July 17, 2016

Beta Reader

I've heard from multiple sources that a potential agent or publisher should not be the first pair of eyes other than the writer to read a manuscript. Now that I've finished the first round of hacking and slashing through my current work in progress, it's time to release it on its own two wobbly feet and see if it can successfully stand.

The best part of getting writer friends to read through my manuscript is that I can reciprocate and read through theirs. It's always exciting diving into a new book, living in a realm of kings, queens, and cut throat pirates through the eyes of a reckless teen princess.

But beta reading is fundamentally different than just picking up a random paperback at the bookstore to enjoy over a hot cup of coffee. When I finish skimming through the light hearted period romance, it's done. The author doesn't want to know that I thought the choice of blue hair for the love interest was silly, I hated how they used the word "well," way too many times, or that I wanted to see more of the quirky sidekick in act II. The novel is how it is. I can certainly interact with the community of fans surrounding that work and discuss the meaning we gleaned from behind the words, but the letters on the page are static and unchanging.

That's the beauty of beta reading. The writer is soliciting my feedback, and in some cases, my thoughts may change the final product. There's a dynamic between the reader and the creator which gives the reader an incredible sense of power over the work they're consuming.

Of course, there are more differences than just that. Usually the manuscript in still fairly rough, and as a reader I have a responsibility to not only react, but also identify parts of the novel that may not be working as well. The author is relying on me to help identify plot holes and missing character development, and I take the job seriously.

I'm taking a well needed break from my current project while others read through it, and in the mean time, I get to ready some really great stuff. It's a real win-win.

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