Thursday, April 16, 2009

That's how dense I am....

Well, not really dense in the stupid way (although that happens more often than I'd like to admit) but dense in a still learning so much way. Now, let it be said that I've gone to my fair share of writing conferences and workshops....I am blessed with a great critique group (the wad) and have finished three novels (started lots more, but that's another story)

Still, I have much to learn

Case in point: beta readers
I've seen that term floating around the blogosphere - but didn't know much about them.
So, a few weeks back, I began digging and do you know what I found?

Of course you do! You probably know all about beta readers....I am the one who is painfully behind on these sorts of things.

I learned that a beta reader is an anonymous person who will read and critique your novel for no other reason than to be nice!!! There are whole websites with lists and lists of these amazing people (betas). You can literally look through their posts and shop for one that would be a good fit.


Let me tell you why a beta reader really appeals to me. I love my family, my friends, my neighbors and my critique group but sometimes you just need some distance and objectivity to your critique. You see, if the person is anonymous and I will never hang out with them, then I think their critique might be:

A. less painful
B. more honest

So - I got connected with some beta readers. I can't tell you how excited I am to receive a no holds barred - not afraid you'll be mad at me - tell it like I see it - review of my work.

I neeeeed that. Really, I do.

So here is my question for you:

Do you use beta readers?

How did you find yours?

Is it working for you? Why or why not?


MaryJane said...

I have never used a beta reader - mostly because I am uncertain how to find one that would read what I write (YA scifi). I'd like to know how other people found their beta reader and if it is always a reciprocal thing.

Jody Hedlund said...

I haven't used a beta reader. Like you, I have heard the term but didn't really know what it was or how to find one! Thanks for educating me on this!

From what you said, I'd be leary about using just anyone. I'm sure there are a lot of dishonest people "out" there. I'd be concerned about someone stealing my story or ideas.

I know Lady Glamis uses beta readers. Perhaps if you went on a recommendation from her or someone you knew you'd be safer. Maybe? Maybe not!

Thanks for the post!

lucent1 said...

I found my beta through and it has been faaaaabulous! She tells me the truth, I hate her for it (then grumble and fix the problems she pointed out) and we never have to chat or go to lunch or swap photos of kiddos. Really, it is the set up for the perfect critique relationship.

Granted, I don't agree with everything she says. I use my common sense and that inner guide - but overall it has been helpful. In fact, I've been thinking about having two beta readers.

Does anyone have more than one? Just curious.

Tess said...

Jody -

YES! That was my main concern as well. I'm glad to know it isn't just me who worries about that sort of thing. I have taken a bit of a leap of faith, but I really like your idea of getting a recommendation.

Sharon aka Sapphire said...

Wow! I've never heard of a beta reader. It worries me about giving your story to some unknown person. How do you choose a person, do they have a list of qualifications? Do you trade ms? My ears perked up and my nose is twitching....I'm curious how many people do this.

Cindy said...

I just learned about beta readers in the last month. And I participated, volunteering to read a manuscript for someone else. It was a wonderful experience. I was thinking off and on about doing some more research on them, to see about having someone read one of my manuscripts. I really only want a few solid writers who I could trust. I'm going to keep thinking about it.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

I thought a beta was a fish, that's how dense *I* am!

Tess said...

So -- I've scrounged up two sites that offer beta and There are lots of sites that offer beta readers for fanfiction -- but I bet few of us write that (fanfiction is spin off novels from things like star trek, buffy and the vampire slayer, charmed etc...)

I went to absolutewrite because you can sign up (free) and you can put up a post about what you want or you can troll their list of offers.

I can see the risk of submitting your work to a stranger and liked the idea of getting a beta through a recommendation.

I have left a question for Lady Glamis and am hoping she will weigh in with her expertise on this issue.

I'll keep digging, asking questions and coming back to post what I find. Please feel free to add any info at any time.

Cindy: how did you become a beta? I'm very curious about this process!!!

Davin Malasarn said...

I had no idea that beta readers were an official thing. I just thought it was slang used for people who are willing to read your book- friends or strangers. Thanks for clarifying this!

I did have one beta reader by this definition, I guess. A great writer found one of my stories online and when she learned that I was writing a novel she offered to read it. She's given me one of my best critiques.

LexiconLuvr said...

I'd like to know where you found yours. If you have a moment, stop by my blog and lemme know. =]

LexiconLuvr said...

Thank you so much for answering my silly little questions. =] I'm very grateful!
How is it working out for you, the beta readers? Very best of luck in your endeavors. I'd love to keep in touch. =]

Lady Glamis said...

Tess, I was following your blog and blogger dropped me off it. Either that or it never added me. I'm irritated about that, so sorry I haven't been over here yet.

I'm going to do a post on alpha and beta readers on my blog in hopes of answering some of your questions. :D

Tess said...

That is great news, Lady Glamis! Look forward to learning more.

By chance, I just heard back from my two beta readers.

One gave good comments, insightful help...she didn't love it all, but she had something to really say about it.

The other said *essentially* something along the lines of: why would any twelve year old read this kind of YA when they are reading Twilight? She didn't even do the critique because she couldn't understand the purpose of the book.

Wow. What a lesson. First, YA and MG are completely different things and she didn't have a clue (even though I intro'd the piece as MG and specified readers ages 8-12). Second, Twilight? Seriously? If she doesn't understand that there truly is a market for literary fiction, then she is not the beta for me.

Lesson learned. Chooose wisely, take it with a grain of salt, go with more than one reader and be grateful if you actually find a beta who understands your genre.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

Wow. Tess, you would have gotten a better critique from my beta...and he's a fish!
I think we should send Meadow Pepper out to find this person and rough them up. ;)