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Effective beta-reads

authors editing writing Feb 01, 2022

So you are writing a book! Awesome. 

In our weekly Writer's circle, we navigate all phases of the creation process. Recently we came upon this common question. I want to share it with you to save you an unnecessary struggle.

So you have written a draft & inevitably you are reworking it. If you're making huge changes rearranging, that is fun. But when the effort is high and the change is low, that's when it's definitely time to call someone else in. Get a couple of people in the community, to read it. We call these Beta-Readers. 

Before hiring an editor or even finalizing your best-finished draft, let it go through the beta process. But how do you get the best support in your writing process? What are the right questions to ask when seeking beta-readers?

Our Red Thread Writer's community offers this support for one another because we all get to a point where we can't see our own work clearly.


A common mistake when seeking feedback on early drafts is:

We say, "Hey, can you read my work? And let me know what you think."

That is opening this wide door, then the beta readers thinks, "oh, dang, I want to help you, but what do they really need?" The chances of getting the feedback that you need,  that's going to help you make the next significant leap has not been established. I coach writers to ask some people but be very specific about what you are asking them for. Give them direction so you get effective feedback to help you make the next draft excellent.

There are three kinds of editing:

Developmental editing, big picture, ideas, that readers journey, you're starting them somewhere and getting them somewhere.

Copy editing.

Grammar, spelling, flow & clarity

Proofreading is the final edit: minor errors, typos, etc. 

If you ask somebody here to do a beta read, it should not be proofreading not even copy editing.  The most effective beta reads are developmental edits. Guide your reader to give you the attention you most need:

Your core questions don't have to match these, but here are a few examples:

Here are my core questions:

  • Whatever journey you take your reader on, I'm trying to prove this______ point. Do I do that consistently?
  • I'm trying to get someone from here __________to here ___________. Do I do that?
  • Where do I give too much information?
  • Where do I lose you? Because I haven't given enough information?

Give your beta reader enough guidance so that they can tell you the truth. Not just "what do you think of it?", basically tell me I'm good.

Seeking validation or approval isn't going to help you move your writing forward.

It'll stroke your ego. But in the long run, we want your book to be good. Have the hard conversations early on. When you are asking for a beta reader, or developmental edit, make sure you have this conversation.



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