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

Diary of a Random Fangirl

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

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?