Writing is often considered a solitary process, with the writer writing and editing a novel alone. However, many writers choose to join writing groups in which they trade their work with fellow writers and critique one another’s novels or stories.
The Internet has made this process even easier. Dozens of websites and forums online provide a safe place for writers to swap novels with other beta readers – people who provide feedback on writing. There are many reasons for writers to consider not just finding a beta reader, but becoming one as well.
Beta Readers Provide a Fresh Perspective
Writing a novel is a serious endeavor that takes time and dedication. By the time the first draft is complete, the novelist is very close to and wrapped up in the story. Even the most careful self-editor will not catch every typo, cliche, and plot hole in their own story.
A beta reader provides the writer with a new perspective on the book. The writer knows their ending, their characters motives, and every plot twist – but the beta reader doesn’t. Therefore, the beta reader can let the writer know if something doesn’t make sense or needs to be clarified.
An honest beta reader will tell the writer where the story lags and where it is exciting, whether or not the characters are sympathetic and realistic, and whether the voice is coming across as intended. In short, the beta reader provides the writer with “first impression” feedback that the writer can then use during revisions. It is always a good idea to have one or two beta readers go over a novel before beginning to query literary agents.
Why Writers Should be Beta Readers
The most obvious reason to beta read for another writer is fairness; if one writer reads and provides helpful feedback on another’s work, they deserve the same treatment and help in return.
However, being a beta reader can help a writer tremendously in his own work. Reading another manuscript with a critical eye is a great way for a writer to train himself to spot cliches, poor plotting and world building, and unrealistic characterization. Conversely, it’s also an excellent way for the writer to observe a different and exciting style of writing. Most writers feel that critiquing the work of others helps them with their own writing process.