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Fresh eyes FTW! Why you might need a beta reader

Picture this situation: You’ve been laboring over your story for weeks, months, maybe even years. So when you write the very last sentence in the very last chapter you think, “OMG, I’ve done it! Now let’s edit this sucker and send it out into the world.”


Not so fast.


The problem with editing your own work is that you’ve spent so much time on it. You know your character’s motivations, so you can’t tell if they’re clear to an uninitiated reader. You know what your setting looks like. You know how the plot moves from A to B to C. And that’s a great thing—those are all things you should know. But when it comes to finding out where your story need improvement, it becomes difficult to see past all of the background work you’ve put into your story.


And that’s where a fresh set of eyes comes in. Say hello to the beta reader.


A beta reader is sort of like what publishing houses call a developmental editor. She’s someone who reads through your story—while you’re working on it, piecemeal, or after it’s completed—and points out all the areas that you can improve. She’s not your friend, who says that everything you write is fantastic. She’s a person who will be honest with you and help you take a good story and make it into a great one.


Here’s what to look for in a great beta reader:


+ She should be interested in the sort of story you’re writing about, and a fairly avid reader of those types of stories.


+ She should be a pretty good writer and editor herself.


+ She should ideally be knowledgeable in your setting or time period, if it’s not modern day, so she can point out inconsistencies.


+ She should be able to make a pretty sizeable time commitment to you and your story. Reliability is important.


+ Her comments should be constructive, not mean or too complimentary.


Have you ever used a beta reader or worked with a beta reader? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

published January 15, 2014
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