Benefits of Beta Readers


Or, Fortune Favors the Bold

readingNearly two years ago, I was stuck. I knew I couldn’t go any further with my novel without some help.

So I started looking for beta readers.

It’s not easy finding someone to read a draft of a novel, let alone find someone who will offer helpful criticism.

I submitted the first chapter to a few review sites and got some initial feedback. One person said my world building lacked something. He suggested I read the works of LE Modesitt as an example of awesome world building.

After reading one of Modesitt’s novels, I still didn’t know what to do. The other commenters offered conflicting advice.

Then I found one person who read the entire book. She had some helpful comments, but I wanted a bigger sample.

So I tried GoodReads.

This was an interesting and enlightening experience. I found a thread in the forum where people swapped beta reads.

Through the swap, I read some original and interesting novels, most of which were well-written and engaging. I offered my suggestions for improvement as diplomatically as I could.

Some of those who reviewed my book were not so kind. Snarky, condescending and downright insulting is what I would call the comments from one.

Another didn’t finish the book, stating while she thought the writing was good, there were too many unanswered questions, so she got too frustrated to continue.

That was interesting. It somewhat paralleled the “world building is lacking” comment from another reviewer.

At that point, I got distracted by some family issues and other projects, and kind of lost my nerve about reading the comments from the last two reviewers.

So a year later, I finally got back to the beta reading comments.

To my surprise, both of them offered thoughtful and detailed comments.

One suggested starting the story a little sooner, to give me a chance to show the world in a larger setting so readers would be more grounded in the world I’d created. Reading this comment was like having a light shine on a dark spot in my mind. I finally understood the “world building is lacking” comment, and the other reviewer’s frustration.

Now I know exactly how to fix this problem.

The other reviewer was very good at picking up times when characters acted out of character.

Both reviewers were good at picking up inconsistencies: “I thought he was already in the house” or “didn’t he just accuse her of the opposite?” They also spotted repetitions and noted scenes that seemed to make the action drag.

And I know what to do about all of this.

The lesson is that fortune favors the bold. I took the risk and put my work out there. Sure, I didn’t get rave reviews (not that I was expecting them at this point.) What I did get was enough encouragement to continue, and some specific ways to improve the telling of the story.

What a great feeling to be back on track!

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