Why You Absolutely Need Beta Readers

7:00 AM


(Don't forget; the new blog design is launching THIS SATURDAY. There'll be some changes around here, and some oddness on that day as I fiddle around with the design, so bear with me and stay in touch, yeah?)

Hernan Piñera / Foter / CC BY-SA

This post is dedicated to the awesome people I can now call beta readers; the people who actually volunteered to read a whole novel I wrote and struggle through it and give me feedback.

ALL OF YOU ARE AND YOU DESERVE CAKE. 

Let's be real here: Handing your novel to people who you often only know on the internet, people who haven't read this novel before, people who are looking forward to it, is scary. Really scary. You are willingly handing them this little piece of your soul and asking them to critique it. Sometimes it goes badly. Sometimes it goes well. Always it's terrifying.

But you absolutely 100% need these people at some point in your editing journey. If you're at a point where you're several drafts in and it's in fairly decent shape, now is probably a great time to hand the thing over to some eager and willing beta readers. 

Accurate summary of editing after a couple of drafts. 
Here's why: 

They have fresh eyes. 

They've never looked at this mess of a novel before! They have no idea of the horrors and feels awesomeness that awaits them. They've never met these characters or encountered this plot twist before. They have no idea. They'll be able to see the things that are, in fact, actually awesome, give suggestions on how to make stuff better, and catch those plot holes and various issues you aren't able to see in your current exhausted state. This is invaluable when you're feeling frustrated. 

They will willingly fangirl with you. 

There's nothing better than having someone other than yourself flail and fangirl and talk in all-caps about your plot twists or your OTP or your main character or that side character that you thought no one else would love. It's encouraging and awesome and basically just the best. That's part of the job of a good beta reader! Alllll the fangirling and encouragement.


They'll be honest with you. 

Any good beta reader knows that it's also their job to help you out, and that includes honest feedback. Which is scary and honestly kind of stressful at first, especially when you've been slaving away at this draft/story in general for months/years/centuries and all you want is for it to finally be good. But beta readers are for pointing out weird pacing and confusing bits and iffy parts that you wouldn't see on your own. Painful, yes, but better than future serious readers getting turned away by confusion. Honest-but-kind feedback is always a good thing when it comes to writing. 

They're a great support system. 

Once your beta readers have finished the thing and (hopefully) flailed over it with you and shared their feedback, that doesn't mean the relationship is over! Oh, no. They'll be there for you to encourage you through future revisions, and you can ask them specific plot-related questions. It's always great to have someone who's got your back through the rest of this painful process. 



They're just awesome. Seriously. 

This point is not helpful but very true. There's nothing better than having someone else read your work, even if they're doing it with the intention to shatter your hopes and dreams and make you feel like you suck give you helpful feedback. Of course, there will be beta readers who don't do their job, or hate it, or just fail in general, but that doesn't happen very often in my experience (and certainly hasn't happened to me yet; all of my betas have been incredibly awesome and helpful and I love them to bits) and having that support system can be incredibly important while you're trying to make a novel better. These are people who are willing to put time and energy and fangirling into something you wrote, and be happy about it the whole time, and they all deserve cake and hugs. 

*cake and hugs to my betas, all of whom I appreciate a lot*

Have you worked with beta readers yet? Would you like to (of course you would)? Have you ever been a beta reader? Comment away. 

24 comments

  1. *accepts cake gratefully* Which reminds me, I still have yet to finish reading Pariah. (IZE THOUGH. *begins the fangirling*) I love love love my own betas, including you of course Aimee, but I actually still doubt my beta abilities. Because I either go way over to the fangirl side or be the most brutal person of all. But my eyes are so fresh! Not stale at all! *pops one in mouth* *squish* *oops*

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    1. ALLL THE IZE FEELS. :P
      Same...I'm either not helpful or *too* helpful, so I'm always a little worried, but I do love reading stuff for people. And having fresh eyes. That's always a nice feeling too.

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  2. I don't have internet betas quite yet (although I'm planning to send some drafts out when I finish my WIP), but I have a few friends that I share my writing with, and I love them for all the same reasons (mostly for the fangirling, though) :)

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    1. Friends are the BEST. I just recently got brave enough to reach out for internet betas, and it's scaryyyy.

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  3. I LOVE BEING A BETA.
    Giving my work to other betas scares me, though. xD

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    1. YOU ARE AN EXCELLENT BETA.
      (and if you ever need anything beta read ever I volunteer, of course, because I owe you big-time and I need to read your writing. :P)

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  4. I've never really had a chance to send my work out to betas before, but I think it is something I definitely should look for in the future. You know, once my mess of a story is ready for human consumption. I really enjoyed being a beta reader, though! Although I'm still trying to recover from THAT ONE SCENE, Aimee you know very well the one I speak of *sob*.
    Thank you for the cake.

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    1. I would highly, highly recommend it if you ever get to that point! I don't think you could do it all yourself once it gets to a certain point.
      I enjoyed having you as a beta reader. And watching people wail over THAT ONE SCENE. *innocent smile*

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  5. Other than a couple of my sisters, I've never gotten to the point in any of my stories where I felt comfortable sending it out for beta-ing. I'm kinda scared of that point in the process, and at the same time I'm kinda looking forward to it.
    And I approve. I deserve cake. Mom, did you hear that??
    Thanks for cake and hugs and being really sweet and awesome. :)

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    1. Which is fine -- I think you should wait until you feel comfortable and feel that the story is in a good place before you send it out to people to read, so your heart doesn't get crushed (I speak from experience). It's scary, but worth it.

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  6. Good points all. I remember how scared I was when I had my first round of beta readers--I'm not always as thick-skinned as I'd like to be, so when I got the notes, I ate a lot of chocolate and cried. But I'm so glad I got all that feedback, because you're totally right--they can see all the awful, embarrassing mess-ups and weaknesses that I just can't (or won't). I also know I get a little nervous when I'm beta reading, because I want to be honest (and I can be super nitpicky), and I don't want to hurt anyone or discourage them or just generally make them hate writing/getting feedback. I really needed this post though, because I'm gearing up to ask for some more beta readers in a few weeks, and I'm nervous about that. :P Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Same...I like to think I'm hardcore when it comes to critique and while I know I do handle it well and I enjoy getting it, there is occasional crying involved simply because so much to fix. *wails*

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  7. I had cake today so it's all good. I absolutely loved reading Pariah, and it was just as amazing as I imagined it to be. And 10x more feelsy. And ripped my heart out more than I expected. GAH.

    Personally, I've never gotten far enough into a novel to where I'm willing to send it out to people. Besides my best friend, who has read practically everything I've written, I'm not comfortable letting others see it. But you made some good points here, so I'll definitely be getting beta-readers eventually. Not yet though. My novels are all a load of plot holes and terrible writing right now. xD

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    1. *cackles evilly* As you can see, I very much appreciate the effort and feels you put into it. :D

      This is the first time I've been in a place where I could get beta readers, and that was pretty freaking scary, but I SURVIVED. And you will survive, and good luck with writing until then!

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  8. Love the gifs, as usual. Very good points, Aimee, this is a great post. I haven't done much beta reading myself (no time *flails*), but I have had plenty myself and I never underestimate the power of a good beta.

    I am one of those writers who is alternately excited and horrified to have other people read anything I have written - but an honest reader is the best present a writer can get. Even when their feedback is as pleasant as ripping duct tape off of your arm.

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    1. Sheesh, I can't function today. I meant, I have HAD plenty of beta-readers for my books. *post work brain*

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    2. I really wish I could beta read more...I enjoy it a lot, partly because I enjoy making things better, which I won't tell the people I read for because that makes me seem eager to critique and nitpick which isn't exactly it. xD

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  9. I have been a beta reader for a friend of mine's novella. :) I hope to have the honor to do it again!

    As for people reading my book...well...that is a little terrifying. Quite exciting too I might add. Hopefully I will get to that stage soon. (Even though my best friend has read it along with my friend I beta read for.)

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    1. It IS scary. I was a wimp and kept putting it back until just recently. Now I wish I hadn't, because it's totally worth it. *nodnod*

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  10. I've been a beta and I have betas. I picked the best ones in the world. I love them ^ ^ They're honest and kind. Candor and Amity. It's awesome.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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  11. I've never actually had a beta reader before simply because my novel isn't ready yet. Like you said, one of the great things about beta readers is that they have fresh eyes unlike the writer who has gone over the same manuscript a bajilliongazillionmillion times, and I want to make sure I take full advantage of those fresh eyes by making sure my story is as polished as I can get it. I'm glad beta reading has been such a great experience for you, though!

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  12. *sigh* This is kind of a bittersweet post for me, just because I feel like I'm a much better beta reader than I am a writer. Beta readers are SO GOOD for all those reasons you mentioned, and I value the ones I have quite a bit, but at the same time it frustrates me that I'm better at doing the things on this list than the actual writing of things that need to be beta read. :P Still, you're absolutely right. Go Beta Readers!

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  13. Oh! I've never used/been a beta reader, but I'm kind of trained as one. I mean, I have a weird qualification in proofreading and copyediting, so I'm pretty good at spotting plot holes and all that jazz. I think more people should know about the joys of beta readers!
    Beth x
    www.thequietpeople.com

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  14. I called for beta-readers wayyyyy too early I think, but I love them and am so thankful, and hopefully one or two will glance over the final draft. :D

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hey. hey. talk to me. i'm a fan of comments and flailing with you. go for it.