Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How To Make the Most of Your Beta Readers

I've recently run into issues when beta reading. People don't seem to take it seriously. As a beta reader, being blown off and basically told that my opinion doesn't matter really pisses me off. Despite the fact that I'm trying to help, writers tend to think that my opinion isn't important.

As a writer, these are the things that are really going to help you improve. It's important that you take someone's comment into consideration if they gave you constructive feedback. I'm also a writer, I hate people telling me that there is something wrong with my story, but I consider that they might be right. More than half the time, they are.

So writers, before you get a beta reader, here are some things you might want to remember as you continue with your writing path.

Some things you SHOULDN'T do with your beta reader:

  • Tell them that their opinion is wrong - They are your reader, your audience. Their opinion really does matter. While not all of their opinions should effect your story, you should at least try to see it from their point of view - as long as it's reasonable. If there is some kind of biased against a type of person or event then I think it's safe to say that was just an opinion and you can ignore it.
  • Think that betas are there just to compliment you - if that's what you are expecting, then I think you'll be in for a rude awakening. It's not realistic to believe that your writing is the best. If your beta reader isn't finding anything wrong with your story, then they are probably lying to you. They are bound to dislike something.
  • Argue with your betas about something you disagree with - It's petty. Arguing with your beta is something you should avoid, especially when the beta is just giving you his or her opinion your story. They are allowed their own opinion. Trying to justify yourself shows a lot of who you are as a person and you will lose betas that way. It makes you sound like you believe your writing is superior to anything they have to say.
  • Do not expect your beta readers to finish in one day - Come on, let's be real. They have jobs and lives too. If you send them a 150k novel and hope that they will finish it in a day, then you are sadly mistaken. If you want quality input, be patient.

Some things you SHOULD do with your beta readers: 

  • Ask questions - Questions can get you very far when it comes to your betas because you then get to pick apart their brain and really discover why they may have or may not have liked a certain part of your story.
  • Value and respect their opinion - These people are your audience. They are taking time out of their busy day to read the story you wrote and while some of their opinions may hurt, you've got to learn to take it. Some of them might just tell you that it sucks and give you no reason as to why - ignore them. They are being assholes. You want them to explain why it sucks. Take things into consideration.
  • Get to know your betas - I don't know about you, but I would want to know the person who is about to rake through my manuscript.
  • Be firm about certain points - People will argue and argue about a lot of the things that really needs to be there in your story. You should know what is relevant to your story and what isn't. If they feel like your character needs to be a badass when your character isn't then tell them no. There are some things you need to stand firm about, especially when someone is trying to change the entire plot of your story. That's not what a beta reader is for.
  • Compile facts - If a good portion of your beta readers say that there is a certain part that they really just can't stand or they don't like what a character did (within reason - antagonists tend to be disliked sometimes) then you might want to consider changing that or fixing it. Try to figure out what they didn't like about it and work on it. It doesn't matter if you liked the scene or if you didn't, sometimes you write things that aren't important to the story.
  • Find a good platform that works for the both of you - Personally, I think Google Docs is the best place to go when beta reading and editing need to be conducted. It's easily available and you don't need to have a Gmail account to send it to someone without a Gmail account. My friends don't have one and they are able to use the comment feature just fine. You should also be lenient about how it's sent to them. 
  • Edit your manuscript before giving it to a beta reader - This is for the sake of a the beta reader. They don't want to read your sloppy first draft. Fix it up to the best of your abilities and then give it out for someone to read. It makes it easier on them as a reader and they can actually enjoy the story.
  • Set up a way you can communicate with each other - Keeping in touch is a good way to connect with your beta reader. If you have questions, then you can ask each other without problem. In any kind of partnership, communication is key.

These are my general thoughts and opinions on how writers should benefit from beta readers. As a writer, it is important to remember that you have room to grow.  You will never be the best at it as you keep changing and improving. Beta readers can help you there so please treat them with respect.

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