In this blog post I’m going to give my fellow writers some writing tips based on my personal experience with beta reading. Last year I had joined a Beta-Reading group on Facebook in order to find beta readers for my current work in progress as well as offer my services to beta read or edit another writer’s work. At the time I attempted to start my own editing business to make a little extra money and have a job in a field related to my passion for writing. I thought I had a good eye for editing and over the course of that year I took on many manuscripts in a wide variety of conditions. I was floored by how many manuscripts writers sent me that were in such terrible shape. The majority of them were so flawed, they seemed to be the very first draft without any editing whatsoever. This leads to the big question: when do you look for a beta reader and/or an editor?
I had actually gotten into a very heated debate with the leader of this Facebook group about said question. My writing tip is that a writer should get their manuscript professionally edited after and ONLY after they have edited their manuscript so many times they can no longer see any flaws and that, to their knowledge, it’s as good as it’s gonna get. Then, once it’s nice and polished, you get a good number of beta readers—I’d say at least ten with a variety of book and reading preferences—to basically give you the thumbs up that your manuscript is as good as published. My so called opponent argued that beta readers come before editors, because if they catch something that needs to be fixed, you’d have to just send it back to the editor anyway. Here’s why I disagree.
When a beta reader reads your manuscript, they shouldn’t be finding large flaws that require major editing. Also, when I was personally reading over those manuscripts I volunteered to look over (for free in exchange for the writer’s testimonial of my feedback for my new business), I got so distracted by the editing flaws that I couldn’t even focus on the story itself. I found myself correcting nearly every single sentence that I found the task a daunting one, and I wasn’t able to enjoy the story that the writer was trying to tell. This can obviously throw off the feedback that your beta reader gives you. It’s perfectly fine to have someone read over your manuscript and what you have so far if you’re stumped on something or need an outside opinion to help you figure out what to focus on next, but a final beta reading should be done at the very end of your polishing. When I wrote my novella, The Lerewood, I followed this guideline.
Another writing tip I want to talk about: paying your hard earned money for beta reading.
In my search for beta readers I’ve seen many who offer their reading services for a fee…some of them ridiculously priced. In my opinion, you should NEVER…EVER pay for someone to beta read your book. Should you pay for an editor? Yes. Editing is hard work and very time consuming and in a word, it’s a job. But a beta reader’s purpose is to simply read over your manuscript and give you their feedback the same way someone reads a published book and reviews it. One time, my local movie theatre was offering people a chance to watch a new, unfinished movie for free in exchange for our feedback on the film’s content (the film, by the way, was Mr. Fantastic, and if you haven’t heard of this movie or seen it, I highly recommend it). Would a movie theatre pay its customers to watch a new release, even though it has just one or two rough, unedited action scenes? No, of course not. If anything, you would pay to see it, because it’s entertainment. But because it’s not completely finished the way a published book is, it becomes a trade of services—you get to watch a book or movie for free, one that hasn’t been released yet, and they get their feedback.
I ended up putting a stop to my new editing business because in the course of a year, I learned a few things (besides what I’ve talked about in this blog). As a writer myself, I’d been struggling to fit time in my day to write my next book. I couldn’t juggle starting my own editing business at the same time. I’d spend all of my free time focusing on improving another writer’s work instead of my own. At the end of the day, your book should come first. Of course, sometimes when you’re looking for a beta reader, you exchange your work with another writer and you give them feedback on their manuscript while they provide feedback on yours. That’s perfectly fine, because by then, you’ve finished writing and you’re in the final stages of editing and polishing your book before you send it out to publishers. It’s great to help, and I’ve come across some great stories that I still remember to this day (many from the Kellan Publishing Bookstore), but don’t forget yourself in the process.
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Welcome to Andrea's blog!
Here you can find news on The Lerewood and what I'm up to.