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View Full Version : What is a Beta reader?



dkglenning
04-13-2008, 11:08 PM
Yes, i'm young. Yes I'm confused. And yes, I need someone to explain what a beta reader is to me.

Mr Flibble
04-13-2008, 11:16 PM
Someone who reads your work and points out possible problems that you may not see as you are too close to it. ( like beta testers in games).

hdawg06
04-14-2008, 12:28 AM
Someone who reads your work and points out possible problems that you may not see as you are too close to it. ( like beta testers in games).

Are they people you know well, or just somebody who agrees to read your story?

Sage
04-14-2008, 12:45 AM
It's better to have people who don't know you well because their opinion will have less bias.

dpaterso
04-14-2008, 01:37 AM
"Looking for a beta reader" usually implies that the completed manuscript has already been critiqued and reworked so it's as near to submission quality as the author can make it. If you're looking for feedback on a work in progress piece, you can post chapters or stories in our Share Your Work area (see sigline below).

-Derek

Mr Flibble
04-14-2008, 01:37 AM
Are they people you know well, or just somebody who agrees to read your story?

Friends tend to be a bit too generous with their praise :) (after all, they are friends, they might be wary of pointing out a glaring plothole because they don't want to hurt your feelings) Besides, unless they are writers, they probably won't know what is wrong besides 'that bit was boring' or 'I liked that bit'

Try the beta readers forum here. If you're worried someone might steal your work, consider

a) It's really unlikely. They might steal Stephen King's MS, because it'll make money. If you are unpublished, what profit will there be in stealing your work, when they would still have to try and sell it? And selling any MS is hard.

b) Still worried? Then just give them the first three chapters ( or post the first chapter on the SYW forum). If you have any problems with style, pace etc, then it will probably be apparant in that small part, and you can apply what you learn to the rest of the MS.

Phaeal
04-14-2008, 02:15 AM
My sense is you can use beta readers for a manuscript at any stage of production, from first draft through the final, polished, ready for submission version. It depends on at which stage you feel comfortable with an audience. Betas may also have a preference about how polished the work should be before they want to see it.

By polished, I mean you've honestly made that manuscript as error-free and smooth and compelling as you can.

I don't have a preference. I'll beta first drafts or submission versions and everything in between. It's all a learning experience for me.*

It's not impossible to find a family member or friend who can beta-read well for you. But do beware. Family and friends very often either love your work too much or cut it down too hard, for reasons that make for good novels.

There are two kinds of good beta readers:

A nonwriter who can read closely and sensitively, so that you can ask him questions like "Did you think the pace slowed down too much after Chapter Five?" or "Why didn't you like Gladiola?" and get useful responses.

Another writer at or above your own level of competency, and who grinds her axes elsewhere, not on your manuscript. A good writer-beta will have a basic command of grammar, will be able to discuss and describe fictional techniques, and will find the script's strong points as well as its weaknesses.

A good beta of either type is never mean or demeaning. Nor does she sugarcoat.

A good beta is a pearl beyond price, in fact.

And now, like Elizabeth Bennett, I will say that I'm no longer surprised you only know of a dozen good betas, sir; I'm surprised you know of any! ;)

Oh, and the beta-read has obligations, too, basically: Take honest and supportive criticism well, without whining or protesting. If you can, return the favor by beta-reading the beta's work. Show appreciation -- good beta reading's hard work.


* Concentrating on someone else's work, with all its felicities and flaws, can teach the teacher a lot of lessons.

Lyxdeslic
04-14-2008, 07:28 PM
What is a beta reader?

Well, currently, to me, a beta reader is someone who loses your ms, shows little interest, and hasn't provided any feedback in nearly three months.

So yeah, to add to the above advice, make sure you choose your betas well.

Lyx

JimmyB27
04-14-2008, 08:04 PM
A beta reader is someone who is more good at reading.

Haha, I crack myself up.

Ahem, lame puns aside....



Friends tend to be a bit too generous with their praise :) (after all, they are friends, they might be wary of pointing out a glaring plothole because they don't want to hurt your feelings) Besides, unless they are writers, they probably won't know what is wrong besides 'that bit was boring' or 'I liked that bit'
I'd say that depends on the friend. I have a couple who will happily tear into anything I send them, because they understand how important this thing is to me - far more so than my ego! Also, I reckon 'that bit was boring' or 'I liked that bit' is actually quite useful as it points out the bits you might need to look at again, which is a start at least.


My sense is you can use beta readers for a manuscript at any stage of production, from first draft through the final, polished, ready for submission version. It depends on at which stage you feel comfortable with an audience. Betas may also have a preference about how polished the work should be before they want to see it.

I would say that someone reading your work at the first draft stage would be an alpha reader (like how they have alpha testers in the gaming analogy someone mentioned).