Beta Readers: Who Are They And What Do They Do?

When it comes to writing a book, you may often hear the author searching for and requesting beta readers. This happens during or after the editing process and before the book is published.

A beta reader, also known as an alpha reader, is a reader who agrees to read through a written piece of work, usually fiction. This is to help the author make some last minute decisions with the book before publishing. Beta readers are like test readers to give the author a sense of how well their book may be received by the targeted audience.

So, what exactly do they do?

Beta Readers: Who Are They and What Do They Do?

What They Do

Beta readers can do a lot of things that include, but are not limited to:

  • Checking for spelling and grammar
  • Looking more in depth at the plot, continuity and other elements of the story
  • Give their overall general impressions of the story – what they liked and what they didn’t like
  • Help improve the story overall

You may be thinking to yourself, “This is very similar to an editor.” Well, yeah. I can agree with you on that.

Still, an editor is searching for mistakes. A beta reader is reading your novel as your audience would. They will give their honest opinion and feedback to you about the novel similar to a book review, but with added flare (slight editing).

Beta readers help give your story that extra boost before you hit the “publish” button for all the world to see that plot hole on page 151.

Why else do you need a beta reader?

Often when we write, we know what we’re trying to say. It’s all in our heads, but it may not come out on paper that way.

As a writer, you describe something and think that’s enough because you know what you’re talking about. But the readers sometimes won’t. Beta readers will catch that.

The Report

Beta readers will give you a “report” on your novel. It’s like a cross between a book review and a little editing. They’ll speak their honest opinion about what they liked and what they didn’t like. What there was too much of something in the story, what there was too little of in the story. They really break it down.

The best part? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

That means if you give the same manuscript to three different beta readers, chances are you’ll get three different results.

In the end, it’s your novel, so you decide which pieces of advice to us and which not to us. Still, look at it all and really think about it.

And, if all your beta readers agree that something in the book is not working, definitely take a look at that.

Is a beta reader worth it?

Yes. Yes, I think it is. It’s another pair of eyes looking at your manuscript and it’s your very first reader who maybe become a fan.

Beta readers’ opinions are so important. Take them with a grain of salt, but don’t ignore them.

Have you had beta readers before? What was your experience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Highlight Editing

Similar to rainbow editing, highlight editing zeros-in more on your manuscript.You’re not marking up your plot and characters with various colors, you looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

In rainbow editing, you’re marking up your plot, characters, and setting with various colors, taking an in-depth approach to your story.you looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

In highlight editing, you’re looking more into mechanics and the smaller details.

You could use rainbow editing for this as well, but I find highlighting to be easier and you can use both in the same draft.

Your manuscript will look gorgeous if you do.

Highlight Editing

Replacements

Use highlight editing when you want to replace certain words, sentences, or phrases in your novel. Use different colored highlighters for different things to swap out later. For example, assign different colors to look for:

  • Cliches
  • Vocabulary (add stronger words)
  • Repetitive words or phrases

Work towards making those phrases more specific and concrete.

The “W” Questions

Some small details don’t matter, but others do. It all helps out with the background of the story and gives the readers a little bit more to go on as they delve deeper into the story.

Ask yourself these questions as though you, the reader, is in the story:

  • Where are we?
  • Who are we?
  • When are we?
  • How do things look?
  • What time period are we in? What time of year?
  • Is it day or night?
  • What’s the weather like?

Some details, like the weather, can be small, but they can add a lot to the story and allow the reader to really feel as though they’re in your world.

Use a highlighter to answer these questions (and similar questions you can think of). If you can’t find the answers in the text, then your reader won’t know the answer. Make a note and ask if it’s really important to add. If it is, add it in somewhere you won’t disrupt the flow.

In Conclusion

Highlighters are a lot of fun and they’re made to make things stand out to us. When editing, you want to make notes of things to add, delete, or change. Highlighting these things in different colors is not only easy (and pretty!) but it’ll save you some extra editing of later drafts and will be easy to look back on later.

Have you used this method before? Do you do anything similar? Let me know in the comments below!

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57 Questions To Ask When Editing Your Novel

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The last time I talked a lot about editing on my blog I wrote a post called 35 Questions To Ask When Critiquing A Novel. It was a popular post and it seemed to help a lot of people out.

So, I’ve decided to update it. Between notes I’ve kept from school, my writer’s group, and personal editing of my novels, I’ve come up with an updated list. The 35 questions from before are included in this list, but it’s more organized and there’s a lot more to think about.

57 Editing questions to ask when editing your novel | Editing | Novel Editing | Editing questions | RachelPoli.com

Plot

1. What are the conflicts (internal and external) in the story? Is it known right away?
2. What is the central conflict of the story?
3. Are there too many conflicts happening in the book at once? Or is there not enough?
4. Are all the conflicts important to the story and help drive the plot forward?
5. Is there enough tension?
6. Are there any plot twists to throw the protagonist and the reader off track?
7. Is the plot clear and believable from the beginning?
8. Is the plot interesting? Will the readers be able to relate to points in the book?
9. Is the plot resolved at the end of the book? Is the reader satisfied with the end?

Setting, Locations, & World Building

10. Does the author create a believable setting?
11. Is the setting vividly described? Are there too many details or not enough?
12. Is the setting, time and date period, all consistent throughout the book?
13. Are there enough locations in the book or not enough?
14. What are the rules of the world?
15. Is it clear whether the story takes place in real life or a fictional world?
16. Is the time period clear from the beginning?
17. Is each new location clearly distinct from the last? Is it easy to tell when you’re in a new place?

Character Development

18. Is the protagonist clearly introduced as the main focus of the story?
19. How do you feel about the protagonist? Do you sympathize with him, care about what happens to him, and do you share his emotions? Does the character feel alive?
20. Can you relate to the protagonist or any of the other characters?
21. Does each character have a background, hobbies, etc.?
22. Are the secondary characters helpful and push the story forward? Do they each have a purpose?
23. Does each character grow by the end of the book?
24. Can you see the characters? Are they described well or not enough?
25. Are there too many characters or not enough?
26. Does each character have a unique voice and personality?
27. How are the names? Are there names that are too similar to each other? Are some names too hard to pronounce and read? If so, which ones?
28. Which characters need more developing? Are some characters not needed?

Writing Style

29. Can you hear the dialogue? Is there too much dialogue or not enough?
30. What is the point of view of the story? Is it consistent throughout the novel? Do you think the POV was a good choice for this particular story?
31. How is the pacing of the story? Does the story drag at some points? Do some parts happen too fast?
32. Is each scene easy to read and flow well right into the next?
33. Are there scenes in the book that don’t drive the plot forward?
34. Does the author show instead of telling?
35. Does the overall tone work well for the story?
36. Is there enough emotion in the story? Were there enough happy, sad, angry, tense, etc. moments?
37. Were there any inconsistencies in the plot, characters, or setting anywhere? Were there any contradictions? If so, where?
38. Is there too much dialogue in some parts?
39. Is there too much description in some parts?

General Thoughts

40. Does the opening of the story hook you? Do you want to read more? Why or why not?
41. Were there any parts you wanted to put the books down? If so, which scenes and why?
42. Did any parts confuse (annoy or frustrate) you? If so, which parts and why?
43. Did you know fairly quickly where the story took place, what was going on, and who the story was about?
44. Was the book too long or too short?
45. Did the first and last chapters work?
46. Does the title fit the plot?
47. Is the book appropriate for the targeted audience?
48. Was the ending satisfying and believable?
49. Were there a lot of typos, grammatical or spelling errors?
50. Does the writing suit the genre?
51. Are there any scenes that need to be elaborated more or deleted?

Opinion Thoughts

52. What do you think the moral of the story is? What message is the author trying to get across to their readers?
53. Who was your favorite character and why?
54. What’s one line that you loved for whatever reason?
55. What is the strongest part of the novel?
56. What is the weakest part of the novel?
57. What is your overall impression of the story?

Of course, not all of these questions have to be answered, but it’s a good starting point.

Did you find this list helpful? Have any other questions to ask? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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9 Steps To Editing Your Novel

One question I tend to ask myself when editing my novels is:

Where do I start?

I make a list of notes to edit as I write. Sometimes I’ll write a scene and make a note whether it’s really needed or not. Sometimes I make notes about the characters or the pacing of the story.

Yet, even though I have that list, I begin editing and I find myself just reading. I’m reading like a reader, not editing like an editor.

But first drafts are always terrible, right? So there’s a lot to go through, a lot to think about, a lot to change. It takes a long time and a lot of extra drafts and trees.

So, I’ve decided, in an attempt to get myself a little more organized with my own editing, I’d come up with a process for it. Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t. But who knows, maybe one of you will find it helpful.

9 Steps to Editing a Novel

Step 1 – Take a break

I know this is an odd first step, but hear me out.

Once you finish writing that full first draft, step away from it. Let it rest for a while. I typically wait at least a month, sometimes longer. Give your characters a break and let your mind rest from that grueling plot. This way you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Step 2 – Print it out, mark it up

Print out your manuscript double-spaced (for plenty of room to make notes) and double-sided if you can (sorry, trees!). Then begin your read-through and edits.

Be sure to look for any developmental errors and line edit to give it a thorough read through. Also, have sticky notes, index cards, highlights, various colored pens, etc. You want to be able to tell the difference between all your edits and still be able to somewhat read the page when you go to type it back up again.

Step 3 – Take a break

Self-explanatory. Wait another month or at least two weeks.

Step 4 – Rewrite and edit

Take your edits from the first draft and type it back up again. As you rewrite, edit some more. You’ll catch mistakes you didn’t before and your mind might change on some things. For example, you may disagree with an edit you made or you may add new edits that you left alone before.

When this is done, print it out again.

Step 5 – Tag, you’re it

Let someone else look at it. You can:

  • Get beta-readers (two or three or how many you’d like)
  • Ask a close friend or family member who’s not afraid to be truthful and mark up your manuscript
  • Submit it to your writer’s group (if you’re part of one)
  • Hire an editor

You can pick and choose from this list or you can do all of them. It’d be a good idea to get this set up ahead of time and let them know you’ll have the manuscript to them by a certain date. Give them a realistic deadline as well.

This will allow you to see your book through the eyes of a reader and get various opinions on it as well as general editing critiques.

Step 6 – Rewrite and edit

While others are looking at your novel that’s kind of like your break from it. When they give it back, get started on it right away. In case you have questions for them, you can ask them in a timely manner since the manuscript will still be fresh in their minds.

Rewrite the draft and edit as you go really thinking about the feedback you’ve received.

Step 7 – Repeat Steps 2 – 4 (Optional)

Depending on what stage the writing of your novel is in, you may have to give it another thorough self-edit. If this is the case, repeats steps two through 4. Print it out, mark it up, take a break, then rewrite making the edits to the new draft.

If your manuscript seems ready after having others look at it, you can skip this and go straight to the next step.

Step 8 – Proofread

Print out the manuscript one last time and give it one last read through.

Proofread it for any last minute changes like typos, grammatical errors, spelling errors, etc. Have someone else proofread it for you as well. It’s always good to have another pair of eyes.

Once the final corrections are made, you should be good to go.

Step 9 – Rewrite and submit

Add in the proofreading corrections and then you should have a polished manuscript on your hands. You can them submit your story to where ever you want.

In Conclusion…

This is the process I’m going to take for the mystery novel. I just started the first major edits this month and I hope to be done by the end of the month. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, how it works out for me. I’m hoping to be done with the manuscript by the end of 2017, but hopefully earlier.

Do you use a similar process to edit your novels? What kind of process do you use? Let me know in the comments below!

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Rainbow Editing

I haven’t touched my mystery novel in a long time. I wrote the original first draft for NaNoWriMo in November 2013. Since then, it’s changed a lot. I submitted it to my writer’s group and we all mutually agreed that the main character should not have been the POV character.

I rewrote the whole thing.

In 2015, my goal was to have the full manuscript completed by the end of the year. That didn’t happen, so my new goal was the end of the year in 2016.

The last time I worked on the draft was the summer of 2016. I began my edits, got about 60 pages in, and stopped. My “edits” started to be solely searching for typos. I was reading the story, not editing the book. I got frustrated, not knowing where to start and how to continue, so I stopped with every intention of going back to it a few weeks later.

Then Camp NaNo July 2016 happened and I never went back to my mystery novel.

Now that it’s 2017, my new goal was, (surprise), to finish the manuscript by the end of the year. I have a new plan and a new schedule. I also did some research on editing and I learned a lot. So I think it will work this time.

No one said editing had to be boring. No one said it had to be a chore. It’s a lot of work and brainpower, yes, but I’ve found a way to make editing a little more fun and interesting for myself while staying organized and continue to pay attention.

Rainbow Editing | Editing Your Novel

If you’re easily distracted by shiny and pretty things, like me, then this may be a fun way to edit your manuscript.

When you think of editing, you think of having a red pen in hand, right? Me, too. When you think of writing, you think of blue or black ink, right? If you’re typing it on the computer, it’s black ink.

Editing is hard enough, but when I started editing my novel again this month I decided to use the same draft I was working on last summer so I could save a tree.

The first 10 pages or so are really marked up and then I lost steam. Up until page 60 or so, there are small red marks here and there, but that’s it.

I decided not to use red so I wouldn’t get the last edits and the current edits mixed up. Since I started, two of my pens had run out of ink so I ended up having four different colors on one page.

It’s pretty if I do say so myself.

That’s when I thought of rainbow editing. This is an actual method teachers use to get their students (mostly elementary and middle grade) to self-edit their essays. Each color represents something different: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

But why don’t I do that? I have various colored pens that I never use and it will help me stay organized in my thoughts as I write, edit, and rewrite. So, that’s just what I decided to do…

Red – general typos, spelling, grammar, etc.
Green – Plot changes
Light Green – Dialogue, description, pacing, tenses, etc.
Blue – Character development
Purple – Research, fact-check
Pink – Overall structure, switching sentences and paragraphs around, vocabulary, word replacement, etc.

It definitely looks a bit much, but if you make a “legend” and can remember which color represents what, it helps to zero in on one thing at a time.

I didn’t think of this idea until after I started editing this draft, but it will definitely be used in the future.

Do you rainbow edit or have a similar editing method? Let me know in the comments below!

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