Friday, May 28, 2010

The Two Sides to Beta Reading

You've spent weeks, months, sometimes years perfecting your manuscript.  With your finger hovering over the delete key, you have taken out entire chapters, re-written complete scenes, and even red-lined some of your favorite lines. You’ve spent so much time with your baby that you can no longer see the forest through the trees. Your next step is a beta reader.

It is a rare occasion now for aspiring authors not to use a beta reader. Not only are they fantastic at finding redundant phrases, kindly explaining to you the appropriate use of a hyper dash (thanks Natalie!), and pointing out plot inconsistencies, but they have an uncanny knack for pushing you the extra inch that takes you ms from great to amazing.

I myself have beta read countless manuscripts from middle-grade fiction to adult, paranormal romance (the later was an experience and a half ) But, there is a flip side to beta reading . . . at least for me.

Sure reading other people's manuscripts has made me a stronger writer, and God knows my education in comma use and proper formatting came from a well polished ms I read a while back.  But to be honest, I have a more selfish reason for taking on multiple beta reads at a time – it frees my mind!

I'm in the middle of two WIPs, polishing up one while cranking out chapters of another.  The first one, Seven Shades of Crazy, was written well over a year ago, but never queried.  It’s actually a series of five books all of which are completely finished.  I just can’t seem to wrangle it into the story I envisioned.  I play with it every day then toss it aside, go back to the new WIP I started three weeks ago.  I am 41,000 words into it and still no title.  I love it, and I hate it, and there is something missing in the characters that I just can’t put my finger on.

So, when my WIPs refuse to cooperate I beta read.  Immersing myself in somebody else work frees my mind, enables my muse to settle down a bit while keeping me occupied with the craft of writing.

So next time you ask me to take a peek at a manuscript you are working on, don’t thank me.  It’s a two way street.  Your WIPs help me immeasurably on days like today when not an inkling of creative thought is flowing from my mind.


  1. I love to beta read! It's amazing to see the creativity out there, and that inspires me and keeps me going. Like you, it's a two way street and I get as much out of it as I'm putting into it!

  2. I feel the same way. I learn a lot from beta reading. When I'm stuck on a manuscript a great beta read can get me back in a creative frame of mind. And these last couple days I've totally been thinking about Seven Shades of Crazy! I'm reading Megan Crewe's Give up the Ghost and it really reminds me of your manuscript. It's great. You should read it.

  3. That is such a great point, I never thought of that! Thanks for broadening my perspective Trisha.

    Today's guest blogger is THE Elana Johnson!

  4. First I want to ask a silly question, what excatly is a "Beta Reader"? I see this term all over the place, but no one will explain it to me.

    If I go based on what I think it is, then I completely agree with your post. A great example recently is when my chapter exchange buddy told me my sex scenes were too formal. I had no idea what she meant until I read a sex scene she wrote, and then a light bulb went off.

    When I was stuck on the ending for my first MS, I read "The Blue Bistro" by Elin Hilderbrand. Upon finishing her book I had clarity on how to wrap up my own.

  5. I'm just grateful that people will allow me to read their work and let me critique their work. It is awesome, in fact I have some to do tonight.

  6. I had never met anyone who would acutally beta read, because I don't tell anyone I KNOW that I write. It's nice! I love reading the story and having someone who knows nothing about me read mine. YOU are right about this! My eyes blur I've seen the ms so many times : )

  7. Hey Trisha,
    Good post. You know I love beta testing and really feel fortunate we have such a strong writing community to lean on for this. I love reading other people's work and it helps me hone mine so much more.

  8. I still feel like sometimes there has to be some thanking going on!

    I know how you feel though, having another MS to look at, especially one that isn't yours, is a fabulous release.

    I also feel like I ough to add, because I'm a suck up, that a great beta reader is worth three times their weight in gold. Not only do they push you, they're a great sounding board. And a huge motivation. Workng with you shows that I'm the only thing keeping me from writing a novel a month for the rest of my existence.


  9. That is such a positive way of looking at it! It's like reading a novel for the pure pleasure of it.

    What's a hyper dash? Help!

  10. Still no one answered my question...

  11. Elbie -- a beta reader is a someone who reads your ms and critiques it . . . gives you feedback on character development, plot inconsistancies, dialogue, grammar, etc. For me, they are a constant source of encouragment, and the people I turn to when a specific scene or chapter needs a second set of eyes

  12. Ah, okay. Then I beta read and have had others do it for me too. I just didn't know that a specific title went along with it. Thanks.