|My beta, Jenny (with husband, Joe, another of my readers!)|
Using beta readers requires a thick-skin. You have to be able to take the knocks (and the compliments!) with good grace, or there's no point. You're not looking for an ego-boost, right? Only sending your novel MS to your spouse/mother/child because you know they'll think you're wonderful regardless, defeats the object. You don't need tonnes of readers (I used four for the draft of my novel, plus another couple with later drafts), but you do need more than one. And, most importantly, you have to be discerning about their advice. Not everything they say is right! If you've weighed up what they've said carefully and you really don't agree with one of them, ignore that particular point - it's your story!
|Beta/husband, Paul, with one of my manuscripts.|
Using regular readers is a special privilege. Not only because it's rare to find somebody that patient, but also because there is more insight to be gained from somebody who knows where you came from. Not only have Paul and Jenny discovered over the last few years what I need to know when I'm analysing a draft, but they can also compare my current work to past work. They know it does me no favours to flatter me, and they also know that a genuine compliment can make all the difference. Three cheers for my beta readers!
Do you use beta readers? Or have you been a beta reader yourself? What are the best and worst parts of your experiences? (Not every beta experience I've had has been as good as some of the others, but I've never had an actually bad experience, so if you have - share it!)
On an unrelated note, my friend Suzi produces regular blog posts asking a group of writers what they think on certain subjects. I'm honoured to be in her current crop of writers and the first post is up today! Go take a look!
*A beta reader is different from a critique partner, who should be another writer. CPs are the people you swap work with in order to help each other improve the technical aspects of your writing and./or when you want specific help with editing or solving a particular problem with your work.