Love/Hate Relationships- Beta Reading

Well, I was not for sure what I was going to write about today, but looking at my search terms this morning gave me a bit of a start. The phrase used to look up my blog was: ” i hate beta readers.”

I laughed at first. Then I nodded my head. At times I can completely understand.

There is no formula for writing a good story. The only guidelines given is a story has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. How you get there, and what you do on that journey is completely up to the author. Once you have it on paper, you go through and correct spelling errors, adjust the fragments that Word (or other writing programs) insist you correct.  But what do you do with it after that?

Humans have blind spots, and they aren’t always visual. When creating, sometimes the brain jumps ahead or glosses over parts and the creator cannot see the holes.  It might be misused words, a name change, or even a plot hole. Whatever it is, you aren’t going to see it. So that is why writers use Beta Readers.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this fence.  I beta read for friends and I’ve had my work read by others. Both sides are scary, especially the first few times.

When you read someone’s manuscript and find it needs work, sometimes a lot of it, it can be a gut churning decision to point that out. Passages that don’t read smoothly. Characters that change personalities abruptly. That huge gaping plot hole in the middle of the story. Not to mention grammar issues, punctuation, and wordy phrases.  Each stroke of the red pen sometimes feels like severing invisible bonds that holds a friendship (or potential friendship) together.  The more marks on the pages, the more fretfull I can become.  I’ve gotten the shakes before hitting that send button.

But, I have to remember, this author asked me to help them make this story the best it can be. Am I doing them any favors by sugar coating or back patting a story that needs major work?  No, I’m not. In fact, I’m setting that author up to be rejected.  An editor is going to look at that piece and see the mistakes and send the story back.

So, yea, I’m kind of harsh. Just ask Bryan Thomas Schmidt. I’ve beta read for him a few times. Picked holes at his work and hopefully helped make his stories stronger and better. But hopefully, I’m fair. I try to pick out good things to complement along with the errors.  And I really do want those manuscripts to improve and find a home so others can read them.

Being read isn’t so hard on me.  I know there are things I need to improve on.  That is why I ask to have others read it. Most of my beta readerrs are friends of mine. Honestly, I can say that I enjoy having others read and comment on my work, because as I said above  “I want those manuscripts to improve and find a home.” I do consider every comment; I just don’t always make certain changes. And that’s okay too. Writers and beta readers will have differences of opinions sometimes on how to improve a work. I know I’ve had differences in opinions with some of mine, but it doesn’t spoil the friendships on my end.

Beta reading can be nerve wracking but also very rewarding. You get to help others improve, while they help you improve. It’s a quick freebie on edits and opinions before you send your stories out into the world.  So, whoever did a search this morning about hating beta readers, just remember, even if they mark up your page, most of the time they are trying to help you.




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