For the previous posts in this series on my writing process, click on the links below.
Part 1 - Introductions
Part 2 - Ideas
Part 3 - Outlining
Part 4 - First Draft
Part 5 - Revisions
Part 6 - Alpha Reader
After I’ve completed edits based on comments from my alpha-reader, it’s time to move on to the beta-readers.
A beta-reader is another person who reads your story prior to it being published. The idea is that they receive the story ‘cold’ as would a member of the general public. This differs from an alpha-reader who as previously discussed, has advanced knowledge of the story and often sees it in a rougher form. The goal of the beta-reader is to help the author improve the plot, characters, description, dialogue and any other weaknesses discovered in the story. To a lesser degree, a beta-reader can help with grammar or clunky wording.
For me, I chose six beta-readers. The big thing was that I wanted individuals who read a lot and where possible, those who read stories in the genre I’m writing. Here are some characteristics of my betas:
- Three of my betas read a lot of fantasy which gives them a better understanding of overall structure and certain plot elements unique to the genre.
- Two of the betas read little fantasy, but read a ton in other genres, including many literary classics. This is a plus for me as they can look past the fantasy aspects and focus on the basics of whether the story is any good or not.
- One beta doesn’t read a whole lot of fiction, but reads a lot of non-fiction which gives me a completely different perspective from the other five. This beta-reader has caught some minor errors I made in constructing the world that few others would have noticed.
- One beta was in the military and although that wasn’t planned, it was great to hear from him that I successfully portrayed those aspects of my story. That was a big compliment for me.
- All six vary in age and education.
- Four betas are women, two are men.
- All six can be brutally honest…very important. You don’t want nice betas because when it goes live, the readers will be much harder on you than the people you know.
What does this all mean? It means that I’m able to get a broad range of opinions and feedback which helps tremendously when evaluating my story. I would recommend that other authors do the same.
So, after I receive these comments I’ll do one final pass through the manuscript before sending it off to my editor. The next post on the writing process will talk about the importance of an editor.