This week is the start of a new section on beta-readers and critiquers. For today, we’re going to discuss why you need these special people in your life and looking at your novel. Let’s face it. It’s easier not to bother with it at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s better not to bother.
This is a valid question. If it’s a lot of work to find the right critique partner or beta-reader and even more to work through a book with them, then why would you even take the time? This post will explain that for those of you who have questions and haven’t worked with a good critiquer or beta-reader (or anyone at all).
Catching Blind Spots
Critiquers and beta-readers can give you an idea of where the manuscript still needs work. Your story is kind of like your baby. You don’t see anything wrong with it, or, at least, you don’t see it as being as bad as it probably is. But a good critiquer or beta-reader is going to notice all the bumps and kinks in the manuscript, and they’re going to tell you. So that’s one big reason you should have a critiquer and a beta-reader.
Knowing the Audience
Your critique partner or beta-reader is a representation of your audience. They can tell you what’s actually working and what isn’t because they (if you’ve chosen well) know the genre. They read it all the time, so if something isn’t fitting or is going to lose the audience, they’re going to pick up on it.
They may even be able to tell you how to fix it. It’s like getting reviews ahead of time on the book without ever having it affect how many people want to read it. Don’t throw away a chance to get this kind of feedback!
Third, they’re going to catch mistakes you didn’t. This is slightly different from the first point. By mistakes, I don’t mean plot holes or long narrative passages. I mean those pesky misplaced commas or grammar errors that can trip a reader up. Or how about when you said on page two that Susan’s eyes were blue but then said they were green on page fifty? Lots of times, beta-readers or critiquers will catch those things if you didn’t. A second or third set of eyes on the manuscript doesn’t hurt.
Thickening Up Your Skin
Giving your manuscript to a critiquer or beta-reader gets your book some exposure and thickens up your skin.
You can’t write in a vacuum. Or, perhaps I should say you can’t write well in a vacuum. What do I mean by that? I mean that you’re never going to get better or go anywhere if you don’t put yourself out there. Writers have to have very thick skins. Not everyone will love the book even if you wrote it in the best way possible. It could be amazing, and someone is going to give it a bad review.
But I’m going to tell you now. If you’re just starting out and you haven’t had many people really work with you to develop your skill, it’s not going to be amazing. It probably sucks. That’s okay because you’re learning and you have to crawl before you walk. But you need to be aware of reality before you’re going to make any progress.
Beta-readers and critiquers give you a chance to hear the bad news from someone you’ve built some connection with. It helps prepare you to take criticism in stride if you respond to it properly. And it gives you a chance to fix what’s wrong before anyone else sees it, which is always a bonus.
Hopefully you can see now why a critique partner or beta-reader is so important. They’re as important as having an editor can be. More so, even, if you’ve been unable to afford an editor and had to self-edit. Don’t write off these important partners. They can really make a big difference in getting to your finished product.
Do you have other ways that critiquers or beta-readers have proved themselves invaluable? If so, feel free to share it in the comments!