So the beta reader has sent you his comments. Your ego has recovered from the blow, and you’ve realized the reader made some excellent points. Your story will be better if you incorporate his suggestions. Ideas are coming to you about how to revise the characters and plot. (If you’re lucky, your characters will help you with the revisions.)
Is it time to start the rewrites and move on with your life? Sort of. In a good beta reading partnership, the relationship doesn’t end when the comments are sent in.
Now is a good time to talk with (or email) your beta reader. Let him know how helpful his suggestions and comments are. Tell him your ideas for the revisions. Ideally, the relationship continues and you can exchange further drafts, future works, and bounce ideas off each other. In the best-case scenario, you both enjoy each other’s writing and look forward to seeing the final version take shape and the birth of your next works.
Don’t abuse the relationship, though. Don’t email your beta reader every day asking him to read your latest revised or new scene. Wait until you have a few chapters or sections done. And then politely ask if you can send them at some point. By now, of course, you know to reciprocate when your beta reader asks for your help.
To wrap up the series, I’ve created a short “do’s and don’ts” list as a quick guide for writers and readers. I’ll create a separate page with links to these posts for easy reference. It should be up soon, and I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
The Writer’s Guidelines
- Determine if you need a beta reader. Unless you plan to publish, this may be more critique than you need.
- Be sure you’re ready. Beta reader comments can be extensive and cause distress.
- Don’t send a first draft for a beta read. Wait until at least the second draft.
- Put the manuscript aside for two or three weeks before you send it to the reader. This will help distance you emotionally and help you be objective when comments come back.
- What do you want from the review? Make these concerns clear to the reader.
- Set a realistic timeframe for the beta reader.
- Determine how you will reciprocate with the reader.
- Be prepared for the feedback. There will be suggestions for improvement. This is what you requested.
- Remember that respectfully worded suggestions are not personal attacks on you or your work.
- You might not incorporate all of a beta reader’s suggestions. But make sure you don’t ignore good ones that would improve your work.
The Beta Reader’s Guidelines
- Make sure you’re ready to beta read. You must be objective and leave your personal opinions out of the review.
- Understand what the writer seeks from the review. Do you know the genre and completeness of the manuscript? (second draft? fifth?)
- Read the manuscript at least twice.
- Be tactful and diplomatic with your comments. It is not acceptable to be rude, aggressive, or insensitive. Phrase them as suggestions as much as possible.
- Be sure to address all the areas the writer noted for you.
- Begin and end with positive comments about the work.
- Let your comments sit for a day or two before you send them. Reread them and make sure they are tactful and diplomatic.
And there you have the basics of beta reading. I hope the series has helped you understand the process and see how such a critique should work. It can help you make your work the best it can be. Go into it prepared, and you will come out a better writer with an improved story.
If you have any questions or additional tips, please feel free to ask them or add them in the comments!
I didn’t have time to pull together some additional resources for this post. I’ll try to add them to the “Beta Reading Guidelines” page when I can. Next week, I’ll get away from the educational series and do something different.