34

I'm fond of the following quote from Neil Gaiman: Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. You're the cook, they're the diner. If they don't like the taste of the omelet, you can't tell them ...


28

As a frequent beta-reader, often for friends, I struggled with this question -- and I'm pretty happy with the answers I've figured out. Don't pronounce judgment; help the author level up It makes a lot of sense to tell an author, "Listen, I don't think this is ready for publication." Because, really, isn't that the most important thing? Well, it is, kind ...


28

Not every chapter needs to blow the reader away No, not every chapter needs to blow the reader away, and you shouldn't be trying to. There are multiple reasons that this isn't something you should try to do. Also, this probably isn't really the issue with that chapter. Why you don't want to do this First of all, you can't. Trying to blow the reader away with ...


22

Assuming that by "non-readers" you mean "people who are not fans of the genre you write", they can be useful beta-readers. Here are some points for you to consider, in no particular order. Being used to certain genre conventions, you might no longer notice when those conventions have some inherent logical failure. For example, being used to D&D, you ...


20

First, let me say how wonderful it is to have a question from a reader, about helping a writer, for a change; we need more of these. I apologise in advance if any of my "do X" advice is something you've already thought of; I don't mean to patronise. I also apologise in advance if you think any of this advice is bad, in which case you can ignore it. (You ...


17

Great question! A great difficulty here is that there's not really much in the way of "professional beta readers." Someone who's really known for giving excellent feedback, and offers that as a service, is pretty much an editor of some stripe. So aiming to become "well-known", "popular", or "respected" as a beta reader might not be in the cards (although ...


15

Your beta reader feels the chapter isn't pulling its weight. It's not about being blown away, it's about a chapter having a purpose and engaging the reader. Because your reader has put it in these terms, my guess is that the other chapters also didn't really engage as part of a larger story. They had elements that the reader enjoyed a lot but didn't ...


12

Your wife is actually an "alpha reader". She understands you, she understands your goals, she is a springboard for ideas, and as your life partner she is invested in your happiness and success. This makes her far more important to you than a beta reader. Your beta readers should probably be kept at a distance from the project so they can approach your ...


10

You're essentially asking if it's possible for a human being to be unbiased. The answer is no, it's not. Even in the case of professional manuscript evaluators working for total strangers, there is no such thing as truly unbiased feedback. But there are ways of improving the situation. Background: "Beta reader" is an tern that just screams the words "...


10

My top recommendation is this: Identify what the story is attempting to do. Different stories are different creatures. "I'm pretty sure I know how this ends!" can be a harsh indictment for a mystery story, or excited anticipation for a romance. "You've really invested in this character's backstory" can be great for an intimate melodrama -- or a major drag ...


10

This answer is specifically from my personal experience rather than objective reasoning. I think it very much depends on the actual person and their individual abilities rather than whether they read a lot or read at all in your genre. I avoid using friends and family as beta readers even though they read prolifically and in my genre. The reason is two-...


10

I'd recommend against an overview. Short stories are short, and figuring out what they are and what they're doing is often a lot of the story's bulk. You want them coming in like a real reader would -- not knowing almost anything except what magazine or anthology they're reading. General Genre/Subgenre. This is often a quick way for potential readers to ...


10

Both are useful. Someone who is genre-savvy will already know the rhythms and tropes of the genre, and can advise you about extra things to add, or say "This theme has fallen out of favor in the last two years," or point out "So-and-so did this already, so don't borrow too heavily." Someone who is not genre-savvy will be able to tell you what needs ...


9

In Software Engineering, a common practice for fixing difficult bugs is called "Hallway debugging". The programmer will go out in the hall and grab the first person he sees and get them to help solve the problem. Since they are not likely to be familiar with the program the programmer is trying to write, he'll have to explain, line-by-line, what his code ...


9

I'd try some of these: Do you feel the character is a 'real person?' If not, would you say the problem might be down to language, their behavior, inconsistency, contradiction between description and action, or anything like these? Do you feel any instances in the writing of what you might call 'authorial intrusion?' (Where you think I am talking, instead ...


9

Answer #1 is a comment/question: Can you ask them the sorts of books/stories they'd each recommend to help you calibrate your extremity? that might be the sort of info that can point you in the direction you should go, because it may tell you which reader is naturally in tune with your intent. Answer #2: I think your experience is common. Science ...


8

I think this will depend on what you want to do and why you want to do it. Is the goal to read good work early? Is it to do something else? Eh? For most authors they want someone they have a relationship with, not a rando on the internet. Why? Because they're giving away their livelihood for criticism and that is both personal and financially risky. So, you'...


8

I expect established authors have the readers they need. But I think you could easily volunteer your time to beta read for a new author looking to break into the business. Try meetup.com for groups which specialize in writing. You will find 'real people' that meet every week - month, and you can take a sample of your work and also critique other people ...


8

Give specific feedback, not general feedback, make sure you mention anything that you do find especially good, and focus on constructive/productive criticism. For example: I thought the section with the dog was strong. The imagery really came alive there and drew me in. The next section didn't grab me in the same way, you might want to think about ...


7

Are “non-readers” useful beta readers? I don't think so. People that don't read, don't enjoy reading. They don't like that kind of fiction, they don't know what is good and bad, it is all bad from their POV because they aren't comfortable reading for that long, they need glasses they don't have (I know three people that don't read because it hurts their ...


7

Things that are good are things which you liked, and elements which achieved what the writer was going for. Funny bits: anything which makes you laugh (which is clearly supposed to) Nice turns of phrase A moment which touches you A suspenseful scene which leaves you tense and breathless A protagonist you understand A character who is complex and rounded ...


6

It depends on the commenter. Is this a friend who is just being effusive, or someone who's offering constructive criticism (or praise) with an eye toward getting you published? Roughly speaking, it's the difference between your best friend saying "dude, that presentation was awesome!" and your boss saying "Good job with that presentation in front of the ...


6

Google Docs is an extremely helpful tool for Beta reading, and is used by several writers of my acquaintance. It allows commenting on individual selections of text, so it's easy to comment on a particular snippet or section. (It also allows replying to comments, so people can discuss the comments or expand on them.) Viewers can make suggested edits, which ...


6

The only solution I see is to let her start critiquing your novels from chapter 1; as you guys critique hers. You can warn her your chapter 1 has been through a critique already; but she may have some new insight to offer you. She is another reader, after all, and a writer. (If Stephen King joined your group, wouldn't you like him to start with your Chapter ...


6

The answer would greatly depend on who you're beta-reading for, and what they ask you for. One writer might have specific questions they'd want you to answer. Another would just ask for your impression. One might want to hear your opinion (in person, or on the phone), another might want it written down. Some authors might ask you to focus on some specific ...


6

If she knows the plot already, she won't react to it the same way a first-time reader would, so yes, it would definitely jeopardize that role. If you really need some advice with the plot, you could show it to someone else trustworthy enough, or maybe make someone else your beta reader, if possible .


6

What you can make out from these two contradictory statements is that the description of the progression of events from the present to the point where the story takes place might not be described well enough. You might leave too many events open to interpretation or expect the reader to take certain developments as self-evident when they are not. So each ...


6

Writing is like most other creative processes. A previous answer is right -- people know if they don't like it, but they don't really know what is wrong. Listen to the emotional content of the feedback rather than the analysis, but, especially if you are still writing the first draft, don't listen too closely, nor too quickly. Get your thoughts written. ...


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