Have you noticed a big boom in the amount of new books being written?
A lot of us in the blogosphere aren’t just bloggers – we’re readers, writers, and storytellers. So, we not only want to write a weekly collection of our thoughts. We want to write an novel! YAY!
But! With all these new novels, we’re being asked more and more often to be readers to these work-in-progresses, also known as being an alpha or beta reader.* And as a writing blogger, it happens a lot. I’m pre-reading 4 books right now!**
While the job’s simple enough (read, comment, support) a lot of people seem to get it wrong by not doing anything for some reason?? They don’t put in the effort to give helpful comments and suggestions to the author.
That needs to change.
Today, let’s talk about how you can be a valuable member in a team of readers, and give great advice that will benefit your author’s editing time.
*What’re alpha and beta readers?
- An alpha reader reads your book as you are writing it, during your first draft.
- A beta reader reads your book after you have finished the first draft and are editing or beginning your second draft.
** *laughs nervously at GIANT MANUSCRIPT DOCS*
don’t be afraid to give criticism
We live in a world that bases everything on if it will offend someone or not. I have a dozen examples, but I’m not going into specific details about that today.* Basically, throw that mindset out the window.
Don’t worry about hurting feelings. This is the nitty-gritty. You’re chipping away the rock to get to the diamond.
You can never grow if you don’t make mistakes. That’s why authors like alpha/beta readers! They want to be pointed to the right direction, to learn how to make their writing the best it can be.
*controversial topics??? lol what are those????
point out the good
Now that I’ve said the above… don’t make the author feel like their work is trash! Only pointing out the negatives makes them feel like they’re not doing anything right, and they’ll start to doubt that they’re getting anywhere with their story.
If you see something that’s good, for Heaven’s sake, point it out! Compliment the wording of a sentence, the fluid pacing of a scene, anything you really like. Because the author will see that, smile, and try to improve the rest of her story to that level.
No matter how much we criticize our own work, authors love praise. We like it when you compliment our stories. We will gobble up the good reviews and give you hugs and chocolate.
You’ve stated what you like. You’ve shown what you don’t.
SAY WHY. PLEASE. SAY. WHY.
Not saying why isn’t very beneficial to the author. It’s like getting a graded test back without explanations why their answers were wrong; they don’t know what to do to correct their mistake, and they’ll blindly try to find a solution.
Don’t leave your author in the dark. Guide them through your thought process. Why exactly didn’t you like that character? What might have made him better?
don’t be too picky with grammar
Don’t be super nitpicky (unless the author has asked you to)! Imagine trying to finish your first draft or make early edits, and an army of readers gangs up to attack you with grammar complaints.
YOU LEFT OUT THE SECOND ‘O’ IN THE WORD ‘TOO’
THIS NEEDS A COMMA HERE
STOP SAYING ‘SAID’ SO MUCH, IT’S REPETITIVE
It’s one thing if the whole sentence doesn’t make sense and leaves you wondering what just happened, but if it’s a simple, obvious mistake, leave it be. That just makes more comments for the author to go through and spend time correcting while they could be writing.
Also, may I remind you that grammar mistakes are why you hire a proofreader and editor??? The time it takes you to correct misspelled words could be spent doing something else because GUESS WHAT? You’re just doing a job for free that someone else gets paid for.
tell them how you feel
Writers love to know when we’ve hit the feels (gotten our readers emotional), but sometimes they’ve thought it over SO MANY TIMES in our heads that it isn’t emotional to us anymore. We’re not going to gasp when we read that plot twist we’ve been planning and writing for months.
So… get emotional with your comments! What makes you want to cry? Squeal with delight? Kick your computer down the stairs and scream into a pillow for hours? Even a note as random as “ASDFGHJKL I CALLED IT I CALLED IT AHAHAHAHA”* would make an author grin at her screen.
Don’t forget the negative stuff, though. On one project I’m alpha reading, a certain phrase made me feel really uncomfortable. I pointed it out to the author and a few more readers, and we had a good discussion on how to make that particular sentence easier to digest.
*may or may not be an example of how i comment
I wanted to add a quick note as almost a bonus to this post because it’s not quite long enough to fit a regular post. If you find you cannot keep alpha/beta reading for someone, please don’t just suddenly ignore them. It’s so discouraging to an author because it feels like we aren’t doing our jobs of keeping readers entertained.
Instead, you should send them a quick message along the lines of:
Dear [Author’s Name],
Thank you so much for inviting me to read your book! I’ve really enjoyed reading what I have, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to be able to continue making meaningful suggestions to your work. I wish you and your other readers all the best, and I look forward to reading your beautiful book when it’s published (and super famous)!
Love, [Your Name]
While it’s always great to be truthful, you don’t need to give any explanation why you can’t read anymore. So don’t feel forced into spilling your gut on why you have to leave, especially if it’s for personal reasons. You have every right to back out of it.
Well, I guess that’s it for today, my friend! Now, you can be The Best Alpha/Beta Reader In The History Of The World™.
What do you think? What other things are great to do for your author as an early reader?