Beta readers and what they are all about. They don't have to be scary.
When writing a novel, one of the key steps is sending your work out to beta readers. You have written the book and tried to clean it up on your own, but they are your own words. Your mind will automatically correct mistakes because you know what you meant to say. The value of giving it to someone else is that they are not you.
The first time you let someone read your novel can be so scary but so helpful. When you have a novel written, whether completed or not, you have spent so much time and effort on it. Hours and hours at a time sitting, writing, thinking, and editing. After all of that work, you put the words in someone else's hands and ask them to tell you what they like...and don't like.
The telling you what they like part is great. They praise your characters and writing so much that you find yourself on the highest high. They like your book. No, they love your book. You did it!
The not-so-great part is when they tell you what they don't like. They have suggestions on character names and point out typos or confusing sentences. They pick through the chapters and tell you exactly how there is too much or too little written. They find holes in your plot that you didn't even know existed.
When they point out the negative, the first response is defensive. Nothing could be wrong with this, I created it myself. It has to be perfect. Right?
Everyone can write and send out a novel to a publisher. Not all of those are good. Or at least, not all of the parts are good. Honestly, that's probably the best thing a beta reader can do is tell you how to fix your story. It is much better for them to mention it instead of having an agent look at it and realize it has too many errors to be worth their time. So much better.
Letting someone look at your novel before you submit it, is probably the best thing you could do. This is something I would always tell my students. Have another pair of eyes look at it. Better yet, have them read it aloud to you (if possible) and your mistakes will leap off the page.
When it comes to beta readers, the more the merrier. Well, maybe not merrier, I mean this is criticism we are talking about. Some readers will focus on characters, others will focus on plots. The different perspectives is exactly what you need.
It's nerve-wracking for sure. Choose the beta readers carefully and ask them to be kind but honest. It's the best thing you could do for your novel or any piece of writing.
Thanks for reading!
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