Beta Reading Challenge

My writers group just started a new program called Beta Readers Round Table

Five of our members submitted their completed manuscripts to be reviewed by Beta Readers (myself included). Each Beta Reader critiques 2 manuscripts based on content (not line editing). Searching for plot holes, characterization errors, point of view switching, change of tenses, the bigger stuff (not grammar, punctuation, etc). And it’s a challenge.

This is what critique groups are for, in my opinion. Our meeting sessions normally focus on 10 pages at a time. The online critique sessions can be anywhere from a chapter to 5-6 chapters long. This is the first time we’re doing entire manuscripts in one swoop. And two manuscripts at that. This seems like a great opportunity to capture big plot holes and voice, flow, all the big stuff all writers want to know about their unfinished babies. A great opportunity, and a big responsibility.

When all of the beta readers are finished critiquing their ‘assignments,’ we’ll get together in a round table forum and go over everyone’s work. I’m sure this session will take well more than an hour, but it should be with gold-level content. Writers are supposed to walk away from the session feeling good about themselves and their stories. And feel like they’ve carried away a massive ruby or emerald in their pocket of exceptional critiques.

How many opportunities do these manuscripts get before a writer submits them to an agent or editor?

I’ve just finished the first of two, and I’m really impressed with the stories our members create. Truly original and completely new perspectives. But at the same time I’m also hesitant to be too critical. I’m not published, yet. I don’t have an agent, and no experience in what editors look for in submissions. But I’m an avid reader. I know what I like to see. I know the difference between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ and I’m much more entertained by ‘showing.’ I love the emotion in stories. So those are the kinds of things I look for in manuscripts. When I give critiques, I try to give ideas on how to make something better (not just, ‘I don’t like this scene. Not realistic.”) I give a suggestion on how to make it more realistic, or better for the reader.

Don’t close a door for someone without giving a them a window they can open.

I hope the other Beta Readers do the same for my manuscript.

It’s challenging. Seeing a potentially brilliant story with vibrant and genuine characters in its most raw form- I want to help the writer make it better. I don’t want to ruin it with my suggestions that may not be the best ideas. Its challenging trying to help someone. But if it’s the right idea, I’m proud to say I helped make their story better.

3 responses to “Beta Reading Challenge

  1. I belong to an online critique group called critiquecircle(dot)com

    I found out about it after attending the PNWA summer writers conference. I looked up one of the book doctors who’d been a particularly good speaker at the conference. His blog offered a link to it. Very cool. You can download entire novels or chapter-by-chapter. After someone critiques your chapter, you can rate them on how good their critique was. You can form online groups (like the one you guys have) and/or post your material world-wide to a broad group of critiquers, or both simultaneously.

    If there are any teachers or librarians in your critique group, I’m doing a contest on my blog right now. Winners get a hundred free bookmarks. I think you can just click my name on this comment, and it will direct you to my wordpress blog, Englishemporium.

    Does anyone in your group write YA? I do as well.

    And FYI, while at the PNWA summer writers conference, I took notes on every lecture I attended and blogged about them. If you go to my Englishemporium wordpress site, you can read my notes and glean good writerly info. It will be under the “Craft of Writing” link in the side margin (not the top page tabs–the side margin).

    Best of luck in your writing endeavors.

  2. I’m eager to dig into the manuscripts I have to read! And, I’m curious to hear what the guys (was that an accident that three guys got my novel? 😉 ) say about mine. You hit the nail on the head – you are a reader, so read like that. We’ve all been in the situation where reading a novel something knocks you out of the story – a POV shift, plot hole, a character doing something, well, out of character. This is the opportunity to share that. You are a great critiquer – those two authors are going to be so lucky to get your feedback.

    Miss you! Have a good Labor Day!

  3. Pingback: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine? | Jennifer M Eaton

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