Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beta Readers: What I've Learned

Hey peoples! After a week of battling with a lack of inspiration, a serious editing hangover, and lack of sleep from going to way too many family parties, I have figured out what to write about.
Fantastic, isn’t it? I think so. And I’m excited. I’m excited because these things that I’m about to share with you are things that I had never even considered-- or heard of, since no one seems to write about them-- until after I took the plunge into the world of beta readers.
To start us off, I will give the don’ts of betadom.

1.  Don’t have beta readers go over it before you edit.
Yes, it’s true! After you edit, people. It’s not only easier on you that way-- since you don’t have to send it out to the readers more than once, it’s also easier on them. They don’t have to read the same story OVER and OVER again. That’s your editor’s job- not your beta readers’!
And you may be sitting wherever you’re at thinking, “Well. She should have known that. How stupid can a person be?”, but I entered this business with innocence. I was clueless, as well as naive, and while that hasn’t yet worn off entirely… *angelic glowing* … I’m a lot more in-tune with the business now.

2. Don’t choose betas without considering whether or not they like your genre.
You don’t want someone who doesn’t like your genre, repeat, you do not want someone who does not like your genre. It doesn’t matter how much you like the person. If you are writing a Science Fiction, don’t have someone read it who only likes Historical Romances. At least not to give you advice on the plot. Do you read me?
I made this mistake once. Just once. And ended up with a rather bored best friend to show for it, but no review. (That’s what happens when you give a reader who likes Western Romances an Urban-Fantasy book to read.)

3. Don’t choose betas who don’t fall into, or at least appreciate your audience.
This means you probably don’t want teenage boys beta reading your Chic Lit.
Enough said.

4. Don’t always be negative on what your beta readers have to say.
Even if you don’t like the way they feel your story coming across, you should still take into account what they think. Chances are, they aren’t trying to pick your story-- or you-- apart! They’re there to help you make your story all it can be, not rip it to shreds! And if more than two have the same thing to say about something, you should probably take a closer look at it. There might be something up.
(I didn’t ever struggle with this one, though keeping my mouth in check when I got advice that I didn’t care for was a bit of a problem.)

5. Don’t take beta advice without seriously considering it.
It can go both ways! Don’t always just do as they suggest without checking your gut feelings. It’s the sixth sense in writerdom, the knowing that something is askew. And if it’s their advice that you’re getting that vibe about, don’t take it! If it’s what they’re telling you about that you feel something wrong with, then fix it! You are the only one who can change your story, so change it well.
(I did, however, have some issues with this one. I find myself surrounded by advice, and sometimes I take it without thinking. Ring any bells with you?)

Don’t the don’ts make you feel cheery? Didn’t think so. So, here are some dos!

1. Do make at least three rounds of editing before you collect your beta readers together.

2. Do choose betas that fit your story.
Remember: You did not write the story for ‘people who read’. You wrote it for YOUR audience. You write for yourself, for select people who like books like yours, and no one else. You are not here to please everyone, you are here to change the worlds of a select few.

3. Do be kind to your betas.
They aren’t fish like the affectionate nickname suggests, they are real people. With feelings, and lives, and minds that can be touched by beautiful stories, just like yours.
So be nice to them! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Make friends with them. Chat with them. Discuss book ideas with them. A beta reader is one of the best friends you can have, because not only do they know your books, writing style, and author personality, they know you! And that’s a really cool thing.

4. Do be careful who you give your story to.
You can’t just have your draft-- and the link to it-- all over the internet! There should be sirens and flashing lights beside every ‘share link’ button. MAKE GOOD CHOICES!

5. Do be personable.
This isn’t exactly a beta reader tip- it’s more of an over-all. Treasure emails from readers and fan mail- angry or not. Respond to your readers or followers. Reply to comments, take questions, let yourself be overwhelmed by the fact that people are talking to you. Unless you’re a magical unicorn, you were an unknown once. There were no people in faraway places who knew that you existed, let alone what your writing sounded like. So if there are people who know you exist, you should be excited! Wow! There are people who care what you have to say!

So get out there, recruit your betas, treat them right, and never stop writing!


(P.S. I have never been angelic. That was a joke, no need to be jealous. =P )
(P.P.S. Next week, I’m going to have a couple interviews from beta readers, so stay tuned!)

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