I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with one of my beta readers yesterday. She lives in another state so the opportunities to speak face to face are few and far between. She has finished my third novel (the Civil War one) and has given me wonderful feedback. I highly recommend the use of beta readers. I didn’t know that this is what I was asking her to do when I handed over my first book to her. I thought I was asking a trusted friend for an opinion. But her specific skill set, in the end, also made her an ideal beta reader.
Some of you, no doubt, are asking…what is a beta reader? A beta reader (also called an alpha reader or pre-reader) is a non-professional reader who reads your work to help with improvements such as grammar and spelling or ways to improve the story, characters, and setting. They can find plot holes, problems with continuity, believability, and even fact-checking.
I will tell you something about this particular friend-become-beta-reader…after I turned over my first story to her and she finished it, she said, “Let’s meet for dinner and discuss your book”. I was excited! But it did not turn out at all like I thought. She had corrected grammatical errors and pointed out places where the story had believability problems (among other feedback). My poor writers heart was a little bruised. But my story was SO much better for it. She did give me great positive feedback about the story, but of course all I heard was the hard stuff. I decided that day that I could either refuse to listen to anyone or I could take the helpful input and pour that into my work and make my art all the better for it. That’s what I chose to do. And I have taken every book back to her and valued her opinions more and more.