This week and the previous was spent beta reading. I read a manuscript for a friend which blew me a way. I read a part of a serialized manuscript for another friend which is I liked very much, but left me questioning something–this is not a bad thing btw! (During this time, to break up my focus, I also read Stephen King’s Joyland but I doubt he cares about my opinion.)
I joined a writer’s group two years ago. I remember it was two years ago because it was right as I was querying Other Systems and I signed my contract for publication right near my birthday in 2011. Now just for a definition: Beta-reading is NOT editing. Though sometimes I point out grammar things that annoy me, mostly a beta-reader is looking for plot holes, pacing issues, out of character actions, or other things I find confusing.
When I first started beta-reading, I read small pieces of a manuscript because that is how the group is set up. Mostly a single chapter. However a single chapter doesn’t give me the overall view in regards to the whole of the story. Also once the author changed something after the critique I got very confused when I read the next chapter.
What I learned for me is short pieces work well for character development or getting facts straight. I admit the last time I brought a chapter to my author’s group, I was asking specifically if a chapter in The Light Side of the Moon which deals with drug use. All I wanted to know was does this person’s experiences seemed correct. I have never done drugs so I had no experience, but I guessed at least a few people in the group had, and I was correct. Though marijuana is legal where I live, it’s stinky so I have no interest in smoking it.
Now that I have written a few books, I particularly like reading full manuscripts, because I can identify anything that annoys me as a reader: plot holes, pacing, the amount of sex, swearing, translation issues. Even if the book is written for the target market for the novel.
When I met with the first friend so I might give her my critique –yes I am not saying anything about it purposely because I don’t have permission–we talked about how one of the best things about beta reading is sometimes you learn from a mistake that you see the other authors make. Also there is nothing like seeing the development of a manuscript from the moment I read to it being released. I read a few chapters a few years ago, now I read the whole thing and I am really excited.
Same thing with the one I finished the second one this morning. One will be later this year and I think the next one is next year. It’s fun to read the final version.
So writers while reading is important to an author so is beta reading. If you are a writer, chances are you have writer friends. Go forth and beta read. Any time that you are giving your friends comes right back two fold. 1) these are the folks that critique my own work and (2) you learn things from critiquing.
Next week: I will write about how to accept a critique of one’s writing.