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Beta Readers: They Do a Novel Good

Newbie word of the Day: Betas- no, not those cute little fish that you can buy at the pet store, but trusted individuals who read your completed novel and offer their advice.

So you did it. You typed those precious words that weeks, months, or maybe even years ago, seemed like a distant dream. The End. You've read and re-read the work from beginning to end so many times you have it memorized. You've done all you know how to do to make it pretty and shiny? But before you start on the amazingly fun (note the dripping sarcasm) process of composing a query letter that will knock those agents off their feet, there's one more thing you have to do.

Get Beta Readers.

What's that? But your mom, your sister, and even your Uncle Bill have read your work and have nothing but wonderful things to say? Yes. I'm sure they do. But like it or not, they're going to be a little biased (C'mon. All our closest friends and family think we're the next J.K. Rowling or Judy Blume-that's why we love them). Not to mention, if they aren't writers themselves, they might miss pointing out some important things that you'll want to fix before you go knocking on the gates to that mystical kingdom of agents--or raiding it with the help of Trojan Horses. (If you haven't seen Renee's Photoshop Friday post with a lovely analogy of this process, I highly reccomend you check it out).

It's terrifying. I broke out in a sweat from the waves of nausea that washed over me as I hit the send button. But I've read the works of the people I'm sending my work to and I know that they will be able to offer me insightful and invaluable critiques that will help make my work the best it can be.

While having Beta Readers is important, offering to be one yourself is also extremely helpful. As you read and answer questions about another writer's work, you'll be able to learn what to look for in your own (not to mention the really cool stories you'll get to read that aren't on the shelves yet!). It's a way to meet other writers and share your knowledge while building friendships and it's an important part of the writing process.
Many little critique groups begin when writers exchange all their works to help each other out. Maybe that school of fish analogy isn't to far off from the truth afterall...
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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  1. Such a good timed post since I'm feeling extra in love with my beta readers right now for the helpful feedback I've gotten so far. *Hugs them all*

    There is definitely the feeling like you might pass out from terror when sending off your precious baby (I mean manuscript) but thank God for technology since there's no taking it back once you hit that send button ;)

    I think I've been lucky too, because I've gotten to beta read some seriously amazing stuff.

  2. Brilliant post, Amanda! I couldn't agree more that beta readers are absolute jewels. Find a handful that are talented writers and build a community with them. There are so many little things - spellcheck misses, word misuses, plot holes, flat characters, etc. - that a beta can pick up. It's difficult for a writer to step away from their own work and pretend they don't know their characters front and back and see what they're missing; or read closely enough to catch that "I" that was supposed to be "It."

    And being a beta has pluses, as well. It's another opportunity to hone one's craft by studying and analyzing another's body of work. I bite my nails in anticipation of beta commentary, but in the end, the comments improve my work tenfold.

  3. Great post! Sending my book to my first beta was nerve-wracking, but now I love it.

    And speaking of betas, you ladies all have a lil sumthin-sumthin in your inbox right now! :)


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Item Reviewed: Beta Readers: They Do a Novel Good Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah