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Audrey Caylin: Why Every Writer Should Be A Beta Reader

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why Every Writer Should Be A Beta Reader

Beta reading -- I didn't used to think about it much before I started writing seriously. (Fact About Me: I used to be jealous of the people who got to beta read my favorite books. still am. I mean, they got to read that book for free and give their opinion on it ;)

Then, last September, when I got my flash of inspiration to start spending hours a day at a keyboard (that's how it went) I started thinking of the mysterious organism called the beta reader, the one who had all the connections to the people with the cool books in need of a new mind to critique them. Seriously. Who wouldn't want to read a book for free and give an opinion on it that the author will actually take into consideration before publication?!?

Beta-reading excitement aside, is that really the only reason why we beta read novels?

Nope. So here's my awesome list of 3 (and a half) reasons why every writer should be a beta reader -- no matter what

1. #editing skills

*cue writerly groans* I know. (Almost) every writer hates. editing. period. So why should we sign up and sacrifice a month or more of our time to edit someone else's novel? Does editing even have to do with beta reading?

Note: probably not. Not every writer is going to ask for in-depth feedback. But if they do, then you have an opportunity to try out your editing skills on someone else's novel. Why isn't this scene working? How can it work better? Or WHY IS THIS SCENE SO AWESOME!?!?

A major part of editing is figuring out what works, what doesn't work, and why that is so. As a beta reader, you're helping the author figure all that stuff out. But the awesome thing is: you just find the problems, you don't have to fix them. Which, if I may be so bold to say, is the reason why we hate editing: we like finding the problems, but we hate fixing them.

With beta reading, we have another chance to put our problem-solving skills to the test without actually having to carry out the fixing part. 

2. #criticism

(aaannd I bring up something else we all hate) Criticism. Is. Scary. There is nothing worse than someone saying they dislike a part of our novel, or even indicating how horrible it is, despite how we brutally critique our own work. We know what it's like to be on the receiving end of criticism, even if it's only from ourselves.

But... what if we're the ones giving the criticism to someone else?

Suddenly, it's a whole different ball (writing) game. We know what it's like receiving criticism. And we're afraid to give it to someone else, knowing how horrible it can feel. This is the #1 problem I run into when I beta read: wanting to give honest critiques without sounding blunt or negative to the writer. 

It's a tough thing. In the end, we're going to have to craft our feedback so it's aimed at the book's issues and potential. We have to look at the positive parts of the book, and encourage the writer to use more of those in the not-so-good parts.

So how does that help us as writers ourselves?

Maybe we are definitely being too hard on ourselves.

Critiquing someone else's novel gives us the opportunity to be honest but positive, giving direct but encouraging feedback. Don't you think that's something we need to do with ourselves, rather than down-talking our work and saying it's all horrible? 

Yep. Learn how to encourage yourself, look on the bright side of your work, and give criticism that helps the writer and the novel without crushing them.

3. #givingback

In other words, it's a community. We're all boosting each other along toward our dreams. Critiquing a writer's novel is helping them, just as you're helped when someone critiques your novel.

Quick story: About a month ago, I received my novel, Found, back from beta readers. I'd say that was a turning point in my writing journey. I finally knew what worked and didn't work in my novel. I'm forever thankful to my awesome beta readers who have helped me so much.

That's a cool thing to be a part of. Writers value beta readers perhaps more than anyone else because of how great a help they are. 

When I look for novels to beta, I think of three things:

1) Do I have enough time? Don't over-commit; beta reading takes time. (I have been known to ignore this consideration xD)
2) do I know this writer? It's awesome to give friends a boost by beta reading their novels.
3) is this a genre I'm interested in? I usually don't judge a novel by its synopsis, since they are so hard to write, but I do check out the genre. Murder-mystery? Nope. Romance? Probably not. I like to beta read genres I'm semi-familiar with and comfortable reading.

But, most importantly, will beta reading for this person boost their writing journey along? It's awesome to help other writers along in their journeys, especially if they're newer to this whole field. It's a really special feeling, knowing you helped someone, and that alone is worth reading their novel and critiquing it. You never know when your words are going to make huge difference between a writer giving up and carrying on.

And, lastly, why not beta read? You get to check out an awesome idea by another writer, give some advice about it, and flail over it with the author (which is awesome xD).

Without feedback and support, no one's novel would ever get published.

And who knows? Maybe you'll be inspired but the words you read.


Audrey Caylin

Have you beta read before? What's your favorite part?



At May 20, 2017 at 5:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I completely agree! So many authors / writers / creative people of all kinds do say that the best way to learn how to edit, etc. is to beta read other people's work. IT'S ALSO SO MEANINGFUL TO WRITERS, TOO.

- andrea at a surge of thunder

At May 20, 2017 at 5:27 AM , Blogger Jane Maree said...

I USED TO GET JEALOUS OF BETA READERS TOO. XD I was sooo envious. But now I've got SO MANY books I'm alpha/beta/anywhere-in-between reading it's insane. *cough cough* Because I love it so much and...I hate saying no to people. >.< I over-commit way too much.
Half the time I have it that I critique someone's short story and then other people see it and go "OMW CAN YOU CRITIQUE MINE TOO" "AND MINE" "PLEASE YOU'RE SO AMAZING AND I REALLY NEED HELP" and I honestly just can't say no. It's really bad. XD But I'm trying to be better at saying no because I haven't got the time.
I also have another problem of completely forgetting to ask about the genre/synopsis of a book/short story before I critique it. Which can turn out to be slightly hilarious when I spend half the story clueless of the genre before finally realising that it wasn't HisFic it's actually SciFi. XD

BUT YES. Critique reading is the BEST. All these reasons are so true, and I can testify to that. *wise nod* And it's honestly such an amazing privilege.

At May 20, 2017 at 7:37 AM , Blogger R.F. Gammon said...

I've never beta read before, but my book will be ready for alpha readers soon *gulp* This is extremely great, thank you for this post! I always love reading what you have to say, Audrey!

At May 20, 2017 at 7:49 AM , Blogger Savannah Grace said...

Beta reading is one of my favorite things EVER - I honestly love editing so so so much (*cough* solongasitsnotmynovel *cough*). Problem is, there's this thing called TIME that stops me from editing 5 different projects in the same month :D. But I love going through another person's raw story (because, admit it, even if raw is messy, it's also beautiful) and helping them tie together the loose ends. Much fun-ness ;).

~ Savannah @ Scattered Scribblings

At May 20, 2017 at 8:41 AM , Blogger May @ Forever and Everly said...

Oh YAS. Beta reading is awesome! I mean, I love when people give feedback on my writing, so why not give back? Of course, it takes a LOT of time (my number one problem with all the novels I'm beta-ing right now), but the writer appreciates any amount of feedback at any time! I really love editing other people's work (but HAHAHA NOT MINE) so beta-ing is a great way to do that! Also now I shall email this link to myself so when I need beta-readers, I'll remind myself why. ;)

may @ forever and everly

At May 20, 2017 at 10:21 AM , Blogger Marrok Macintyre said...

Hahah that criticism... Something I love getting but find it hard to give (I never know how much of that I should give). I find bate reading to be quite fun, I've only beta read about three books (including yours) though. Kinda sad I couldn't give more feedback but you know life. I honestly want to see what my beta reads will think of my novel.

Great Post!

At May 20, 2017 at 10:41 AM , Blogger Karyssa Norton said...

Oh, wow, this was great! I have beta read before. Your novel "Found" was one of the first ones, and the first that I signed up for. :) I like helping people so when writers ask for beta readers I practically jump at the chance to help a fellow writer make their book better. But I'm still working on giving criticism. To be perfectly honest, I can be quite blunt sometimes even though I didn't mean to be. But I'll get better the more I do it.

Back when I first started following blogs, I would read about bloggers' WIP and I'd think, "Oh I have to write down this title so I can go buy it." But then I'd remember that it's not even published yet. That's another thing I like about beta reading. You can read a book before it's published and, like you said, for free! :D

At May 20, 2017 at 10:42 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

I love beta reading! It's so fun seeing what my fellow teen writers have been pouring their hearts and souls into. And I love knowing that whenever I need something read, they'll have my back. :)


At May 20, 2017 at 10:50 AM , Blogger Sarah Margaret said...

beta reading is the best! it's way easier to "edit" someone elses work when it's fresh to you xD I've beta read twice and should have done more - I didn't know what I was missing out on haha. lovely post!

At May 20, 2017 at 11:58 AM , Blogger Arya Lynn said...

Hi there!!
I've just found your blog!!
Ohh my I absolutely love it!! Your posts are amazing! I'll definitely stick around <3
I'm new on the blogging world, in case you'd like to check my blog out. If not, that's alright. I'll still be reading your gorgeous posts!! <3

At May 20, 2017 at 1:11 PM , Blogger Jonathan Trout said...

Omw when you said "jealous of beta readers" all I'm thinking is "YES SAME BC EXILES." XD This was a fantastic post though! I agree 100%... meaning I should probably do some more bet reading. Ahem. :P

At May 20, 2017 at 2:41 PM , Blogger Hannah White said...

OH HEYYY LOOK WHO ELSE POSTED ON BETA READING TODAY XP Seriously though. Did our brains sync for a moment? Also, I really like your last point on if you beta read a book or not. If you know it's not really in your genera, you probably won't be too much help. But sometimes it's hard to listen to that sound logic when it's a friend's book or something that just looks REALLY good.

At May 21, 2017 at 3:44 AM , Blogger Melissa Gravitis said...

Beta-reading is so much fun! I love beta-reading for friends, for several reasons: it feels wonderful to support writers you know, you can learn a lot from it, and you get to read some awesome writing for free! :) Those are really good questions to ask yourself (that you added at the end); I'll have to think of those when I see a call for beta-readers from now on. XD
Great post Audrey! <3

At May 21, 2017 at 9:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is awesome! I am so new to NaNo and the whole Alpha/Beta reader thing! This helped alot! Thanks girl! <3

At May 21, 2017 at 9:29 PM , Blogger Abigail Lennah said...

TRUE. I think as writers, we're definitely a bit shy showcasing our writing because criticism is hard. But how do we know that our target audience can connect and how can we move forward through the writing process without moving past our fear?

This is such good timing! I'm almost finished editing my novel and rewriting chapters, and trying to write for NaNo while also taking an online class over the summer is going to be stress stress stRESS.

xoxo Abigail Lennah

At May 22, 2017 at 1:38 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

EEEPPP THANK YOU SO MUCH, ANDREA. Your comment just made my day <3 <3

YESS. I have so much fun and learn so much when I beta read other peoples' novels. It's inspired me to want to be a freelance editor one day xD

At May 22, 2017 at 1:49 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

I HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM. People are like "beta readers!" and I'm like "I'll do it! I'll do it!" XD And then I realize I have no time for all of this but I really really want to give them a good critique, so there goes my time to breathe.

I've only beta read about four or five novels so far, but I love it so much! It's even inspired me to be an editor one day ;)

At May 22, 2017 at 1:58 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Oooh congrats on that! :D It's going to be awesome. Seriously, alphas are the best. They flail about your novel and are the most encouraging first critics!

Aww, thank you <33

At May 22, 2017 at 2:05 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

YASSS BETA READING IS EPIC. I've only been doing it since January, but it makes me love editing so much! That is, when I have time :P ;)

Raw stories = my life. I love them so much <3

At May 22, 2017 at 2:12 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Yes! Before I had my novel beta read, I knew that the writer really appreciated it, but after my novel was beta read, then I really knew, if you know what I mean. The rewrite I'm doing right now wouldn't have been possible without their feedback.

Thanks for reading! <3

At May 22, 2017 at 2:14 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

I know what you mean :P It's like I want to dump feedback on people to help, but I don't know if it's too much. I personally love being swamped in feedback xD

I can't wait until it's ready :D

At May 22, 2017 at 2:16 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Eeep, yes, your feedback has been very helpful! :D And I totally understand with the being blunt thing *nods* I know that I can get that way myself (though I don't mean to sound that way). It just takes a little practice to find the balance between blunt and honest.

I KNOW! Everyone's novels sound so awesome that I wish I could buy them, but instead I have to wait until they can be beta read xD

At May 22, 2017 at 2:21 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

omw I think it's the best thing when you follow someone and hear all about their novel, and then you finally get to read it and give feedback!

Thanks for reading! <3

At May 22, 2017 at 2:27 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

I know! I wish I could write my novel, forget everything I know about it, then edit it xD

Thank you! <3

At May 22, 2017 at 2:30 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

*waves* welcome :D

eeep, thank you! <3 <3 I'll definitely check it out!

At May 22, 2017 at 2:34 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

how did you know I was thinking of Ilyon Chronicles when I wrote that? xD

YOU SHOULD. Or didn't you read point #3?? ;)

At May 22, 2017 at 2:37 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Um... they must have xD I just read your post and was like "wow, Hannah posting on beta reading stuff too!"

I know! A good synopsis can really draw you in and make you forget about all your other commitments. XP


At May 22, 2017 at 2:40 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

That's awesome! And we can definitely learn from the novels we read. I love it when I'm reading along and see some cool style or twist that inspires me!

Thank you! <3

At May 22, 2017 at 2:51 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Welcome to the world of alpha reading and beta reading! I'm glad it helped! :D

Thanks for reading! <3

At May 22, 2017 at 2:53 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Beautifully said! Beta reading is the perfect opportunity to test the waters of our future audience and become more fearless in our writing.

Wow, that sounds busy! Remember to take moments to breathe <3


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