What You Should Know About Beta-ing (Part 2)

So your beta returned your manuscript with all sorts of delightful and (hopefully) helpful ways to improve your story. Then this lovely, beta-person asked if you would be willing to return the favor. The correct answer is: yes!

Whether you’re a seasoned editor, a fledgling writer, or lover of books, your input can help (even if you’re pretty sure you don’t know what you’re doing).

I found a great post – actually it was five posts – on Throwing Up Words that listed ways for writer’s to edit their own work on. The same list can be applied as a beta reader. When I went back to look for it (and to provide you with a helpful link), I couldn’t find it. Luckily for you, I’ve condensed the list into the following points:
  1. Is the writing clear? As a beta you should be looking for repetitive words, overuse of pronouns, and sentences of varying length. If it doesn’t make sense to you, an agent will never look at it.
  2. Does it waste the reader’s time? Every word should move the plot toward the climax. That doesn’t mean it has to rush at break-neck pace, there need to be highs and lows, but it should move.
  3. Are the characters real? Does a four-year-old talk like a teenager? Does dialogue sound like real conversation? Can you personally relate with the people you’re reading about? Are sub-characters too similar?
  4. Is it full of worthless words? Just, like, that, well, and very are easy to pick out and eliminate. Adverbs should be avoided, use a stronger verb instead. Are you seeing “was” a lot? If so, the writing is not active.
  5. Does it follow the traditional plot structure? A story should start at a logical place (preferably as close to the end as possible). The climax must solve the problem, but the story can’t end there. A good story has a strong resolution.
I cut and pasted the long list into a word document and will email to anyone who is interested.

Demetria Lunetta also had a couple of great posts on critiquing others work. You can find them here.

Beta reading is fun and enjoyable. Something you suggest may make a huge impact – and maybe help a story get into print!


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