the who, the what, the when, the why, & the how
If the writer is the 'alpha', then the first reader is the 'beta' - they are the first person to see the story apart from their own heart. A writer pours out story to a point of being too close - to a point of not being able to see the flaws. This is why beta readers are integral to the outcome of a finished piece of writing - they see the weaknesses a writer is too close to recognize.
As of November, 2015, The Church In The Wildwood has been handed off to a small first round of beta readers.
As first-round beta readers, I've asked my group to critique story and emotion. I want them to pay special attention to character development, pacing, plot and consistency.
I don't necessarily need them to worry about things like spelling and grammar—though they should make notes if they find glaring mistakes—I’m much more interested in their emotional response to the story and whether or not I’ve written something that might resonate with an audience from start to finish.
This is an early manuscript. It is unfinished. This is NOT the final version. Beta readers have the privilege of influencing the version that will go to print.
I asked them to be kind. But I also asked them to be ruthless because without their full honesty this project will never reach its full potential.
What does a beta actually look for?
On top of attention to such overall things as characters, pacing, plot, and consistency, I've asked my beta's to consider whether or not they agree with the Young Adult categorizing of The Church In The Wildwood.
I've also asked them to be watching for and note the following:
- parts/scenes that feel unnecessary, that are too obvious to be stated or don’t lead anywhere. (Everything should inform the story…anything else is just taking up space.)
- glaring mistakes (spelling, grammar, etc.)
- any questions that arise
- consistent tone
- repetition (of information, words, phrases)
- plot discrepancies
And just to be anal and difficult (writer's are so needy!) I designed a score sheet that will be returned to me at the end of their reading - a report card designed to clearly show me where I need to spend more time of this project. You can check it out here.
Round One - November 2015
Round Two - February 2016 (approximately)
Round Three - May 2016 (approximately) (Round three will be much more technical - more of a line edit - perfect for grammar Nazis and people who pay careful attention to minute details.
Do you want to join my beta team?
I'm looking for more readers for round two and three.
If the idea of influencing a work of fiction appeals to you; if you find yourself naturally critiquing novels and movies; if you circle mistakes in published works because it drives you crazy...you'd probably make a great beta reader!
If you could take the following vow and actually mean it:
I, beta reader of the manuscript The Church In The Wildwood, do solemnly swear to be wholly honest in my critique, providing constructive criticism to the benefit of the finished product; to send my feedback only to the author; and to honor the author by completing my part in a timely manner, saving my final opinion until I have read the novel to the very last word.
...you'd probably make a great beta reader!
Email me at alannarusnak(at)yahoo.ca and I'll let you know if there's a place for you!
And after the beta process?
Seriously shopping it out to agents, after making all the necessary edits and changes, of course - hopefully beginning with some sit-down interviews at a Writer's Conference in June, 2016.
Need to know more about being a beta?
Check out this helpful guide —> Beta Reader Etiquette