Thoughts on Beta Readers

6 months ago | smatthews65 (Member)

As I approach the end of my first ‘episode’, I feel I’ve learned a lot about the process and the challenges of writing a web serial. As I prepare to write the second episode, I’ve decided I want to be a little more intentional with how it’s released and what filters it passes through before hitting the public. The idea of recruiting (acquiring, hiring, whatever word is more appropriate) beta readers for my project.

The idea intrigues me because my wife is probably the most ‘anti-fantasy’ person I know, leaving me little to no one to run ideas by before I release chapters.

Anyway, you get the idea...but I’m new to writing and I’m not sure if this is a common thing...and if it is, not really sure how to go about finding one or more beta readers.

Appreciate your thoughts,
Scott

Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
http://www.mistsofkeldoran.com/novel

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Responses

  1. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 6 months ago

    I have beta readers. But I also maintain a backlog of about a dozen chapters, giving them plenty to chew on. I asked for volunteers, selected three people who filled various criteria. Either I trusted them to give feedback on what works or doesn't, or they read several serials, had good editing/writing knowledge etc. They're not editors (and you don't want heavy editors at this stage) but they can catch things I miss.

    Are they necessary? Not really. But they can be good for your peace of mind.

    On the other hand, serial authors who write 'as they go' (perhaps AKA hand-to-mouth) would probably get much less out of beta readers. I think to make best use of them, you sacrifice some of the more immediate style of serial writing.

  2. smatthews65 (Member)

    Posted 6 months ago

    How did you find yours, out of curiosity? Doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you would put out a public call to action for.

    Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
    http://www.mistsofkeldoran.com/novel
  3. unice5656 (Member)

    Posted 6 months ago

    There are basically two ways to go about recruiting beta readers (assuming friends/family is out). One is to look amongst the fans of the story by posting in an author's note on one of your chapters or on your website where the story is listed. The other is to look on forums/writing sites/fan sites for your genre for someone who is bored and is intrigued enough by your story premise to give it a go.

    There are different advantages/disadvantages to each. For the first route, you get someone who's already "your target audience", as they like the story and are wanting to help improve it or willing to do so for early access to chapters. They are more likely to stay the course and beta read for the long term, and may make better suggestions that will appeal to your target audience rather than suggestions that change the story to appeal to a different audience. The downsides include being careful not to let their opinions overly guide the way you write (just because they're part of your target audience doesn't mean they represent the majority of your target audience) and having to have enough fans to be able to recruit in this manner. The volunteers that you get may not actually be good at writing mechanics/grammar/style and may be simply volunteering to get early access to chapters.

    For the second route, you get "fresh eyes" on the story, which may be useful if you've been working on a project for a long time and read it so many times you've lost perspective as to what details a first-time reader will absorb. They're more likely to pick up on plot inconsistencies if they've read large chunks of story at once rather than update by update with time gaps in between. They are also more likely to volunteer because they have an interest/talent in editing and constructive criticism (although they may also only think they have talent in this area). Some of the downsides include them being more likely to drop the project if they find the story isn't their cup of tea and making more generic suggestions to change the appeal to a different target audience rather than matching the style of the story. I've seen people make posts like this on the FantasyWriters Reddit, often getting a good handful of volunteers.

    I haven't really had official beta readers for my fiction because I tend to publish in the middle of the night, right after the chapter is written, but I publish chapter by chapter on RRL and my readers have been kind enough to point out many typos, formatting errors, and plot inconsistencies that I can then correct before writing the next chapter. I also have friends who help me block out future scenes and world/system details if I feel the need to discuss them before writing them.

    As an amusing side note, my first consultation on writing new chapters is usually my best friend, whose response is usually "I dunno whatever you think is best." The sheer unhelpfulness sometimes launches my mind into a new state of creativity, hahaha.

  4. smatthews65 (Member)

    Posted 6 months ago

    Yeah, my biggest concern with finding a beta reader or two is what you touched on...someone who’s only in it for early access to chapters. Their feedback would not likely be very constructive.

    I guess it comes with the territory though...you find some that are helpful and weed out the ones who aren’t.

    Appreciate the advice!

    Mists of Kel Doran Online Novel
    http://www.mistsofkeldoran.com/novel
  5. Dary (Member)

    Posted 6 months ago

    I had a beta reader of sorts for my first 40 chapters, thanks to a friend who works as a freelance editor, but she's so busy these days that I can't really ask her to look at stuff anymore. And getting new blood, so to speak, is an intimidating prospect simply because I'd be asking them to read a good 200k worth of material before getting started on the next 200k.

    The other issue is finding people comfortable critiquing genrequeer/New Weird work - it's hard enough finding people to read it normally XD

    One of the advantages of being Borderline, however, is that I can read my own stuff with a completely different mindset to what I had when I wrote it. Well, I say advantage...

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