Are beta readers worth the time and effort?
There are many reasons why you should give beta readers a chance. This is a relevant topic for me right now since I’m going through the beta-reader process myself. At the time of writing this, I finished my first round of edits on my first completed fiction novel. Before I get any further, writing a novel while you’re raising a family is tough work. So, if you’ve ever completed a novel or are in the process of reaching that goal, GOOD FOR YOU! It takes a lot of time and effort to get to where you’re at and you deserve the praise.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Writing is the fun part (in my opinion). Editing is tedious, exhausting, and tiiiiiime-consuming. It’s pretty comparable to having a newborn and not getting much sleep.
Cue the editing (and beta reader) zone.
During editing, you’ll enter into the beta-reader zone. It’s a common and vital part of the editing process. You’ll find that many writers take this phase of editing seriously. It helps fish out the imperfections that they themselves can’t pick up in their work.
Just in case you’re unsure. A beta reader is someone who reads an unpublished work of fiction and gives feedback and suggestions in order to improve the story (plot, characters, grammar, consistency, etc.). Typically, they aren’t paid and are unprofessional in terms of their skill set. You’re pretty lucky if you come across a professional editor who is willing to help you improve your work for free.
Below are reasons why you should give beta readers a chance.
Even if you outline your entire plot, chapter by chapter, you’re still likely to finish with some inconsistencies. It’s an inevitable part of the process. And the first reason why you should give beta readers a chance. Maybe one of your characters isn’t being true to their personality. Or maybe you accidentally created a plot hole. Either way, after working on a 100,000 word novel for months, by the end of it we have tunnel vision, meaning it’s hard for us to see past certain aspects of our writing and pick up where it needs improvement. For example, have you ever read over a chapter three times then later on realized that you added in a word twice or misspelled a word you could write in your sleep? Yeah, it’s reasons like that that make beta-readers so important!
Beta readers offer us a different perspective, something that is beneficial to us as authors getting closer to publishing. You may find three beta readers and all of them may not like your story, but don’t let that discourage you. Try to remember that beta reading is more about the foundation and makeup of your story than whether or not someone likes one of your characters. This is why it’s important to be fully aware of what a beta reader offers. Remember that it is your work of art that you wrote for yourself. Stay true to the direction you originally worked in, and if you do decide to make major changes then make sure it’s still consistent to your wants and goals as a writer.
The last thing you want…
If this is your debut novel, then it’s even MORE important for you to find the flaws in your writing. Do you want your book to make a lasting impression on your readers? You don’t want them running in the opposite direction. You don’t want reader’s reviews saying that consistent grammatical errors were too distracting for them to finish the story. Beta readers can help point out errors and areas for potential improvement before you hit that publish button.
Don’t get me wrong, beta reading isn’t all about pointing out the bad/negative. They should be pointing out the strong points in your novel as well. Telling you when they came across a paragraph that they could relate to is a major win. Knowing this information will help you tap into your inner-author-self and create more of it if you need to go back and make changes.
It’s so easy to hear praise for your writing, and difficult to hear criticism. Praise is uplifting and makes you feel like you finally found something you’re good at. Criticism makes you feel discouraged and like you don’t know what you’re doing. Receiving feedback on your work is crucial to your growth as a writer. It’ll train you on how to receive feedback in a way that will help you instead of tear you down, something that will be beneficial on your journey as a writer and aspiring author.
There are many reasons why you should give beta readers a chance. It’ll prepare your work and yourself for when it comes time to send query letters or publish. It’ll perfect your work more so long as you don’t take the criticism to heart and you apply it where it’s needed. I’ve only explained a few of the reasons why you should give beta readers a chance, but they really are more beneficial than you think!