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Writing Advice & Discussion > How to Become a Better BetaReader

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message 1: by Ivy (new)

Ivy | 33 comments Or a better reader in general? I am not a voracious or insatiable reader. I'm working on it though. How can I become a more careful and critical reader?

message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I'm not sure. And not sure how I would qualify myself as a reader; I guess it would depend on the opinions of the authors I read for. What I've discovered as I beta read is there are classes of issues that become recognizable. The same with editing. When I dove into the drudgery (to me) of editing my first novel, learning about all the do's and don'ts (mostly don'ts it seems), then I started to see the same mistakes in others writing. Systemic things, meaning it isn't the odd typo here or there, but the same issue over and over. Now I struggle when I read something with lots of systemic issues; the story has to really capture me to continue. The better written (mechanically speaking) stories have a lower bar in that by not being popped out of the story due to some repetitive issue, I can stick with it longer and perhaps get sucked in.

I've also seen trends in larger issues, like plot and characterization. Personally, I think that's the most valuable advice to receive, because I think it's much easier to learn the nitty gritty mechanical aspects of writing than it is to learn the broad sweeps. Conflict, tension, pacing, these are things I still struggle with as a writer myself, so perhaps am not best positioned to offer advice. Though I always try to, figuring I might spark something in the author's mind even if none of my advice is directly useful.

As an author, I must say, what I feel is most beneficial from a reader is they not struggle through the whole thing just because they said they would. Instead, if they are not gripped by the story, I'd rather they just tell me that, as well as why, if they can articulate it, rather than give me lots of advice I'm most likely to ignore.

I don't think you should force yourself to be a 'voracious' or 'insatiable' reader. Read because you enjoy what you're reading. Beta readers, by their very nature, are stand-ins for the wider reading public. If you're not sucked into the story, that's valuable information for the author (whether they realize it or not). Beta readers, as a class, tend to be more... permissive than a paying reader. More willing to ignore typical issues new authors grapple with. Many are authors themselves, so know intimately what it's like to be on the other side. But if you're not grabbed by the story, let the author know. And, as much as you can, articulate the reasons why. It may simply be you're not the target audience and the blurb was poorly written (that was my problem in the beginning and I had lots of readers who hated my story (yet they struggled through, forcing me to wade through all their critical advice I ignored)). It's OK to move on. First and foremost, books are entertainment.

message 3: by Ivy (new)

Ivy | 33 comments Keith wrote: "I'm not sure. And not sure how I would qualify myself as a reader; I guess it would depend on the opinions of the authors I read for. What I've discovered as I beta read is there are classes of iss..."
How often do you read now?

message 4: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments A lot less than I should be. I obligated myself to read for a number of authors several months ago when I had a lull in my activities, then got overwhelmed by events. Instead of reading an hour or two a day, now it's per week. They've all indicated they'll wait, when I told them about the delay.

According to my records, since I started beta reading around December of '16, I've read all or part of 128 novels or short stories by 120 authors. I didn't record words read, though. I feel beta reading makes me a much better author, which is why I started doing it. And I do it for free as a small way to pay back the community that has helped me.

message 5: by Sharon (last edited Apr 10, 2019 12:21AM) (new)

Sharon Umbaugh | 385 comments Beta reading forces you to become a critical reader, forcing you to analyze why or why not a particular novel works. It's like dissecting the frog in botany class.

The Writer's Reader

message 6: by Michele (new)

Michele Machado (michelemachado) | 19 comments It's really important to only beta a book in a genre and with a storyline that you'd buy if you realized at the airport you'd left your current read at home. What would I want to read if I was trapped for hours in a tin can at 30,000 feet? It's pretty easy to suss out while you read what does and doesn't work for you from there.

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