betareaders

CTRandall

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Basic questions: how many beta readers do you use? are friends and family acceptable as beta readers? where do you find betareaders (do they prefer hiding under specific geologic formations or will they use any old rock?)

I know enough not to rely on friends and family for real content editing but my wife is my first betareader and she can be pretty tough (she puts the critique section of the chronicles to shame!). I've got two other betas, a nephew and friend, who are a great help as well, but wonder if I should expand my circle further.

Opinions? Comments?
 

Shorewalker

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Personally, I think the more the merrier. I currently have five, but would love to have double that. They ARE friends and family, but so long as you can sell them on the benefits of the value of criticism, it can work to a decent extent.

Additionally, I attend a weekly writing circle, during which there's a manuscript read and critiques...very useful if you can find somewhere local.
 

Jo Zebedee

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Too many and feedback becomes confusing. Traditionally I’ve relied on a small writing group for first feedback but everyone had busy lives and I currently have a small group of victims - sorry, volunteers! - (4) working with me on Inish Carraig 2.

After that, I’ll get a couple of full book readthroughs to see how it al hangs together, then editor, then copy editor.

My husband brainstorms with me but doesn’t beta - he’ll read it when it comes out.

I’ve also worked with specialist betas before. @Tywin beta read and advised on all my military scenes in the Abendau series, without reference to the wider material, the hero.

As to where - pretty much all of them have either come from here or we’ve met on other forums and I lured them to the dark side of the Chrons :)
 

Toby Frost

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I think it depends on where you are with your writing. When I started out, I joined a good writing group. They were very dynamic about getting work published and helped bash a lot of bad traits out of my writing. They had a critiques board like the ones here. As time went on, a few people were particularly keen on the writing I was doing (from the writing group and a couple of old friends) and they became the main readers. They still are. So I suppose it's only 2 or 3 people now.

To be honest I can't see why your wife and friends shouldn't critique your work so long as they're going to give reasonable feedback, although it can't hurt to get someone to read it who doesn't know you as well. The aim is to get it to a publishable standard and as good as it can possibly be (not quite the same thing). I think the advice not to use them is aimed at people whose relations would say it was genius no matter what.
 

janeoreilly

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I'm going to buck the trend here, because I don't have any at all and haven't done in years. I did have readers early on before I was published, but they mostly looked at the first couple of chapters. You can end up writing by committee so this is something you do have to be careful with. Once I reached the point where I started to sell I stopped TBH. Now my books go to my agent and then on to my editor and that's it.
 

Juliana

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Too many and feedback becomes confusing.

I agree!

In my case, early chapters go to my writing group as I'm working on the first draft. Then, when I've finished and tidied the first draft, the full thing goes to anything between 1-3 beta readers for a full read-through. All of them are Chrons members or members of my local writing group. Like Jo, specific scenes might go to specialist readers when I'm nearing a final draft. For my second book, for instance, I had one person read over my rock climbing scenes, another to go over all my sword fight scenes, and one to revise my panic attack description (thanks @Jo Zebedee *waves*)

Note: it might not be the same people each time; depends on reader availability and also genre/subgenre preference (I write both fantasy and SF). Also, fresh eyes are good sometimes!

That said, if you then go on to sell your novel to a publisher, your editor will have their own opinions on what needs work. Be prepared to revise all over again, even if you thought it was already perfect!
 

AnyaKimlin

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I find it best to have a non sci-fi/fantasy person or two in the mix (when I can explain fairies or demons to someone who doesn't "get" the whole concept I find it works better for everyone), I try to have someone from the same demographic as my MC and I try to have someone who is not a writer. I also try to pick people for different reasons - a grammar geek to point out any recurring issues, someone good with characters and someone who is better with plots.

Because I have ME, I struggle being reliable so use my local bricks and mortar writing group (I go from from reading five books a week to none for months when I am ill). It gives me access to knowledgeable folk who mostly write poetry (two of them write fabulous fantasy but it's as a hobby we are trying to convince one lady her work needs to be somewhere other than her hard drive). It's also useful to be able to read a chapter that's not working out loud. Also, I am finding facial expressions and body language are reliable indicators of when something is working.

I aim for five to ten by the time a book is completed.
 

EJDeBrun

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I have one friend who is my beta reader. She actually betas for other friends as well, so her feedback is very valuable. She's also very harsh and I know my work has improved with her help.

For a full draft, I have a few other friends on the wings who are waiting for things, mainly because I don't like wasting first impressions by feeding too many people the same thing too many times.

I've also started pestering people on this board, which has helped in spades as well. ;)
 

Dan Jones

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For me the ideal number is two, and that would be two people whose opinions I trust. Otherwise it can be too confusing, and work against you.

Best thing is to find a few people whose opinions you objectively trust, and whom you know will find some value in your work.

Not easy, but its certainly possible, and if you find people with whom you can have an honest critical relationship then you may find yourself in the position of not having to use a professional editor (if you're going the trad publishing route).
 
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