The Beauty of the Beta

I am shameless in getting my friends to do my work for me. So on this, the second week of Beta Appreciation Month, instead of presenting you with a lecture about whatever I think is important today, I ambushed a bunch of my beta readers, all of whom are writers themselves and share their works with others, with the sort of question nobody likes to be asked: “Heeeey. Wanna help me with something?”

And mostly, shockingly, they did. (Betas are like that.) I asked them what the most rewarding aspect of betaing is, as a reader or a writer. After a bit of clarification and caveats, the answers started coming in. So kick back, enjoy, and feel the love…

Melanie Francisco: “I highly recommend authors to both use and be a beta reader for one reason; it makes you a better writer. In my experience the only way to get better at telling a story is practice. Being a beta reader honed my editing skill set, making my rewrites stronger. By helping other writers I explored constructive criticism and learned to walk the line between help and hurt. It also toughened up my skin for the critiques I got back.

“By letting others review my work I found plot holes, mistakes, and style deficiencies. By correcting these mistakes I make my readers experience better. I write for me, but I submit and release my work for readers. Betas are invaluable in making my reader’s time with my story great.”

Liz Onstead: “Hmmr. I’d have to say the friendships that are formed. From fanfic to novels, I’ve made good friends by beta-reading.”

Madison Dusome: “As a receiver: another set of eyes can spot inconsistencies (in plot, motivations, dialogue, etc) that I can’t – major bonus. I learn how other people read my story, and what they think is funny, sad, etc – what they think my story is about. Sometimes that’s hard to know. I also get to hear what’s boring/sucky – then I can make it better!

“As a giver: new books, yo! When Jill publishes sometime down the road, how cool will I feel?! Also, seeing what other writers do wrong/right (and actually thinking about that) really helps me analyze/write my own work.”

CM Schofield: “Why do I love beta reading?

“I get to read exclusive books that no one else has read. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s someone who you can madly ramble at about said book who actually wants to hear it all. And who doesn’t love talking about books they’ve read?

“Additionally, it’s very rewarding to think that I’m a part of the process for what could one day be a published novel. To have helped someone even a little on their journey to publishing is a wonderful feeling. The writing community is welcoming and supporting and I love being a part of that.”

M Elizabeth Tait: “I haven’t been a beta reader for very long, but I’ve found that I enjoy it more than my leisure reading. I recently read an essay by Mortimer Adler titled How to Mark a Book. He compared reading a good book to eating a steak. You buy the steak and now own it, but you don’t actually “own the steak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream.” He continues on to say that books must be “absorbed into your bloodstream to do you any good.” I can’t be an effective beta reader unless I’m taking notes, unconsciously incorporating that book into my bloodstream.”

Anyone else out there have a soft spot in your heart for beta readers/reading? Let us know in the comments!

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