A BETA reader is an angel sent from heaven to read your manuscript before it’s ready for proper consumption. You may think you’ve perfected it, but an outside eye will find problems in your story that we’re hiding away. They can turn your garbage into a novel, just by reacting to your work.
A few weeks ago I talked about being in a BETA circle, and completed my very first BETA reading of someone else’s novel. Critiquing the work of another author made me look at my own manuscript differently as well. It was a tremendous learning experience, both as a reader and a writer.
Recently, I was lucky enough to have my own manuscript, The Andromeda Man, Beta read by three other authors.
It. Changed. Everything.
It’s amazing how much you can miss when you’re too close to the material. I’ve spent the last six months stuck in The Andromeda Man, and through all of my re-drafting and re-working, there were still major structural issues that tore the piece down. Characters made realizations too early and mentioned them too late. Subplots were abandoned halfway through the piece, or showed up too late to be satisfying. Loose characters had no effect whatsoever on the climax. Hell, was there a climax? Or did things just happen?
My Beta readers were able to draw my attention to skeletal moments, encouraging me to slow down and add more detail. They showed me where I was info-dumping instead of pushing the story forward. They helped me to see exactly why my protagonist lacked agency, and suggested ways to save her from herself.
The biggest thing I learned? Nobody hates my writing as much as I do, and that’s a disturbingly empowering thing to say.
I am empowered. I can finally see my manuscript from the outside. I can finally see the problems as pieces instead of “general crappyness” to solve. I know where to replace hanging threads and subtly untie those that seem firm.
Bless you, Beta readers, for all that you see. Thank you for saving my novel.
Let the revisions begin!