Sunday, January 4, 2015

BETA READERS --WE SALUTE YOU !

An author has only so many family members and friends to dragoon into reading "work in progress." This is a pity. Consider how we face difficult issues of life, career, parenting, etc. Don't we turn to a friend or several for advice or reaction to our own proposed actions? Well, writing needs that kind of feedback.

It is possible to pay for several edits of one's writing. If that is an option for you, go for it. I prefer the feeling of getting "live" reaction. For Agamemnon Must Die, I was fortunate enough to have four such "beta readers"--think beta sites, beta ware, etc. One found my manuscript completely off-putting. This is a valuable discovery: The world is not going to swoon over the appearance of my book. O. K. It is a concept that amazes, but I can live with that.

Fortunately, the next response was from a very enthusiastic reader. Wasn't there anything you did not like, I asked. Apparently not.

One reader was a friend and I recognized the risk of have taken this step. If a friend accepts your manuscript and does not say anything, I consider it not good form to remind the friend. I'd rather keep the friend than have a manuscript read. Also, if a friend is negative--if any reader reacts negatively--it presents a challenge. If you are paying for the edit, you can choose to not ever do business with that person again. That's hard to do if you are friends.

Anyway, those who wish to become a beta reader, be assured that it is a most rewarding process. You get to say more than you would in a review. You get to influence the development of a story, a book.

Here are some questions that you might ask yourself while doing a beta read:

Is It Boring?
~Did the beginning draw you into the story and leave you wanting to know more? How could you improve the beginning?
~Is any part of the plot implausible?
~Did the ending leave you satisfied? If not, what went wrong? Did the story leave unanswered questions? If so, what?
~Which part of the story was the best?
~Which part of the story was the worst?
~Does any part of the story drag?
~Are there parts that you skipped to get to “the good part”?
~Do you feel over-informed anywhere?

Do The Scenes Flow?
~Does one scene lead logically into the next?
~Did the actions and positions flow smoothly from one to the next, or did they jump as though something was skipped?
~Is there enough downtime between intense scenes to allow it to build to the next?
~Where the flashbacks smoothly integrated to fit into the current scene?
~Was anything redundant?
~If you could change any scene or scenes in the story, which one and why?
~Was there a nice clean scene break or chapter break between each change in point of view?

Is it Confusing (to try visualizing the story)?
~Can you see every action clearly in your mind or was it too confusing?
~Could you see what the characters looked like clearly?
~If you went there in real life would you recognize the location/place?
~Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to understand who did what?
~How does the setting work?

During Dialog
~Could you visualize the characters talking?
~Could you see where the characters were while talking? 
~Did characters using gadgets and talents ignore their advantages for the sake of plot?
~Was the dialog necessary, did it add to the development of the story?
~Do the characters appear realistic? 
~Do their reactions seem logical?
~Could you feel the emotions between the characters?
~Does any one character get in the way of the story?
~Was there a character that would have made the story better by being left out?

Realism

~Is the plot, the development, the characters--all realistic?

To participate, consider joining a group in Goodreads.com that specializes in getting writers and beta readers together. There is choice of genres--romance, horror, paranormal, historical fiction, etc. Go to First Readers (a small group) or plunge directly into the Beta Reader Group (about 4,000 members).

You will notice that some beta readers are editors "in training" and may charge. That is entirely a matter for consenting adults.

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