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Five people you need to beta read your novel by Claire Frank
Getting honest feedback on your work is an important step in crafting a book that hits the right notes with readers. Often, as authors, we’re too close to our stories to see their flaws. We know the backstory, the character’s histories, the themes, and major plot points. We know what we intended to write and how it is supposed to fit together, and in our writerly mind it all makes perfect sense. But what we intended and what makes it onto the page aren’t always the same thing. Most of us need good beta readers to call us out on our crap.
In addition to finding people who are able and willing to help by reading an early draft of your book, consider finding people to fulfill several specific purposes. Each reader will come at your work from their own unique perspective, and you can use that to your advantage to get a wide variety of helpful feedback.
Here are five people you should consider as beta readers for your novel:
Do you have any doubts about the consistency of your technology or magic system? Have your gamer friend read it. Gamers are fantastic at finding inconsistencies in powers, abilities, magical weapons, and technology. They seek out the rules amid the gameplay or story so they can exploit them, so they’ll read your book with an eye for those details. Did your magic weapon break down a thick stone door in chapter five, yet fail to slay the lightly armored henchman in chapter 21? They’ll notice. Does your tech have cross dimensional communication capabilities in the opening scene, yet the plot hinges on the protagonist being unable to send messages back to headquarters? They’ll call you out. Tell your gamer friend to see if they can break your magic system. If there are problems, they’ll find them.
The Voracious Reader
Someone who is a voracious reader, especially in your genre, can help spot clichés and elements that are overdone. Because they are so widely read, they’ll help you tease out the things that make your novel seem like just another in the pile. They will also show you the plot points, character traits, and themes that make your book unique and stand out above the rest. The voracious reader should have a good intuitive sense of what makes a good story and can help you refine your work so it will be a satisfying read for people who love your genre.
No matter how many times you read over your own work, mistakes will remain. Our brains fill in the holes when we read, making sense out of the nonsensical. This problem is compounded when you know what you intended to write. It is simply very difficult to see our own mistakes. A professional editor, whether through your publisher or one you hire yourself, will be the strongest line of defense against mistakes, but the Perfectionist can help spot all those tiny errors that are so easy to miss. Someone who reads with an eye for detail will also help you find the places where your characters do things that don’t make sense. Were they sitting at a table and now suddenly they are running? Did they start fighting without ever picking up a weapon? The Perfectionist can help you see those small slip ups that threaten to break the reader’s immersion.
The Honest Skeptic
As gratifying as it is to have people say nice things about your work, at the beta reading stage, you need honest criticism. Your mom or your best friend may tell you how much they love everything you do, but that isn’t necessarily going to help make your book better. Someone who approaches your story with some healthy skepticism and a willingness to be honest will point out where your book needs work. You need to know if there are glaring plot holes and inconsistencies, places that drag, chapters that are confusing, and characters that fall flat. Find someone who has no vested interest in your work and who won’t try to spare your feelings. You don’t need a pat on the head, you need someone who will give you a fair assessment of the quality of your book before the wider public starts spending money on it.
This person may be your best friend, your mom, your spouse, or someone else who thinks every word that spews from your fingers is pure gold. But wait, didn’t I just say that you need honest criticism and someone who tells you how much they love every word you write isn’t helpful? I did. But in the midst of the honest critical feedback, don’t discount having someone read it mostly to stoke your ego. As long as you’re honest with yourself about what their feedback is doing for you – softening the blow of the harsher criticisms and keeping your spirits up as you begin to tackle revisions – there’s nothing wrong with a little ego-stoking. Just don’t mistake this person for someone from the other categories and assume the first draft of the book is actually brilliant. Enjoy their nice comments, and then get back to work hacking your first draft to pieces.
About the author:
Claire Frank is a longtime fantasy fan who was raised on a steady diet of magic and wonder. She started writing as a child and somewhere along the way, realized she had worlds to explore and stories to share.
Her husband David is her co-creator in everything she does. He is blessed with an abundant imagination and a tendency to daydream. Together, they craft worlds, banter ideas, create characters and develop their stories. She may be the one to craft the words on the page, but he is a part of every word.
They live in the Pacific Northwest with their three children. Claire loves coffee, great books, The Princess Bride, chocolate, and bacon. Because everything is better with bacon.
About the books:
To Whatever End: Echoes of Imara Book One (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QXSSH2Q/)
Veterans of a past war, Daro and Cecily left the politics and turmoil of their kingdom behind, making a home for themselves where they can live in peace. An unexpected attack fractures their quiet existence and although Cecily narrowly escapes with her life, Daro is taken captive. He awakens to a world where his captors exact complete control. Forced to wear a mask and given a number instead of a name, he endures crushing psychological torture, conditioning him to be an experimental subject in a madman’s bid to bend the laws of Wielding magic.
As Cecily turns to old friends and attempts to mend broken alliances in her desperate search for her husband, Daro struggles to hold onto the shattered pieces of his mind. No sacrifice is too great to bring Daro back, but as the days tick by, he may succumb to his captors, becoming another living weapon in a growing army of abominations.
An Altered Fate: Echoes of Imara Book Two (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017SBWMTU/)
Although liberated from captivity by his wife and friends, Daro’s ordeal left him tortured, drowning in power he can’t control with voices haunting his mind. Cecily, weary and losing hope, watches with growing dread as her husband’s condition deteriorates.
People from the land of Daro’s birth arrive with a possible solution. But to repair the pieces of his shattered psyche, Daro must leave his wife and travel to a home he scarcely remembers, where many believe he is too dangerous and the only answer is for him to die.
News of the other captives reaches Cecily, and with an unlikely ally in Pathius, she sets out to prove they can be saved. But Pathius was once the prince and his very presence jeopardizes the peace she and Daro fought for. As tensions mount, Cecily may not be able to stem the tide of violence that threatens to overtake her kingdom, and war may be inevitable if Daro does not return.