Mad Love to Your Beta Reader


Image credit: outsiderzone / 123RF Stock Photo

Beta reading is hard.

Beta reading is awesome.

Beta reading is something I love and hate, both having to do it and having it done to my books.

What is a beta reader? Someone who reads a work in progress with a critical eye to find plot holes, character weaknesses, typos, or whatever you want them to look for. They can be readers, editors, or other writers, it's all up to the author to decide the type of reader and therefore, critique they want to receive. I like using a mix of readers and other writers for my betas. Why? Because writers read differently than readers do, at least I think so. Jenny Hansen had an excellent post about this some time ago. It's worth a read ~ make sure you peruse the comments as well. Interesting stuff there.

Recently I gave my first draft to my friend Nicole to beta read and she ripped it up. I knew it wouldn't be pretty when I started getting texts from her that began with, ‘Don't hate me…'

The funny thing is, I could never hate Nicole ever, ever, ever. Β When she rips my book apart I love her even more. Why? Because everything she marked was spot on. I don't know if I would've spotted the trouble spots on my own. Maybe after a few revisions, but maybe not.

Does it hurt to see her circles, dashes, and comments? You betcha. In a sick way, I welcome the pain. Of course, a shot of Godiva chocolate liqueur helps. Why do I like the marked up pages?

I fervently believe critiques we get on our work helps to make the book stronger. The caveat to this is the critiques should be of the constructive kind. I'd rather have Nicole rip apart my work before it gets published than have a cranky reviewer nail me on Amazon. At least with Nicole's critiques I have the time to take a break, step away from the MS and think about how to fix things.

Which is what I'm doing now. Thinking, napping, napping a little more, and stewing her ideas in my mind.

After a few rounds of revisions I'll give the book to three other Betas to get new perspectives on the work. For now though, I am totally in love with what Nicole has done for me. If any of you need an awesome Beta, I'm happy to share. Send me a message for Nicole's email. Seriously, she's good. A little too good. πŸ˜‰

Jami Gold had a few excellent posts on Beta readers, if you haven't read them yet you should. They are here and here.

What do you think? Do you use Beta readers? Have you ever been one? Do you prefer critique groups? Share with us! We love to know other's processes into the creative fields.

Just for fun, here's a little Big Bang Theory humor. I'm fairly certain I've said this to the Hubs at one point or another. The funny part is around the 1:05 mark.

69 thoughts on “Mad Love to Your Beta Reader”

  1. susielindaususielindau

    I am supposed to be beta reading for a blogger friend and haven’t started because I have been so busy!
    It is hard for me to generalize, but from what I have read many writers hate rewriting because they feel WIP is just the way they want it. Most are well-educated in the craft and know all about it.
    I am not coming in from just left field, but the cheap seats and don’t “own” any of my writing. I really am open to rewrites, cutting, ripping and shredding! In the beginning (last year) it wasn’t that way for me since I hadn’t really done a lot of typing and I was soooooo slow! It took me forever just to type something and I wasn’t even that familiar with the “cut” and “paste” key! Hahaha! Now I have huge sections that I may cut completely from my book! We’ll see!
    It’s a process, but I love it!

  2. amyshojaiamyshojai

    Great post! I love my beta readers, too, they always catch stuff that I thought was clear but isn’t, or make suggestions that solve problems I didn’t realize where there.

  3. Bill Jones, Jr.Bill Jones, Jr.

    I love/hate beta readers. But I really hate it when I get warm fuzzies back that don’t allow me to improve the work.

  4. Myndi stray sock away from insanity.Myndi stray sock away from insanity.

    Is there a part of this process that ISN’T painful? Other than the strangely pheromone-filled writing of the first draft? πŸ™‚

    I’m SURE you’ll whittle, sand, and polish until your MS shines, Miss Tameri.


  5. Gayle CarlineGayle Carline

    Of course I love my beta readers! I love them so much, I give them props in my acknowledgments. Sometimes they’re harsh, but it’s for my own good and I appreciate that. They help me write a book that’s better than my best – who could complain about that?

    PS I was on a panel at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and I was a little surprised that some of the folks didn’t know what a “beta reader” was. Once we explained, many of them had used them, they just didn’t know there was a name for it!

  6. Ruth Hartman BergeRuth Hartman Berge

    I totally agree! My mentor nicely ripped apart one of my short stories at our last critique group meeting. There were three new people there who just sat, eyes wide and jaws agape lol. My attitude is that I’m more concerned about hearing how to make what I’ve written better than hearing a false “how wonderful.” I’ve told my mentor there’s no way I can repay her for the intensive class in writing she’s been giving me except to thank her publicly in my books πŸ™‚

  7. Tiffany A WhiteTiffany A White

    I have mine out to my very first Beta reader now…. and I’m nervous!! πŸ™‚

  8. EmmaEmma

    Beta readers are necessary. The more savage they are with your manuscript, the better for you in the long term, so the bloodier your work comes back to you, all the better πŸ™‚ And there’s no law that says you have to agree with every remark or criticism.

  9. Rebecca EnzorRebecca Enzor

    I love my betas, even when they rip my ms to shreds and leave me huddled in the corner rocking and staring at the wall as if all the answers for fixing my WIP will come from the plaster. I’ve always tried to be a fair beta (I point out things I don’t think worked, as well as things I loved), but I’ve had one once whose only comment was “I hate their names”. Well I’m sorry, but I hate your critique and won’t be using you again πŸ˜‰

    A good beta is priceless!

  10. Louise BehielLouise Behiel

    thank heavens for Beta readers – who take the book from first draft to readable.

  11. Angela WallaceAngela Wallace

    I guess the only difference between betas and critique partners are betas read the entire manuscript at once, and crit partners go through chapter by chapter with you. I work with critique partners, and the experience is just as valuable. Sometimes my stuff sucks and the critter helps me fix it; other times my stuff is decent, but the critter helps me make it rock. I’d be afraid to publish without their input!

  12. Nicole bretonNicole breton

    First, I’m glad you don’t hate me!

  13. Natalie HartfordNatalie Hartford

    FAB post darlin’ and I can’t wait to get to Beta Reading point! I think like you, I will always opt for someone who is brutally honest with me. It only makes me a stronger writer. When I was studying journalism in college/university, our professors TORE our stuff to shreds. And it was always hard to bear because you always thought “there…I’ve mastered it…surely”! But in the end, all that did was toughen our skin and help us grow and expand as writers.
    Long live the betas and good ol’ fashion critique!

  14. August McLaughlinAugust McLaughlin

    If given a choice, I’ll take a Simon Cowell-like beta-reader over one who puts things gently. I know what you mean by welcoming the pain. πŸ˜‰ Then once we get feedback, it’s important to take it all in stride and with a grain of salt. I think most writers know that it’s all pretty subjective. Asking lots of questions (the reader and the writer) helps, as does trusting our instincts…

    Thanks for this post, Tameri. I can’t wait to read your books one day!

  15. Jami GoldJami Gold

    LOL! at the clip. Great post!

    And I agree with you that I have a sick desire to be ripped apart by those I respect. It’s the only way I’ll know where I need to improve. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for linking to my posts!

  16. elissa fieldelissa field

    I stumbled upon this just as I was feeling serious beta-love. I have a story that’s had 20 rejections, but with personal letters from editors like Margot Livesey and Colleen Donfield, so I knew it was worth saving… but had read it so many times myself I’d gone numb to it. I’d pretty much given up until a beta reader responded with the exact comments needed — willing to rip out entire sections, but with surgical accuracy to what it was I was trying to accomplish. A good ripping like that is so freeing.

    Great post!

  17. mj monaghanmj monaghan

    Good info, Tameri. In any endeavor, it’s always best to get some outside feedback. We get too close to our projects and self-evaluation can only take something so far.

    I love the Big Bang clip – it fit so perfectly with this post.

  18. James Garcia JrJames Garcia Jr

    As fate would have it, I am using betas for the very first time as we speak. My publisher closed up shop suddenly, so I am being forced to go fully indie. Thanks for your perspective on this as I learn this new part of the business of writing.


  19. Kristy K. James...Living, Loving, LaughingKristy K. James...Living, Loving, Laughing

    I do love having some beta readers. But from some of the things I’ve seen and read, I think authors have to be careful – or their story may wind up being so different from where they started that they won’t recognize it. There is truth to the saying, ‘Those who can do…those who can’t criticize.’

    So far it’s been a good experience for me…mostly. Most often I find I get nailed on style issues. Sometimes I change it, sometimes…if I think it will negatively impact the scene…I won’t. For the most part though, I agree. While warm fuzzies are great for the ego, PLEASE tell me what you have a problem with. πŸ™‚

  20. patriciasandspatriciasands

    Betas are the best friends! They have to swear to be honest and never ever ever beat around the bush. That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, we like it! They help us to be better than we ever imagined we would be! Great post!

  21. MarciaMarcia

    I’ll be using betas. I have two lined up and would love to include your friend, Nichole! I’m sure it will need a good deal of ripping to be the best it can. I know the comments will sting at first, but the MS will be better for it.

  22. Richard Snow -Richard Snow -

    Hi, Tameri, I have to agree with you. I think of it as like dentistry: painful but necessary. It is painful when someone says “this scene is unrealistic because…(whatever the reason is), or “this character is behaving in a juvenile way” and you realize you based the character’s reaction to a situation on something from your own life!! In my case I paid for several professional manuscript assessments from experienced authors or editors as the book developed. So it hurt money wise and ego wise. One catch is people who say they’ll do it for you and than can’t /don’t sustain the interest to actually do it. a good rule is that is <> people say something doesn’t work, believe them.

    • Richard Snow - WriterRichard Snow - Writer

      Above was meant to read “…if people say something doesn’t work, believe them.” (One person may be idiosyncratic,; with two you’re probably getting the truth.

  23. Coleen PatrickColeen Patrick

    Yes, it’s a love/hate thing, but I so need it. It’s so hard to get distance from my stories–even when I set them aside for a time. But over time, I get better with receiving the critiques–slowly building up my sensitive skin–ha ha!! Logically I know it’s necessary to get a better story. One of the harder things is finding the right people to read! πŸ™‚

  24. EllieAnnEllieAnn

    what an awesome post on betas! Mmm. Godiva liquor, that sounds good. I usually just drown myself in chocolate bars. πŸ˜‰

  25. Tim L O'BrienTim L O'Brien

    Great post and links on this subject. And thank you for always taking the time to answer all my pesky questions on this subject.

  26. Debra KristiDebra Kristi

    I love beta readers. I’ve currently been working with critique partners, but am looking to send my work out to beta readers again shortly. Each time it can only get better. I agree, though, that you have to know which advice to listen to and which advice to take with a grain of salt.

    Great post Tameri!

  27. K SchmittK Schmitt

    I’m in a group and we beta read for one another on an ongoing basis. It is really great to get other perspectives that let me know how a reader might perceive what I have written.

  28. Rhonda HopkinsRhonda Hopkins

    I use them and I love them! And I read for others. I know I’m nuts, but I really like seeing the red on the page rather than hearing “it’s great” with no corrections. I know I’m not perfect so I appreciate every tiny flaw someone finds and takes the time to point out. As a friend recently said, “A less than honest critique helps no one.” I just want my stuff to be the best it can be. πŸ™‚

  29. Karen McFarlandKaren McFarland

    Wow Tameri, this was a very popular post! Just in time, since you and I are beta readers for someone we both know. Shall we exchange notes? LOL! I already warned him I’ve never been a beta reader before and it didn’t work. Darn. I couldn’t get out of it! Just kidding. I look forward to it. Thanks for the post. I feel kinda important now. I feel the pressure mounting. Oh this writing gig is so crazy. This will be interesting. πŸ™‚

  30. Callene RappCallene Rapp

    I’m glad to be getting to this part in the process and looking forward to numbing the pain with copious quantities of chocolate and liqour. What doesn’t destroy me makes me stronger or some other metaphysical bs! LOL!

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