View Full Version : At what point should you call in a Beta reader?

Liz's Dad
06-22-2012, 02:00 PM

06-22-2012, 02:03 PM
I can't speak for everyone but as a beta reader I like to know what I am reading has been through a few goes. I wouldn't want to read a first or even second draft, but would want to know what I was reading had been worked over and under.

06-22-2012, 02:19 PM
Seek a beta reader when the manuscript is finished, revised, checked and double-checked for grammatical and spelling errors, self-edited and polished till it shines to the best of your ability.

That's when you will get the best out of a beta reader.

If a structural flaw is spotted in a finished, checked and polished manuscript the betareader will have been worth it. It should not be catastrophic and should lead to an even better manuscript.

You seem to be arguing that the structural flaw will not be spotted by you and therefore should be picked up by the beta reader from an unpolished manuscript to save you extra work - that is flawed reasoning.
Good luck.

06-22-2012, 03:52 PM
In general, it's best if you have done everything you know to do to make it finished before letting anyone else see it. However, in my experience, it depends on what the beta is reading for.

I have a beta who is spot-on with character, world & plot development. I can give her a chunk of story (usually all the same story arc) and ask if I've really mucked something up as I fear I have and can't see. She can give feedback at any point in the writing and brainstorm with me as needed.

I have another beta who can't see problems in chunks and has to have the entire story to work from. She's ace at spotting inconsistencies and unanswered story questions I've left hanging. In truth, what she does can only be done on a finished draft.

I have one last beta whose specialty is grammar. She can spot line edit problems in a glance AND she knows my style well enough that she can tell if I purposely broke the rule, most of the time, and then tells me whether or not I succeeded. She only gets the very last draft before I'm ready to submit.

I've worked with each of these ladies for at least 10 years. We know each other's strengths in beta reading. We share the same concept of what a beta reader should do and we have established a good working relationship.

06-22-2012, 08:22 PM
It depends on what you and your beta have agreed on. I've read first drafts with only basic spelling and grammar checks; I've read stuff ready to be sent off to agents/publishers. As long as the beta agrees to read it at whatever stage you're at, send it.

06-22-2012, 11:45 PM
What Bufty said. Even then you'd be really lucky to get all that DeleyanLee gets from her betas.

06-23-2012, 12:34 AM
What Bufty said. Even then you'd be really lucky to get all that DeleyanLee gets from her betas.

Please note that I said I have at least a decade-long relationship with each of my betas. One is 12 years, the other is more than 20. We've had time to get to know each other, strengths, failings and install filters so we understand what's being said by each other.

A good beta relationship is a big give-and-take, understanding and needing to be honest about how things are going--and not just with the work. Some people can't and shouldn't work together. I went through seven (not kidding) writer's groups and more than a dozen other betas before this team clicked for each other. We're even more fortunate that the team works for all of us writers, not just one of us.

Just because someone's willing to beta doesn't mean they're a good fit for your team. It's well worth the time and effort to get the right betas.

06-23-2012, 12:55 AM
Sorry if this is a basic question, but I don't know what the answer is. I've written the first draft of my novel and am midway through my first edit. I then plan to lay it aside, try and forget it and then reread it in the hope of seeing the wood and not just the trees. If that works, more editing, and possibly some restructuring, may be called for.

Should I wait until I have done that before calling in a Beta reader? Hopefully I'd have ironed out at least some of the problems and there'd be less work for them to do. However, they might spot a fundamental flaw that calls for serious reworking, in which case much of my redrafting work might be wasted. So perhaps I should get Beta-read after the first edit?

Opinions gratefully received!

Let's say an average beta reader spends 15 hours reading and critiquing a full length novel (based on this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=247981)).

So, option 1: Reader spends an average of 15 hrs on my draft. I revise it. Reader spends another 15 hours. I polish the novel, and it's ready for submission.

Option 2: I spend an average of 15 hours on my novel. I revise it. Reader spends 15 hours on my novel. I polish the novel, and it's ready for submission.

Whose novel is it? Whose is the responsibility for the grunt work?

Also IMO, revisions are never wasted. I learn something about the craft every time I write and rewrite and revise and rewrite again.

06-24-2012, 07:44 AM
I'm so glad I saw this thread, since this is something I've been wondering about. Looks like it will be a few more weeks for me, but that's okay. :) I'd rather make the book the absolute best that I can and then let someone look at it. That way the major things I'll likely learn about should be places where things don't connect the way I think they do (since I wrote it) and little details or styling mistakes that I missed or am unaware of.