How Beta Reading Helps
I absolutely love beta reading. From all sides, really. I love being a reader and getting to see new ideas as they are formed. But what I really love is letting others read my work and provide valuable feedback. Sometimes, I feel like I communicate an idea really well, but then someone who doesn't know me well will see the same idea and be utterly baffled. I guess I didn't communicate that idea as well as I might've liked. So I get to have valuable dialogue with people and try and figure out a better way to make sure the idea comes across well.
For that matter, someone reading this post probably didn't understand the previous paragraph, because I didn't communicate it the best way that I could.
I get to discuss with really smart people who read a lot and workshop parts of my story that flop. Trust me, a lot of my first drafts have elements that completely flop. And that's okay because it's all part of the refining process. Sure, that process is violent and sometimes painful, but it's ultimately really helpful and necessary. I re-wrote about 23% of Echo after a few rounds of beta reading, and honestly, I can't imagine how I let the first draft slide.
In fact, many of the changes that I made will have far-reaching effects that will persist for many other books and stories to follow. I've been able to increase the role of character's people want to see more of and decrease or fix characters that people didn't connect with. I've been able to patch up plot holes and tune up contrived plot devices. This is all so different from proofreading, this is making content the best it can be, and it's absolutely essential.
There are a lot of ways for authors and writers to put this into practice. From old-school methods like printing the manuscript off at home and giving it to friends and family, to uploading it to a Google Doc and sharing the document with whomever you should choose. There's not a wrong way to make this happen, it's all about what works best for you.
I use a resource called Beta Books. This is a fairly new resource, but extremely useful and helpful for collecting readers, gathering and organizing feedback, and tracking reader progress through the book. If you are looking to take your manuscripts to the next level, I would highly recommend using Beta Books.
The point, however, is simply to gather feedback. And not just proofreading feedback, but valuable feedback about story, characters, setting, plot, and generally how your story works. If writing non-fiction, beta readers can help make sure your message and intent are clear, and help you work towards making the best experience for readers that you can do.
I will probably always be using beta reading in some form. In fact, I'm currently accepting beta readers for my next short/novelette, Frequency. If you're interested in becoming a beta reader and having the opportunity to read new works completely free and help give valuable feedback to how my projects are going, I would encourage you to sign up here.
Echo is available now! Get it on Amazon today: