Tag Archives: Kathleen Aherns

Beta Readers

Sigh. Another three months have gone by. Double Sigh. So. Where were we?

When I write I’m not exactly a pantser. But I’m not a plotter either. I know where the story is going. I know how I want it to end. Maybe I’m too willing to find a new character along the way. Or find a flaw in the main character. Or find out that the main character should be older, wiser–younger, sillier. Or even find a new ending.

So this led me to thinking about beta. Second letter of the Greek alphabet. β A pretty cool way to write the letter b. As in not Alpha? hmmm…and a beta reader.

Google says beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterisation or believability; in fiction and non-fiction, the beta might also assist the author with fact-checking. Yes. That they do.

Does my critique group count as beta readers? Nah! I think not. Why? Because they saw too much. Know too much. And, in someways, like me, they are very vested in the story. It was time to send this story to someone. I knew it couldn’t be an agent/editor. Nah, again. Not ready. First off it was too long. Second, it rambled. I got that there was too much writing getting in the way of story. But I liked those vignettes, the way they fell into the storyline, they way they explained with out telling [I hope] a lot about the main character.

Then last year I received an offer I could just not refuse. An offer, by an accomplished writer and teacher of writing, to take my whole story and read it all the way through. New eyes. New attitudes. No clue as to where the story came from. No witness to the struggles. No understanding of the plot beyond the synopsis. Did I trust the person? Yes. Was I nervous. Yes.

And get feedback. Ah. Feedback. This is not the same as critique. Although my critique group is brutal…attacking the page not the person. But still!  So I sent. And I paced. And I paced. And I chewed a couple of fingers. Waited. Anticipated.

Then it came back. With comments. Not–this sentence should be shorter. Or you need to use this description. But something much more helpful. Four letters–E, T & B, C. E and T were good. B and C were bad. Emotional and tense. Boring and confusing. Doesn’t seem like much, does it?

Think about it! What holds you to the story? What takes you out of the story? Yes. Well.

So. Eighteen thousand words now on the cyber floor, a tighter narrative, a more accessible character.  I raise my glass to beta readers–those who are willing to spend the time and energy!