“I can say with absolute certainty that you need someone to look over your work and give you blunt, constructive feedback.
People need outside perspectives on their writing to show them the flaws they cannot see. With that in mind, a lot of people seek out beta readers (writer peers and friends) to edit their work.
Beta readers are a good way to go — but these readers must be intelligent, capable, and blunt (and hopefully published, themselves).
Otherwise, you may just get a lot of positive reviews from people who love you but can’t objectively edit your work.” ~ Writer Unboxed
I’ve currently sent Planes Shifter to six beta readers.
I have a seventh in the wings waiting for my manuscript.
Sharing my work with beta readers is one of my favourite parts of writing novels – to see others reactions and really get an objective gauge of my story.
In February, I began talking about my novels with a colleague at work, who showed interest in wanting to read it. I asked if she’d be willing to beta-read it: to give feedback on the bits she really liked and, perhaps more importantly, the bits that were bad. Bad could mean they didn’t make sense, were badly written or reminded her that this was a book instead of keeping her inside the world I’d created.
She agreed. All the beta readers I’ve used have provided useful information, and spent a lot of time sharing their thoughts with me, but my colleague went above and beyond.
Having tried to explain what the most useful beta reading comments would be for me, personally, I thought I’d share with you some brilliant comments about draft two of Planes Shifter:
“Again with capitalisation, how are we feeling about compass points? I always capitalise North and South, and I think, again, throughout the book you swing between doing so and not. Commit either way.”
“”There’s some shit about walls. Let me look…
“and protected by a wall Alina’s village of Mire had not.” Sorry – makes no freaking sense. Maybe it does. But it doesn’t to me. Well, after a bit of thought I think you’re saying this town has walls, Mire didn’t, which is why it was easy to attack, but meh. Rewrite this. Please.”
“She passed pigeons and people selling food” Hang on a minute, pigeons selling food? :P”
“WHY THE F*** DOES SHE NOT RECOGNISE JERIAH?!?! This really pissed me off. I personally would find such a thing quite flipping memorable. To then meet the same bloke 2 days later, be face to face with him, and then not recognise him, or even remark at the coincidence of feeling the same static sensation again, having never felt it with anyone but him ever before does not wash with me, sorry!”
This was just for the first chapter.
That, folks, is a damn honest beta reader. I’d say she ticks the boxes required: intelligent, capable, and blunt (as stated in the quote from Writer Unboxed). And if she is thinking these things, I bet other readers would be. I’d much rather know now and fix them quick!
I will also likely be asking her to beta read my other pieces, because this kind of honesty is rare. It isn’t for everyone, I know, and it’s not how I beta. However, it’s exactly the kind of feedback I love to receive on a draft. Because I can really see inside the reader’s mind and have been clearly shown the issues to fix.