I think everyone knows the benefits of having beta readers, but what about being a beta reader? Let me tell you, being a beta reader is a great learning tool. It’s like in biology, when you learn about Punnett squares, and you might think you understand it perfectly until you do some of the practice problems, and realize you actually needed the practice, and understand it better now. Beta reading can be kind of like the practice problems; you’re combing through someone else’s writing with the intent of finding its every problem. You might find yourself thinking, “man they use the word ‘that’ a lot”, and then wondering, “did I check how often I use the word that?” I’ve also found it very much to my advantage to read for people who have a variety of styles and genres. Some are going to make you think harder about your word choice, others about your world building.
Beta reading is also a great way to start networking with your fellow writers. You’re all going through the same experience, and it makes everything much easier to have people you can share your excitement, your disappointment, with. It’s sort of a two way street—you can’t expect that people will continue to beta read for you if you never return the favor for anyone. That’s not to say you’re required to read everything written by everyone who volunteers to do it for you, because there’s only so much time in a day. But it’s so great to share and be excited for each other, and love someone else’s characters the way they love yours. I would be nowhere without the help I’ve been given, and I can’t imagine not wanting to repay the favor.
And let’s face it. Helping someone else makes you feel good. It feels so altruistic to help someone else with their work. And you get to read some pretty awesome stories. Before they’re in bookstores.
There’s really no way to convey just from this little post how beneficial I think it is to read for others, because the best way to find out is to do it. So if you haven’t been a beta reader yet, go find yourself a manuscript to read!