September 26, 2013

clc - being a beta reader

My first draft of Hard Hats and Doormats sucked. I'm not being cute or self-deprecating. In all seriousness, minus a few shining moments -- mostly dialogue related -- my book was rough. While I had some nice sub-plot going, the book was lacking a main plot.

I'll cut myself some slack. It was my first novel, so it's not unexpected the first draft needed work.

But thanks to a lot of editing, I'm happy to say the draft currently with my editor has a genuine plot. I owe much of that to my fantastic crew of beta readers who gave me the tough love I needed to get my novel's life together.

A great beta reader is an invaluable resource for a writer. Though not every writer becomes a beta reader to someone else, I like to think it's good karma to pay back the favor (either to your beta reader or another author).

In tonight's Chick Lit Chat discussion, led by Heather Thurmeier, we'll discuss how to be a god beta reader.

I've only been a beta reader twice to date. Though I certainly don't have all of the answers on the best and worst practices, I do have a few tools of the trade I've picked up.

Probably the best thing you can do as a beta reader is ask the author if he or she has anything specific for you to focus on. An author usually has a good sense on whether a certain character or plot element needs a little extra attention.

As an example, earlier this month I beta read a book that was a sequel of a story I hadn't previously read. The authors wanted to know if the story could stand on its own for people who hadn't picked pu the first book.

When I gave Hard Hats to my final round of betas -- after the story had already been re-worked and focused -- I wanted to know if there were any tense errors -- I'd changed it from first-person present to third-person past -- and if a couple of plot elements made sense.

Whether or not you have any areas of focus, it's good to let the author know about any reoccurring or major issues. These take the most time and effort to correct, and the sooner he or she knows about the issues, the sooner they're corrected. In some cases, an author will want line edits, but initially the major attention should go to ironing out the plot.

I'm looking forward to finding out what others have to say in tonight's discussion and to see what tools of the trade I can pick up.

Chick Lit CHat starts at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CDT on Twitter. Join the conversation using #chicklitchat.

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  1. Love your thoughts on beta readers! First drafts are always less that perfect, that's why we have trusted readers to help us find the flaws! Looking forward to chatting with you tonight!

  2. Thank you! This is helpful and coming at the perfect time.

  3. You make a good point, Laura, when you write that "...the best thing you can do as a beta reader is ask the author if he or she has anything specific for you to focus on." When I have beta-read, I've just assumed the author wants me to comment on story, characters, and writing. So I did it all. Next time I'll ask first.