The Perfect Beta Team

I am blessed with what is very likely the ideal team of beta readers. Though it only numbers three members (I know some authors like more; I wouldn’t turn down a serious request to be enlisted for the next go-round), they each bring something helpful and necessary to the process.

Reader 1 gets into the thick of it, finding clumsy word choices, unclear motivations, questionable characterizations, and weak pacing. She is also the reader most likely to go full fangirl when characters do something awesome or, more often, find themselves in desperate scrapes.

Reader 2 takes a more big-picture approach. He doesn’t leave me as many comments as Reader 1, but what he leaves is gold. Reader 2 is more likely to alert me to larger issues: whole scenes that just aren’t working, or that need to be placed in a different order; continuity errors; places where I may be expecting too much of my readers’ memory of previous volumes.

Reader 3 is a big-picture reader somewhat like Reader 2, but he brings an eye especially for mythological detail. Reader 3 is the one most likely to question whether what I’m writing has remained true to what I’ve already established about how magic works, for example, or about aspects of culture in the Wonder. Sometimes I think he understands my “rules” better than I do!

Mind you, I had none of this in mind when I invited these three to beta for me. I doubt I could have even predicted how they’d do what I’d asked them to do. But as The River of Night hurtles toward the finish line, I’m grateful to have (accidentally!) assembled such a team. Thanks, guys!

In Praise of Beta Readers

Julian Saheed praises beta readers as the unsung heroes of literature, and I heartily agree!

Beta readers are there to take a look at our story from the viewpoint of our consumers. They take a much broader look at our writing and provide us with feedback on themes, plots, character development and interactions. They explain to us how our story made them feel, at which points they cried, at which points they laughed. Most importantly, they tell us what they did not like. Their feedback is provided from the mindset of a reader, not the mindset of an editor, whose approach is much more technical. This is precious feedback. Feedback that can help you avoid displeasure in your fans, something we all strive towards.