Friday, May 24, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Revision-Self Editing-Beta Readers
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: April 29, 2013
What are they, and why do we need “beta readers?”
A beta reader is someone who reads our book when it’s almost polished. After we’ve edited it to the point that we can no longer improve it, we find a group of people willing to give it a read.
Beta readers are not editors, but they can provide a critique or feedback on the things we cannot see ourselves, no matter how hard we may try, such as plot, tension, characterization, pace, too much description, too little, too much sex, not enough sex, POV shifts, etc. Beta readers are not for picking out things like grammar, spelling mistakes, etc., but if they do, that’s a bonus. We find that some beta readers are great at spotting certain inconsistencies, while others are more visceral and spot character flaws. This is why we need more than one reader.
“Beta reader” is much like the term “beta tester.” In the software industry, a beta tester takes a piece of software almost ready for the market and tests it out. Typically a beta tester is unfamiliar with the software’s design, so the tester won’t avoid using the software in such a way that he avoids bugs. Because the beta tester approaches testing the software without assumptions or previous knowledge, he finds things the creators miss.
This is how beta readers work for our writing. We are the alpha tester, or the creator. We ready the product and tweak it until we feel it is fit to send off. The beta reader takes it, without knowing what we intended to say, and reads what is really there. He sees what we might have missed.
So what makes a good beta reader? That depends on what we, as the writer, want. As we’ve said, different readers notice different things. One, a teacher for example, might notice grammar issues and technical flaws. A librarian might notice characterization issues. It’s tough to find the right beta readers because it isn’t simply a matter of saying, “Hey, do you like romance novels? Great, give this a read for me.”
When we do find our readers, we must decide how best to utilize their efforts. In the following sections we’ll discuss review groups, etiquette, and some words of caution for writers when working with beta readers.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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