Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Beta Readers: Part Two

I'm sure that everyone understand the importance of having a beta reader look over your work. Now I want to discuss the importance of being a beta reader.

Making comments on someone else's work will help you improve your own writing. Why? Well, by critically reading another's work, you are forced to pay attention to details that you might otherwise gloss over. Most of us read for pleasure, but reading as a beta goes much deeper than that. Beta reading forces you to consider the craft of writing by analyzing things such as style, plot, setting, dialogue and character.

Even if you are so new to writing that you haven't even sharpened your way through your first pencil, you should consider becoming a beta reader. If you are unsure how to begin, here are some suggestions that may help:

- Never be rude or condescending! Even if you are pointing out flaws in another's writing, you can do so in a polite, constructive manner. It doesn't matter how many years you have been writing or how many publishing credits you have; we are all in the process of learning the craft. Ruthlessly tearing down another writer's work is unforgivable.

- Be sure to give praise as well as criticism. Every bit of fiction has at least one good thing in it. If you can't find something to compliment, then you didn't look hard enough.

- Read the work several times, giving yourself time between readings to think about the story.

- Learn from other writers' mistakes. If you see something that the writer did terribly wrong, make sure to avoid that mistake in your own writing. Similarly, if you really did like something, try to figure out what made it work and then apply that skill to your work.

- Make your comments specific. No writer was ever helped by a criticism that simply said, "I didn't like your main character." Ask yourself why didn't you like that character? How might he be improved?

Over the years, I have learned as much from being a beta reader as I have from having a beta reader look over my work. Having the eye of an editor is crucial for any writer. Becoming a beta reader is one step towards that skill


Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

This is true. When I started critiquing with other writers, my writing got a lot better. Congrats on your new release!

Elle Scott said...

Thanks : ) Couldn't have done it without the betas!

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