ROW80 Check-In 3 On the importance of feedback and beta readers

Welcome gentle reader,

Week 2 of ROW80 (Round 3) has ended and today I wanted to mention the importance of getting feedback on your WIP.

Because writing your novels in a vacuum can only take you so far, there is always a time when you need beta readers in order to make some progress.

“What are beta readers?” you may ask.

According to Wikipedia, “the author or writer, who can be referred to as the alpha reader, may use several beta readers prior to publication. A beta reader (…) can serve as proof-reader of spelling and grammar errors or (…) work on the “flow” of prose. In fiction, the beta reader might highlight plot holes or problems with continuity, characterisation or believability.”

So, I’ll admit it, sending off your Precious Manuscript to beta readers can be scary. No one wants to hear their writing is dreadful and their WIP should be revised from start to finish.

But you need to take that plunge in order to know what your WIP is really worth and to make the appropriate corrections BEFORE you send your Masterpiece to a dozen agents.

Indeed, it is essential to query agents with a manuscript that is in the best possible form in order to maximize your chances of success. If you follow US literary agent Sara Megibow’s #10queriesin10tweets on Twitter, you’ll notice that she receives 200 submissions A DAY. And out of those, she often comments that the writing is “poor” or “weak” or “unclear”. You don’t want to be one of those writers, do you?

So to avoid such rejection, you need to find beta readers who will critique your query/novel/short story. They will find writing issues and they will tell you about it so you can fix them.

Now, how to choose your beta readers?

Even if I’m going against the flow here, I’ll say start with your family and friends. Often, you’re told not to do this because you need critique, not praise, and your relatives tend to just tell you that you are the next big thing. Or they laugh at you. However I have found that getting some of my friends and family members to read my WIP is worth it. Firstly they are all non-writers and they are readers of published YA novels, so it is interesting for me to get their reactions on my own YA novels. One of the earliest comments I got from one of these beta readers was that my WIP was “like a real book.” It was very encouraging for me to hear that my novel could be compared to published YA books. These non-writer beta readers will tell you if your WIP is boring or impossible to understand, if they liked your characters and if they enjoyed reading your story. That’s the first step.

Then you need to find beta readers who are writers themselves. These beta readers are valuable because they will spot writing issues more easily. They will tell you about spelling and grammar errors, about plot issues etc. You can find these beta readers through a writing group, an online community or via your social media platform.

This feedback may or may not be what you want to hear? But if you listen to what your beta readers have to say, you’ll improve your chances of getting published.

Some interesting articles on beta reading:

Susan Dennard http://susandennard.com/2010/05/18/975/

Diary of a Random Fangirl http://therandomfangirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/writing-wednesdays-the-importance-of-beta-readers/

Bryan Thomas Schmidt http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2011/05/21/6-tips-for-being-a-good-beta-reader/

To wrap up this post, my ROW80 progress this week:

1-     Write everyday: 5/7 days. This week I wrote every day except for Tuesday and Saturday. A special thanks to Lauren Garafalo for leading ROW80  sprints on Twitter, they really help!

2-      Self-edit The Last Queen: done. A little bit.

3-      Continue writing the first draft of The Cursed King: not done. Instead I wrote a short story.

Also, this week on my blog, you could:

–       find out how NOT to start your novel or how hook your reader from the first paragraph.

–     read an exclusive interview with YA author Kendare Blake about her writing and how she got her best-selling ghost story Anna Dressed In Blood published.

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

15 thoughts on “ROW80 Check-In 3 On the importance of feedback and beta readers

  1. Shah Wharton says:

    This will be my first adventure into publishing and using betas readers, but I totally see their importance. I have my betas waiting in the wings patiently for my MS. They are a mixed bunch – some book blogger pals, some writers. I have asked no family or friends however. It’s my first book and I don’t want them to read it without the polish. 🙂 Plus, non of them read my genre really, so they’re going to be less in love with it then I’d like. In fact, I’d rather they never read it. There’s nothing worse than being judged by those who claim to love you. Eek! 🙂

    Keep going on your goals. X

    • EM Castellan says:

      Thanks for stopping by Shah! I have found that having beta readers who don’t usually read the genre my novel belongs to can also be interesting. They have a fresh look at the MS.

  2. Very true – and love the quote on that comic!

  3. Good beta readers are golden! I’m very lucky to have mine. Most of mine are other writers (who are also my readers), but sometimes I use one who has expertise in a novel’s subject matter. For instance, my upcoming novel is set on an Air Force base, so I got a friend who’s retired from the USAF to read it. Hopefully he’ll catch any mistakes I’ve made regarding the military life.

    Good job on the goals – keep up the good work!

  4. Juliana Haygert says:

    I suggest places like http://www.ladieswhocritique.com/ and http://falling4fiction.blogspot.com/ to find betas and CPs … We’re planning to have beta and CP’s connections through NA Alley too, but I don’t know when that will happen.
    Sprints are awesome! So glad you can join us there 😉
    Good job on your goals too!
    Have a great week 😉

  5. EM Castellan says:

    Thanks for the links Juliana! I chose not to include a list of possible places to find beta readers in my post because I assumed each writer’s needs are different. But Falling 4 Fiction and Ladies Who Critique are excellent places to start, I agree.

  6. Em says:

    The idea of someone reading anything I have written is terrifying but I agree, completely necessary!!! Glad the sprints are helping you reach your goals and hope you have a great week!!!

  7. It is scary, but it is very much worth it. Feedback helps you get over that last hurdle of confidence before you put your baby out into the world. 🙂

  8. EM Castellan says:

    Very true. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Lauren Garafalo says:

    Lovely post! I haven’t gotten to the point of needing beta readers, but it’s nice to hear about the process for the future. Thanks so much for the shout out! You guys all make the sprints such a good time!! Good luck with everything this week 😀

  10. Thanks for the info about beta readers. Very useful. I have a writing workshop group (though it’s died down a little in the last few months, and I’m nowhere near having a finished draft anyway) but it is a great way to see what works in your story and what needs improvement.

  11. EM Castellan says:

    Writing groups can be awesome if you find one that’s right for you. Good luck with your WIP!

  12. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    This is a really great point which is worth sharing. There is so much emphasis on editing, ‘consumer testing’ is often overlooked.

    I hope you are doing well with your ROW80 goals.

    Cheers,
    Cate (ROW80)

  13. EM Castellan says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Cate! Getting feedback definitely makes editing easier. Both are equally important.

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