Thursday, 17 September 2015

Authoring 101: Beta Readers



I’ve spoken of this briefly before, but I can’t teach you how to write your story. No one can really. Oh, yeah you can be taught certain things. Hell, I believe you can be taught the whole deal, and write awesome stuff with it. However I’m not someone who can teach you. So we’ll move on.

The basics are:

1.      You choose yourself a genre.

This may or may not be the first story you started writing. it wasn’t for me.  On the other hand it could very well be. I guess it really depend on what genre you’ve chosen and/or when you started writing. I did from a whim of “I can do this” but you might be the type of person who mulls these things over. Both ways are good.

2.      Then you write the story.

3.      You read it, tweak it, and read it again. You think it’s the best it could ever be. You believe this.

4.      NOW you get a beta reader, generally someone you trust who will tell you the truth (it also helps if they are readers or writers of the genre you’ve just written)

This is a big one. I didn’t do this with my first book and am living with that every day it’s out there. I hate that book now for the mistakes no one told me before I started reading the reviews.

It’s something i wish I’d done, wish I’d know someone who actually knew what they were doing, hell I wish a lot of things happened differently, but if they had I wouldn’t be where I am now.

The thing is, you need a beta reader because you will have missed something. You will have things that aren’t quite right, that don’t line up perfectly. You will have missing information, or muddled information. You will definitely make mistakes, there’s no doubt about it. You will get better, quickly, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be above mistakes in your first drafts.

What you are looking for is a beta reader.

You generally want to find these for free. I honestly don’t know why you’d need to pay someone to beta read your story, and you find you don’t have anyone that can beta for you, the go further up the ladder and get yourself a MS editor. As far as I can understand a manuscript editor looks for plot holes, tells you if you need scenes added or taken them out. Just anything that doesn’t make sense will be picked up by these editors.

A good beta reader should be able to get you passed this stage without coughing up a lot of money. They should tell you everything that’s wrong with it. They are also there to help. You can’t come into this career and not be able to take someone telling you what’s wrong.

The thing is if you don’t take their advice, if you don’t fix and change what others are telling you to change then they will tell you in reviews and it won’t be nicely said, depending on how bad those problem were. What you have to do is make your book as clean as you can get it, so that when the bad reviews come in you know everything in there was what you needed and/or wanted to say in the story.

It makes taking the criticism a lot easier when you know it’s the reader’s problems with the story and not the fact that you’ve missed a massive plot hole. I know, it’s happening with me before and I can tell you one thing when you read the reviews and you see what they’re seeing it’s a lot harder to deal with then if you know in your heart that there isn’t anything wrong..

So not only do you need someone else to read the story, you need to listen to them.

I’m not joking, you may feel what they are saying is harsh but what they’re really doing is telling you everything a reader is seeing, because let’s face it, the best beta readers are the ones that read. They are very smart people and generally speaking they know what they are reading. They also get very invested in stories, and know what’s missing and aren’t afraid to tell you.

I am a beta reader for one author always and for another a couple of times and I love doing it. What I’ve found is that it doesn’t take long for you to realise what you’ve getting wrong all the time and you fix them while writing, because you know you miss them. So it becomes something you don’t even think about anymore and you’re still not making the mistakes.

Why am I telling you this? I think sometimes we forget to mention this and it’s one of the best feelings, getting a story back and it not having as many comments. Not having the same red marks (so to speak) on your manuscript. It will happen and it will be awesome but first you need to deal with the same notes and marks and comments you need to fix.

How to find beta readers:

I suggestion you need to connect with groups on google+, yahoo, facebook, twitter, which ever you feel most comfortable with. Connect as a reader, as an inspiring author, join groups that are specific in beta reading if you wish, help out others, they will you too.

Which is something else. You need to help to be helped. You need to be friendly to get friendship. It’s something I’ll be speaking about in another post.

Here’s a quick tip, things will always work out better if you make connections in the genre you’re writing in. It’s one of those things, one of the new points in this world, your readers really can and do become your friends and it’s never too early to start making those connections.

Beta readers are a godsend. They are one of the best features. You will connect with them in a way you won’t with others, because if they are good to you they can be your confidants, they can help you in the writing stages and they can help you when you’re plotting if you choose them correctly.

You can never have too many betas but I suggest you don’t use them all at once. Do them in sweeps, choose some from the first read, then get the comments back, fix what needs fixing then send it to the next lot. That way you will get lot of feedback and it won’t be all on the same points. The reason I say this is because one-thing authors will say is that they always find mistakes, no matter how many times they clean and read and re-read it will get published and they will find something wrong.

And that’s all I have for this post, the next is researching I believe.

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