What’s the Difference Between a Beta Reader and a Critique Partner?

It all depends on who you ask.

In my opinion, a beta reader is someone (often a stranger) you trust to read, edit, critique, and make suggestions on a completed manuscript. It’s generally a one-shot deal. They read through your cra…err…stuff, point out plot holes, character failings, and inconsistencies, etc. A beta may or may not make suggestions for grammatical changes or line edits, but that will vary from reader to reader.

The best way show your appreciation for a beta reader is to a) offer to return the favor and/or b) thank them profusely in the acknowledgements section of your book.

A Critique Partner (CP) does a lot of the same editorial chores that a beta does, but they will probably see the manuscript in multiple stages.

For instance, you may have an idea for a story, but you’re concerned about it for some reason (it’s too big, edgy, cliche, genre-busting, whatever). You write a couple of chapters and send it to someone who gets your writing style. They give you feedback that will help you decide if the story is one you want to pursue and helps identify potential problems.

I have a couple of CPs who receive my story in completed chunks and then as a finished rough draft. Their input helps me avoid mistakes along the way.

My CPs also act as cheerleaders, hand-holders, drill sergeants, and reality checkers (it’s a real term because I SAY SO). Sometimes we chat on the phone or on Skype about writing, publishing and a whole bevy of non-writing related stuff. They are people that I like and would love to go to lunch with. And I hope to soon! I owe them dozens of meals and more thanks than a paragraph in a book’s acknowledgement.

A good crit partner is worth his/her weight in gold.

Do you have both beta readers and CPs? Do you see a difference between the two?


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