The Best Beta

Let’s talk about our dearest loves: betas!

I’ve been doing a lot of beta reading this calendar year and it is a lot of work. I know how very important it is, so I’m happy to do it when I can.

The first thing I always ask is what kind of feedback they’re looking for. Sometimes people don’t know! There are a lot of variations on feedback and I think it’s important to know what you’re looking for. It can be just, “what are your general thoughts,” a line by line review, and everything in between.

Out of habit, my approach is a line by line review. That’s how I usually go over my own work, so I’m often compelled to do that same when reading someone else’s. It can be so very difficult to not take constructive feedback personally, and a deep beta read like that can be intense. I’m sure none of you can relate to this, but if someone tells me they don’t like or understand something in my stories, I quickly become convinced the entire piece is terrible and I should never write again.

I have a very dear friend who is my alpha reader. She’s invaluable not just because she is a delightful beacon of joy and bizarre optimism tinged otherworldliness, but because she uses those powers for good. My good. I can have her read a first draft of something and be secure in the knowledge she’ll be helpful and positive. If at all possible, find yourself a magical pixie alpha reader!

Barring that, take your beta reader’s feedback the way it is intended – to help you! We’re not trying to tear each other down. I want your book to be fantastic and I know you can find a better verb than “walk.” The other side of that is when you’re beta reading, say what you like, not just what can be improved upon!

What do you look for in a beta reader? Let’s work together!

-R/AC

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