Well, even though I am home a bit more, time seems to be flying by quickly. Since you might be taking advantage of your extra time home by writing more, I want to talk about the value of critique partners and beta readers—your new best friends.
You’ve worked on your manuscript countless hours, but still, some areas aren’t where you want them. This is the time to reach out to beta readers or critique partners.
Authors spend so much time on their manuscripts they can’t always see them objectively — no matter how much self-editing they do. Beta-readers/critique partners could help by identifying plot holes and inconsistencies, telling you if something seemed confusing, pointing out if something didn’t flow well, or offering suggestions to strengthen a character.
It’s important to know the difference between a beta-reader and a critique partner.
Critique partners are writers who offer suggestions to one another. Many times, a critique partner will be knowledgeable in character development, point of view, structure, and flow, etc. Often, they can offer specific suggestions to change something.
Beta-readers are often not writers. They have the privilege of peeking into your story and giving their opinion. Many times they are family and friends. They can tell you if they enjoyed the story, but may not always be able to define why something didn’t work.
Start small—maybe one or two honest friends. Perhaps you have shared your excitement with some people as you wrote each chapter. Begin with them. Maybe they can read small segments. If you are concerned about something specific, share that and ask how you can make it better. Provide a few open-ended questions such as: What would make this stronger? Did you feel something was missing? How can I better engage the senses?
Opening yourself up for a critique can make you feel vulnerable. Sometimes, people offer suggestions that sound harsh, but really, they just lack tact. These can seem hurtful, but remember, the average person isn’t trying to be mean or attack you. They are offering helpful feedback to improve your manuscript. (Would you rather the need to change something or a bad review?) After you receive feedback, think about it. Let it settle in. Then, make any changes you feel would be helpful.
Remember, the goal is to produce the best possible piece to touch your readers. Using beta-readers and critique partners won’t guarantee an agent or publisher will accept your manuscript, but you can know you have made improvements. While beta-readers or critique partners may identify grammar, spelling, or punctuation issues, that generally isn’t the goal of using them. However, anything they find will make the overall editing smoother.
I hope you find this helpful.
Pam Lagomarsino has owned and operated Above the Pages since early 2015 and offers editing, proofreading, and manuscript review services for Christian and children’s materials.
Pam has edited, proofread, or beta-read Christian nonfiction books, devotionals, sermons, homeschool curriculum, children’s books, and Christian fiction but her main focus is nonfiction books. Pam is a Silver Member of the Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network. Pam enjoys living in the middle of a forest with her family on the west coast. When she’s not editing, she can be found reading, playing games with her family, or enjoying a movie.