When I finished PCSR, I went on the grand adventure of seeking beta readers and the process was not without its flaws. For one, I didn’t know much about beta readers or their purpose and I didn’t know where to find them. After this whole process, I made a beta reader wish-list. During the beta reading phase, I encountered various beta personalities, some of which were extraordinary while others could have improved. So here’s my list of six ways to be a better beta:
- Know what the writer wants from you. Why are you reading their story? What is your role as the reader? Ask them to be specific as to what they want from you as a beta. There are writers who might send a checklist of what they’re looking for. This should be treated the same way you treat a to-do for work and generally, you shouldn’t stray from it.
- Provide constructive feedback. Don’t let the focus of your feedback be critical and harsh. Begin with what you liked and discuss what you didn’t. This way, you’re addressing the problems you found while the feedback doesn’t feel like an attack. Be honest but don’t be a jerk about it. Nobody likes a jerk.
- Approach the story as a reader, not a writer. If you’re a writer who decided to beta read, remember to switch modes. The writer of the story you’re reading has gone through the process of creating the world within a few hundred pages. When you read and present suggestions, it isn’t polite to remark how you would have written the story. The manuscript is not yours. As a beta, your role is to read for context, not badger with your opinion of how it should have been written.
- Leave Ego out of it. If you do have experience writing, please don’t use this as a means of authority over the writer or to justify your criticism. If the writer handed you 300+ pages, chances are they know something about the writing process and making statements such as “well, I wrote ____, so I know a lot about this genre and I’m telling you…..” is argumentative. This also makes you look like a jerk.
- Be unbiased. What do I mean by this? Well, don’t bring your pet peeves to the table. These are personal preferences that are unique to everyone and it won’t serve the writer to pick away at all the little tidbits you found annoying because you don’t like them.
- Mind deadlines. If the writer needs feedback by a set date and you agree to this date, stand by it. If you can’t make the deadline for any reason, communicate this with the writer ahead of time. If you don’t say anything and the deadline passes or you wait until the last day, this might hurt your reputation as a beta reader. Keep it as professional and positive as possible.