers of the genre.
From March through late May I sent 4-6 chapters each week to my betas until they finished reading the manuscript. Then I planned a beta critique party for early June, while the story was still fresh on their minds. I learned so much from the process and their feedback, I can't wait to share it all with you in future posts.
Before I close, check out the gift I received from my beautiful betas. One of my readers, in cahoots with my husband, printed all 678 pages of my manuscript in binder form, including a lovely front cover scene. As you can guess, when they presented it to me, I blubbered like a baby . . . but I wasn't the only one.
Coming up: 10 Tips to Enhance the Beta Reader Experience!