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Be a Better Beta


Welcome to Craft an Alliterative Title for Your Blog Post Day!

Okay, maybe not. Besides, it’s more like a tongue twister. Don’t believe me? Try saying it ten times fast.

For my next trick, I will stop wandering off topic and address the subject at hand. (Nothing up my sleeves… and… PRESTO!)

This afternoon, I am finally going to have time to tackle some beta reading for a friend. It’s been on my to-do list for awhile, but a full plate has kept me from giving it the attention it deserves. With beta reading on my mind, it seemed appropriate to write a blog post about it.

Writers need readers. We need folks willing to vet our material and keep us from making fools of ourselves. As a beta, you are the second set of eyes for another writer. You are the sounding board; the one likely to catch the things that sound good in the author’s head, but not so good on the page.

While you are being that second set of eyes, keep these things in mind.

Know the author’s expectations.
I’m assuming that you know the writer well enough to ask some questions. Otherwise, why would he ask you to read his work? Find out what he wants you to do. Does he want you to give a full critique, a spot check for continuity, to tell him if a troublesome scene makes sense, or offer a reality check? Keeping a solid goal in mind will help you focus your reading and give him better results.

Be honest about the warts.
If he wanted someone to tell him how wonderful he is, your writer friend could let his mom be his Beta. You, on the other hand, are the one he’s counting on to tell him if he’s wandering around with his fly unzipped and spinach in his teeth. So do it, even if it makes you cringe sometimes. Be polite and respectful, but tell the truth. If something doesn’t work for you, let him know.

Point out the shiny parts, too.
Did you laugh out loud at a funny part? Did a scene bring tears to your eyes? Is there a section that nails something so perfectly you wish you had written it? Share these things with the author too.  We all need pats on the back sometimes.

One comment on “Be a Better Beta

  1. that friend is a lucky man, and he certain would want to know if his fly is unzipped. well, usually.

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