Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beta Readers

Beta Readers - what are they and why do I want (need) them?

What They Are?

According to Wikipedia, a Beta Reader is someone who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described as "acritical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public."

The author or writer, who can be referred to as the alpha reader, may use several "betas" prior to publication. The term "beta" is an appropriation from the software industry which uses the terms "alpha" and "beta" for software that are internal works in progress and publicly released tests, respectively (though a "beta" version may still be tested internally). While the use of the concept and the term is most common among fan fiction writers, it is growing in popularity with novelists, to the point where some have thanked their beta readers (sometimes even referring to them as such) in their acknowledgments. A beta reader, who may or may not be known to the author, can serve as proofreader of spelling and grammar errors or as a traditional editor, working on the "flow" of prose. In fiction, the beta might highlight plot holes or problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking.

Other types of writing groups have been known to use the French term, critiquer or the abbreviated, informal version, critter in the same context as beta reader.

Why Do I Want (Need) Them?

To me, the Beta Readers are invaluable.  Each one of them critique and comment differently.  Each gives me different depth and comments on the written work.  Each one is bold enough to say things like "this part needs help" or "there is a hole here" or "try this instead of that" or "add more imagery here" or "the flow is good, the characters are fine, but add another paragraph here with more detail" etc., etc.  One Beta Reader sent me back one of my chapters with the statement "this chapters SUCKS!  Try it again."  This is what I need and want from them.

What I don't need is the written work coming back with just one or two small comments along with the statement "the story is great!".  I need them to shred and tear it up and to give me their honest and brutal take on the work.

I take all of their comments and address each one.  I meld together what works and take out what doesn't, while staying true to my own judgement and the path I want the work to follow.

What I end up with is the story that lived in my mind and I was trying to get onto paper.  When reading ones own writing, many things are missed.  With the Beta Readers, I miss less and my writing is better because of their comments.

I can't say enough wonderful things about my Beta Readers.

All I can do is hope they know how much I appreciate their help, efforts, and honesty.

You guys are the BEST!!

Thank you!


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