Thursday, July 01, 2010

Do you use Beta readers?


Yeah. I’m afraid. I admit it. Taking this next step in my writing journey isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook that I needed some volunteers to read my WIP—some non-writer volunteers or Beta readers I guess they are called.

I’m going to do this book right even if it means baring it all.

And if you knew me personally, you’d know how hard that is.

I’ve always been insecure. Well, maybe not always but near most of the time. The thought of someone besides another writer or an editor or a critique partner reading my work chills me to the core.

But I know it’s the way to go for more honest opinions rather than having my husband, mother or daughter plow through it and tell me how awesome it is.

Come on.

Do I want to write better or not?

I’m thinking yes. I’d like to query this romance by fall and that means doing what it takes to get it ready.

What have your experiences been with Beta readers?

37 comments:

Lin Floyd said...

never done that but I do have friends and some blogging buddies read my stuff. sounds like you are listening to little voices. read about blog about what to do about that! lol....although it's no laughing matter. write about it-it works.

Shirl said...

Think of it this way... you've asked someone to help you find the ghosts! If you are like me, when you write, there are things there in your mind that you see in the story. When you read, you see them as if they are there, but they're not actually on the paper. My husband has helped me find many of these ghosts. When he reads, they aren't in HIS mind, so he doesn't see them, and what I've wound up with is a tiny hole...something that isn't quite clear without seeing the 'ghosts' that live only in MY mind. I have been grateful to him when he's found those spots because when they're in your head, you know what goes in the hole and your mind is automatically inserting it without your realizing it. It's a good thing. And I'm sure the book is great.

sarah said...

I love your fight....never heard of beta readers....but I do admire your push to do whatever you can to move towards what you want....and b/c of your determination...I believe you're going to get there...☺ Stay strong.

Janna Qualman said...

I've always thought beta readers and critique partners to be the same thing, only that with a beta reader, it's not a mutual thing--you read theirs, and sometimes that turns into them reading yours, but not always. I think often the terms are interchangeable--and then the level of "critiqueing" or feedback is determined individually.

Sorry! Tangent.

It IS a big step. You'll be okay! This will help take things to that next level. *hugs*

Kristen Painter said...

I use betas because they help me see spots that need more explanation, see what works, what doesn't. I don't use many, 1-3 maybe. They really help me get a handle on how a book is working.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I do use readers; I like at least two-that's how many I had for Sweetie. One writer, one reader who doesn't write. My experiences have been positive - and you gain insights into the story or character--for example, there is a character in Sweetie that I thought was kind of "minor" but both my readers loved him so much, I decided to go in and do something else with the character--I'd kind of left him hanging in limbo I realized and if people really like him, he doesn't need to be in limbo!

It's hard to put yourself out there, but actually, "readers" who aren't writers are fun because they don't notice all the stuff we notice, they just See the story and characters!

Tim George said...

I called my readers "The Gang of Ten" though it really was about six of them that offered real help. A couple of thoughts on using beta readers.

1) A mix of readers (writers and non-writers) is best.

2) They need to be people who read your genre on a somewhat regular basis.

3) Have only one or two such reader during early drafts.

4) If you let them become editors they will drive you mad.

5) Specify what you want them to take note of: characters, setting, plot, etc...

6) Only get people that will tell you the truth.

7) Don't think you have to take to heart everything they say. You're still the writer. Everyone doesn't like the same thing.

Hope this helps. It helped me in getting an agent. He liked the fact I had taken the time to get input other than my mom or wife :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

What a great idea, Terri. And I'm so proud of you for taking off your coat of insecurity and letting Jesus pull you up to publication.

I've not used this form of critiquing, but i think I might now...

Love
Jen

Jeanette Levellie said...

What a great idea, Terri. And I'm so proud of you for taking off your coat of insecurity and letting Jesus pull you up to publication.

I've not used this form of critiquing, but i think I might now...

Love
Jen

Stephanie Faris said...

I've always been protective, too. It's not that I think something will get stolen. My writing just seems very personally connected to me. It's like showing someone my innermost thoughts!

Project Journal said...

Okay, this is from a readers perspective:

I can understand your insecurities (I have them for everything else!), but I can also understand why it would be a great experience to learn about yourself and your writing. I mean, what's it going to hurt to do it once? It'll be a positive experience because you will learn whether you find it useful for you or...not!

I think if I wrote, I would probably do this. I know for my school papers and when I was working on my graduation speech entry, I had a lot of others proof it for me. My english teacher this year was VERY picky, not only on the content/material, but also very nit-picky about the grammar, spelling and other grammatical mistakes. I can imagine that a "beta reader" would be able to help in both of those areas.

It sounds like Tim really knows what he's tlaking about, so my little comment won't mean much, but for whatever it's worth...I hope it helped somehow

: )

Good luck picking some beta readers!
Hannah

Julie Gillies said...

You're taking a brave step, Terri! I did this very thing a few months ago (with my nonfiction book) and my GOAL was simply to receive constructive criticism and fine-tune my book to make it the best it could possibly be. The night before my test-group met the first time I nearly ran as far and fast as I could! LOL But I'm glad I faced my fears. We met for 3 weeks and even though I received some ouches, I got a lot more encouragement than anything. And actually, their suggestions helped re-shape my book. I signed with an agent less than 2 weeks making all the changes.

So go, girl! Though you might have some "ouches", you will also receive some encouragement and confirmation. And you'll wind up with a much stronger book!

Jill Domschot aka Arabella said...

Yep, beta readers are absolutely necessary for me. I need to know how others respond to my work.

Jill Kemerer said...

I've never used them, but I have a few friends who won't send anything out until their betas have read it. I think you're going to be very happy you made this decision!

Diane J. said...

I know nothing about Beta Readers. But I wish you all the best. I was excited to read the replies and will be just as thrilled to hear how it works for you.

Karen Lange said...

Congrats on this step! I haven't used them yet but probably will when I get that far.
Have a great weekend,
Karen :)

Julie Musil said...

Terri, I know, this is scary! What if the stuff that pours from our head is junk? I think we all have the same worries, but you're right, we need to do this to become better.

I have a writer buddy who read my through to the end and gave me some great notes to work with. I'm sure whoever reads yours will not only offer a thorough critique, but lots of encouragement as well. I wish you much luck!

WritingNut said...

I'm not at that point yet, but I do hope to be there soon. This is an important step, and you are correct - you want to be the best you can be--this will help, as scary as it is. Good luck!

Professor Beej said...

I just finished my first draft of a novel, and I intend to use beta readers. My wife is a freelance editor, so she is going to be my first reader, and once I get back her critiques and do some edits, I intend to send it out to 5-10 people to gather even more feedback.

My main concern is finding the right mix of people. I have lots of friends as well as blog readers who have expressed interest in reading it as beta, but I'm not sure if that's the best way to go about finding them. Is there a good way to do it for a first timer?

Jen said...

I have a Beta Reader and I think she is fantastic, she can pin point my problem issues and give me great advice when I seem to continue to fall short. I think they are able to show you mistakes that normally you could get on your own but after constant hours at the computer staring at the same story you've read over a gazillion times you continue to miss them!

I have my crit partners as well who give me the same support. They are really just people/friends who are looking out for you and your work, they want to see the novel published just as much as they do!

Lydia Kang said...

I can't live without my betas. They see things that I don't, both good and bad, and push me to be better writer. I wouldn't have improved without them.
It's a good thing!!!

Rachna Chhabria said...

My Beta readers are the editors of the publishing houses I send the book to.
Good luck in finding a Beta Reader who can be of immense help.

Paul Greci said...

I use beta readers, both writers and non-writers. Good luck!! I think you are making a wise decision.

T. Anne said...

I thought beta's were writers who you exchanged work with. That's been my experience. Because I can't exchange work I use Tiffany Colter who is a great editor! And she's running a special this month until she fills up (just FYI). Terri, I'm in Camy's class with you! I'm hoping it will help resolve some issues with my new WIP. Enjoy the fourth!!

Lynda Schab said...

Oooh...good for you! This may be what I need to do with my current WIP. As scary as it would be to put myself out there, the feedback would be great. Hmmm...

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

It was hard putting my "baby" into the hands of a reader. Yet, I found it helpful. The reader was also an expert on a cultural aspect of my book and pointed out some errors, gave me some tips, and the thumbs-up on other items.

Way to go, Terri!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Sally said...

On my 2nd draft I printed it out, even put together a cover and bound it, then sent it out to two readers. I haven't gotten it back yet but am anxious to see what they say.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I always have other people read my books. Though I've never asked someone I didn't know personally. I'm probably too cautious,

It's always nerve racking to have someone else read your work, but it's better to find any problems now before you send it to an editor.

Nancy said...

You may find that these readers love your work. They may not know all of the rules and if you have strong characters, you might be surprised at the positive feedback. This is just a guess, as I have not done any Beta readers myself. Blessings on your work.

Donna B said...

So a beta reader is someone who volunteers to read one's writing and give the writer feed back?

What is "WIP"? Work in Progress?

Pardon my ignorance. I am new at this "writer's jargon".

Mary McDonald said...

I have had the best luck with beta readers. The first I had was in the fanfiction world. She was more than a beta reader, she took me under her wing and showed me how to write.

My second beta reader was more of an alpha reader, I guess. After just a couple of comments on a message board, we started sending pm to each other about writing, and before I knew it, she was offering great suggestions, finding typos, and brainstorming with me to get past the plot hurdles. I love beta readers!

Linda said...

This sounds like a good idea. I think I will look for some beta readers for my WIP. Thanks, as always, Terri

Shannon O'Donnell said...

As I'm sure you know from reading my blog, I'd be lost without my critique partners and beta readers. The feedback they give provides insight to things I hadn't thought of or missed or did extremely well. The growth of my current story has been amazing thanks to my CP's. :-)

Heckety said...

You are really going all for it- you GO GIRL!! I'm holding you up here- facing insecurities is tough!

colbymarshall said...

I always use beta readers. I let a few friends read it, too, because I need them for how much they all tell me they love it, which gives me confidence. Then, my betas tell me what the writing world needs out of it, which is usually harsher, but I need that, too. Best of both worlds ;-)

Lynda Young said...

Beta readers work when you can trust they will give you some helpful criticism. They need to know they wont offend you if they say there is a section they don't like.

Kansas Amy said...

How fun! I'd love to be a beta reader! I'm going to have to look into becoming one.