♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Do you use beta readers? Have they been useful in improving your writing?
Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop! The authors included in this ongoing series wish to thank you for your reads. Even more so, we appreciate that you share our writings with friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Prepare to become a regular reader.
Beta readers are a great resource for writers seeking to improve their writing. A fresh set of eyes provide a quick and easy way to dig out weaknesses. That said, this is not the only great outcome that a beta reader can provide. There are numerous benefits to the practice.
When I started out as a writer, I would employ close friends and family to give my latest work a gander. This helped me push past the embarrassment of having anyone look at my writing. Long ago, there was a time I would blush at the idea of anyone looking at a work. This was rooted in my complete and utter understanding that I had a lot of work to do yet! Beta readers can keep you humble while you grow.
Beta readers will cite the plot holes. They will also cite if you lost your way. For example, switching-out characters, as in putting Anne in the group when you started with Mary. Making mistakes is a part of every book writing process. No one is perfect, nor should they feel that they are. Feeling too good about your efforts is a warning that you’re missing all the ways you can mess up. Confidence is fine, but you better check every box on that pre-flight check list before taking off. You don’t want your confidence to deflate.
Beta readers are great at telling you what they hated about a book. While the obvious point is beta readers are stoked about your work, keep in mind that you should be stoked about hearing what did not go well. This feedback is priceless to your book’s development. If you can treat the pimples on your book’s teenage face, you’ll have a beauty queen in short order. Are you prepared to listen? Remember, ,I stated they should communicate what did not go so well. If they aren’t comfortable enough to do so, they won’t. Be sure they’re comfortable with citing your zits straight out.
I’ve seen many an author blow their top on social media over a poor review. Regardless of bad reviews, deserved or not, we should never publicly go off about it. Losing your temper over a review will be seen and then discussed by your readership. That’s the same readership you plan to pull your beta readers from. Do you think that they will view you as receptive to criticism when you go off on criticism? Is it helpful to you in the end to publicly rant? Likely, it’s not. Part of being a public persona is being able to always keep your head.
Before you say that someone came at you and you were simply defending yourself, understand that most people who see such posts are only seeing part of the situation. They are more likely to think you’re blustering than defending, simply because you made the event public and showed a lack of self control. In the end, it is up to you how you’ll behave. This is a gentle reminder that the eyes viewing your posts online (social media, vlog, blog, or else) weigh and measure your attitude via your posts.
Beta readers can help you maintain your momentum because of the feedback they provide. When beta readers can communicate with you easily, you’ll see that this reignites the passion you have for the work. You’ll find tasks to work on that keep you focused on your best efforts, instead of spinning your wheels as you race in muddy circles. Without feedback, chasing down rewrites misses the mark.
Beta readers may be subject matter experts (SME). When writing non-fiction or fiction, subject matter experts can help you get your facts straight. For instance, when you write historical fiction there is a lot to know and remember. The assistance of a SME ensures the facts included in your work are correct. SMEs are more common in non-fiction, but there is no reason that you cannot use them in any literary form.
In the past, I’ve had to tap SMEs for languages as well as history. In fact, i selected editors for their historical knowledge. One of the editors that I worked with on Blue Honor were a great help in giving me accurate historical items to reference in the course of the narrative. The authenticity this provided to the work was priceless.
Another great aspect of working with beta readers is that they can provide you with review quotes. Review quotes gather other readers to your work. Having them prior to publication is not easy to achieve. You have to get beta readers to provide them, or wait months or years for reviews posted on sites like Amazon.
Review quotes also help writers to create the book blurb. Did you know that book blurbs are often created via the key takeaways beta readers cite in their reviews? Sometimes we stand a bit too close to our own work and writing a few short lines to describe it can be an impossible feat. Fresh eyes and fresh brains often come up with catchy ways to distill your story. However, don’t forget to rewrite those ideas in your own words as not to plagiarize them, unless you get their direct permissions to use their words.
Writing a book blurb can be the hardest part of any book project. If you get great feedback from beta readers that is usable in a blurb, be sure to do so. They are often right in how they frame them story in an appealing way. This is especially true when they’re telling you what they liked about/what worked best in the reading.
I highly recommend the use of beta readers (and sensitivity readers where applicable) if they’re available to you. It is understandable that they may not be readily available. It takes time to build a readership, and that readership is what will supply the beta readers (in most cases). While you are building up, asking willing family and friends is a great alternative. If you don’t have those, I suggest using a pair of headphones and an e-reader program to hear the work read aloud. No, it’s not the same, but it’s better than not reading it through at all. You’d be surprised what you’ll find when you hear it spoken outside your head!
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