How to Find The Best Beta for You

 

So far in this series, we’ve talked about the difference between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs), how to find  the best CP for you, and how to be a good CP. We’re going to continue that Trend this week by talking about some of the qualities of a good Beta, and where to find them. This content is inspired by three of my favorite youtubers, who have countless videos on this subject, Jenna, Kim and Vivian Reis. if you haven’t checked them out, do it. They rock.   

 

Things to Know

  1. Create a diverse environment: In talking about the qualities of a good CP, I mentioned that you’re probably going to want someone who has similar interests in terms of what they like to write. Mostly because they are going to be looking at your manuscript several times. With Betas, You almost want to do the opposite. Of course, you can still find people who have similar reading interests, but don’t restrict yourself to them. Open up the opportunity to a wide, varying audience. Recruit people of all ages, walks of life, those who love your genre, those who don’t… Toss a net into the ocean and see what you catch.  There are a few reasons this can be helpful:

Intended Audience vs. New Audience

Intended Audience New Audience
  • Familiar with the genre and will likely catch smaller details pertaining to that particular subset that the other readers might not.
  • Might have preconceived notions about the genre that allow certain things to make sense it in ways that they wouldn’t to be average reader (i.e. the stipulations of magic or time travel).  Someone familiar with the genres may be able to fill in the blanks based on other source material in that genre, even if it isn’t clearly stated in your work.
  • Unfamiliar with the genre, so if they agree to beta, you know your book might have a wider audience than intended.
  • Go in without expectations or bias, allowing them less opportunity to view your book from a pre established point of view. They will be able to point out bigger plot holes that may not catch the eye of the experienced genre-reader..  

 

  1. Ask questions and set requirements: At first glance, this probably seems counterintuitive to my last point. However, you still have to make sure that you don’t end up with an audience that is not even close to the one you hope your book will reach. If you’re writing a post apocalyptic angel story meant for those 17 & over, but all of your applicants  say that they hate post-apocalyptic and they’re underage, that’s probably not going to be to great set of betas for you. Toss in a few  willing to read the book even if they usually don’t like postapocalyptic to see if your audience is wider than you think, but   make sure to look at their reasons for wanting to beta  in the first place Before you accept or disregard anyone.

 

  1. Communicate, and be okay with change: This is something that Jenna and Kim mention in their Beta and CP videos, and it is undoubtedly the most important thing to look for in a beta. You’re going to go through a lot of people before you find a solid group that works for you and your book. Be ready to let go of those who don’t. If you ask them for feedback and all they give you are bland the statements like, “It was good,” or “I liked it,” explain  that you need more than that if they really want to help you. If they don’t comply, let them go. Also do this if you have a beta who only ever makes negative, snarky, rude comments that make you feel bad  about your writing,

 

Where To Look

 

  • Join a local writing group: Whether online or in real life, writing groups are great Places to find people to read your work. Not just because they’re writers, but to be a good writer you must also be an avid reader. They will likely read your work with an open mind and honest eye, not only looking out for writerly concerns such as grammar, but big picture things as well.  
  • Be active on social media: Advertise, advertise, advertise. Get the word out. Like with CPs, Twitter and Facebook are great places to find betas, as is Wattpad and any other online writing platform. Kim also made a google docs form which is how I signed up to beta her book Keeper just under a year ago (Wow!) it was super easy to fill out and helped her keep track of all the requests she received. I highly recommend this avenue in addition to posting everywhere online.  
  • Don’t use your friends and family as the first group of beta readers: Unless you have a super honest group of Family and friends they are probably not going to be the first people that you want see your book. Not because they won’t want to help you, but because they are already unintentionally biased toward liking your work because they like you. This does not mean that they can never read your work, but I recommend going through a couple of rounds of other betas before handing your manuscript off to those who know you best.

 

 

Resources:

Facebook Groups:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1662819743977604/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/OhanaNano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailyflashwriting/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fictionwritersgroup/

 

Twitter:

#CPConnect

#chance2connect

Being a Good Critique Partner

So far in this series, I’ve talked about the differences between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) and how and where to find CPs. This week, I’m going to talk about what it takes to be a good CP. Some of these tips might cross over into my post about Betas when I talk about them in a few weeks.

 

  • Devise a Process: Every author/CP pair is going to work differently together. It’s important that the two of you talk about the kind of feedback that you as a CP feel qualified to give to make sure that it aligns with the type of feedback the author is looking for. You should also come up with some kind of schedule. Let the author know your timeframe and ask if they have a deadline. Some other questions to consider are:

 

    1. How far are you in the writing process?
    2. Is there anything in particular you want me to look for when going through this chapter/manuscript?
    3. How do you want to receive my feedback? (Google doc, Track changes on Word, FB chat, email, etc.)

Since you as a CP generally come into the process a lot earlier than Betas, deadlines might not be something that the author cares about yet. However, it is smart to ask those kinds of practical questions so that you are both on the same page with your expectations.

 

  • Be Thorough: Remember, you’re the first pair of eyes to see this author’s work, and you’re working with them so that they can become a better writer. Do not come back to them with comments like, “I loved this chapter!” This kind of surface feedback is not helpful to either of you. Honor their requests for certain types of feedback. If they don’t ask for anything specific, just write down your thoughts and reactions to scenes, characters, anything that surprises you or catches you off guard, etc. Act like you are going to review this book as a reader and let the author know what types of things you might include.
  • Be Honest: Please, please, please, do not say nice things to spare our feelings. If the main character is grating on your nerves to the point that you despise them, but you love the villain, that’s probably something that the author is going to want to know. Don’t hold back expressing yourself just because you’re trying to be nice. With that said:
  • Be Constructive: Just because you’re being honest does not mean you need to be mean about it. If you happen to hate the main character, don’t just say, “Laura sucks; she needs to go jump off of a cliff somewhere.” No. That is not helpful and unnecessarily rude. Instead, you could say: “I can’t connect to Laura because every time we see her she seems very shallow. Maybe you could include a few scenes where she’s taking care of her little sister. Show us that she really loves her and she has other sides to her  besides the one that she shows her friends.” This is advice the author can work with. You’ve still communicated that you don’t like this character, but now the author has some indication as to why, and you’ve offered them a way to change it.

 

  • And finally, probably the most important: Keep Communication Open: If at any point, for any reason, you decide that you can’t be a CP for this person anymore, please, for the love of all things writing, tell them. There is nothing worse as a writer  than sending out your manuscript  and not hearing from the recipient  for weeks. Even if you’re just busy, keep them informed so they know that you haven’t given up. Keep them updated as you read with anything you particularly like or could be improved throughout the manuscript. That way, while they’re waiting for the bulk of your comments, they can get an overall sense of what you think and be a little bit more prepared for what to expect.

Challenge of the Week: Were these tips helpful? Were there any tips I missed? Share in the comments!

How to Find The Best CP for You

Last week, I talked about the difference between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) when it comes to the editing portion of the writing process. This week, we’re going talk about how to find those partners. Since CPs tend to come into the picture before Betas, we’re going to address them first.

Things to Know

  1. Decide what you want: Before you can create a partnership with anyone, whether for work or something else, the both of you have to come to an agreement about what you want out of that partnership. Are you looking for someone to brainstorm with? Are you looking for someone to help you flush out your characters? Are you looking for someone to proofread your entire novel before you send it out to betas? Are you simply looking for a friend to bounce ideas off of and chat with whenever you get stuck? Or are you looking for a mixture of a few of these things? This is important to decide because you should make sure that you and your critique partner are on the same page when it comes to your wants and needs as a writer.  This, however, does not mean that your CP has to be at the same stage of the writing process that you are.
  2. Find someone you can learn from: My critique partner Is currently drafting his second book, and editing his first, while I’m still writing my debut. But that’s actually one of the reasons I love talking to him. He and I have completely different writing styles, but he’s really good at coming up with ideas if I get stuck in a tough spot and helping me stay motivated when I’m having a rough writing day. Because he and I are complete polar opposites  in regards to how we write, I feel like we both learn a lot from each other. It’s not helpful in a good partner if you’re both at the exact same stage and level of writing because that means you have less to learn from the other person. Of course, it’s perfectly fine if you’re in the middle of writing your second draft when someone else is in the middle of writing their first,  or if you’re marketing something that’s already been published when your partner is just getting ready to hit the publish button. Just make sure, before you commit to anything. that the partnership is a mutually successful one on both ends. 
  3. Find someone with similar interests:  I kind of touched on this in my previous post, but because your CP is going to be looking at your manuscript multiple times, It’s going to be really hard for them to be helpful if they really don’t like zombie horror stories, and that happens to be exactly what kind of book you’re writing. That’s not to say that your fabulous writing  won’t convince them to give something a chance that they might have otherwise never picked up, but you have to make sure they are open top trying something new. Ask questions before you commit. Find out if there is any genre or content that they absolutely refuse to read. If that content happen to be in you’re book and it’s heavily featured, then they probably are not the right partner for you. It’s very hard to give someone good, solid, sound advice if you can’t find something to it enjoy about their writing.

Where To Look

 

  • Join a local writing group: This is something that I’ve heard a lot of people talk about having a lot of success with. If you can find a local running group to join, it’s a great place to look for critique partners. Those people usually have similar goals, and  it’s easy to have longer, more detailed conversations with someone if you are able to talk to them face-to-face.
  • Be active on social media: This is how I found my critique partners, and so far, it’s worked out really well. Join writing conversations and groups on Twitter and Facebook, or search for those types of things on your preferred social media platform. Like the local writing group, those people and usually have like-minded interests, but the added bonus is they don’t need to live near you in order to help you progress in your writing.
  • Research and reach out to large organizations: If you been in the writing community for some time, I’m sure you’ve heard of groups like Romance Writers of America or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I recently found the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and I’m excited to start exploring their content. Not only do they have a mentoring program, but they have a job listing page and a calendar for the whole year detailing plenty of different conferences for writers from all walks of life to attend and meet with other writers, authors, publishers and editors. Some of these organizations require a fee to join, but in my opinion, the price is definitely worth the payoff.

Resources:

Facebook Groups:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/OhanaNano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailyflashwriting/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fictionwritersgroup/

Twitter:

#authorconfessions

#chance2connect

#WritersPatch

Associations:

Association of Writers and Writing Programs: https://www.awpwriter.org/

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:  http://www.sfwa.org/

Romance Writers of America: https://www.rwa.org/  

Challenge of the Week: How do you find your Critique Partners?

Critique Partners v. Beta Readers

This week’s topic, and the series to follow it, is thanks to my friend Tanner Childs, and some of the information is inspired by Kim Chance’s Youtube video on the same topic. Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) are two groups of people who are essential to the author’s editing process. They typically come in to help us writerly folks polish our books, novella, etc. before we send it out to professional editors, agents, etc. They are basically the lovely guinea pigs that help us to better understand how our book is going to impact readers. Contrary to popular belief though, they’re not the same thing.

Kim makes a point in her video that Betas are typically non-writers who read your material as someone would if they were pulling it off of a shelf at a bookstore. They search for plot holes, point out flaws in storytelling, or tell you if characters behaving inconsistently, whether your world is vivid and easy to make sense of…  Any “big picture” things that your readers are likely to notice.

Critique Partners, according to Kim, do the same thing, but are also fellow writers, so they can catch things the average reader might miss. Grammar issues, awkward phrasing…. All the more nitty-gritty, techie fixes will catch their attention, in addition to the “big picture” issues. Kim also says that, as implied in the name, the two of you agree to form a partnership where you read each other’s works. Beta reading only goes on way, CPing is a two way street.

I think all of her points are very valid and important, but I also think there’s a little bit more to it than that, on both ends.  To simplify things I’m going to make two bulleted lists: one for CPs and one for Betas. Please remember that these are only my opinions, based on my experience being a Beta, and having my own great CPs in my friends Tanner & SGD Singh.

CPs

  • Fellow writers with whom you swap works
  • Generally come before Betas and read the roughest form of your manuscript/chapter
  • Can also be brainstorming partners and are usually around for the long haul of the writing process
  • Generally writers do not have as many CPs as they do Betas, depending on how well the relationship works out for both parties
  • CPs will generally see the work in multiple forms, more than once
  • A CP should be semi-knowledgeable/interested in your genre, especially if you intend to brainstorm together

Betas

  • May be writers but can also just be readers
  • Come after CPs and get the most polished/up-to-date version of your work before it’s sent to an editor
  • Usually are only there to give feedback on an already semi-polished product, and offer suggestions, rather than brainstorm like a CP would
  • Generally a writer will have multiple groups of Betas, and send their work out in rounds, after considering/incorporating feedback from the previous round to determine how feedback changes
  • Betas will likely see the work once or twice, in the  cleanest form possible
  • A Beta may be interested/knowledgeable in your genre but they don’t HAVE to be. I believe Jenna Moreci or Vivian Reis pointed this out on their Youtube channels, but it’s important that at least some of your Betas are NOT your ideal target audience, because it will give you a chance to figure out if your audience is bigger or smaller than you originally thought, which can help you fine tune your marketing later on.
  • And finally, another great point of Kim’s-  You need to be confident your Betas are going to give you sound, honest advice and not be afraid of hurting your feelings. I hate to break it to you, but you are going to get your feelings hurt during the process; taking criticism is HARD. The good part about doing it with people that you trust, but you also know won’t sugar-coat their thoughts, is that I guarantee the feedback will be ten times more helpful than “It was great!”As nice as that is, it won’t make your work editor, agent, or publisher ready.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to find CPs, and how to be a good one.
Challenge of the Week: Was this helpful to you?