Critiques are an important step of the writing process, for both the writer and the person doing the critique.
For my non-writer friends and family who dutifully read my blog (and not because I pay them, I SWEAR), I’ll give a short vocab lesson. A beta reader is much like a beta tester for a software program. They are often the first people to read a book/story/article/what-have-you for a writer. They provide feedback so the writer knows what to fix. Writers sometimes have a hard time seeing what is wrong with their own work. Things aren’t confusing to them because they are so close to the story. Beta readers provide a fresh set of eyes and help whip things into shape. With or without actual whips, I suppose that depends on your style.
I have volunteered to beta read for a writer friend of mine. This is my first time–I’m a beta reading virgin. I am quite excited about this opportunity, but also nervous. I want to do a good job helping my friend with her book. Now, don’t worry too much about my friend, she has a few other betas helping her and I know those betas are awesome. So, if I really suck at this (gosh, I hope I don’t), she will still get good feedback.
I thought I’d just throw a few questions out there for people who have done this before or those who have had beta readers for their own work (I’ll have to do this one day too).
–What do you expect from your beta readers? What should a beta reader expect from a writer?
–Do you give/ask for a specific kind of feedback (say, one beta grammar checks, one looks at your character development, one looks for plot issues, etc.) or do you give/ask for general feedback of the whole piece?
–Do you have a certain process for beta reading/critiquing? Do you read the whole piece first and then make notes/changes? Or do you make the notes as you go?
–What is an acceptable time frame for a beta to give feedback? A few days? A week? A few weeks?
–I’m a reader and a learner–have you found any good websites, books or blogs with tips on how to critique?
–Do you critique outside your genre? For instance, if you write contemporary, would you critique science fiction?
–Do you use the same method for any piece of writing you critique, or do you approach certain subjects differently? Fiction vs. Memoir? Romance vs. Horror?
I have asked a billion questions of the writer I am beta reading for, I think I have a pretty clear picture of what she wants, but I think it’s interesting to hear how others do things too. Looking forward to your answers.