So, you just finished a short story. It might be a short story or a novel. Either way, it’s finished and you love it! You think it’s great, that it has potential, that it could even get published somewhere. Hell, you even dream of it getting awards and adaptation offers and so much more! With all that in mind, what do you do with this awesome story of yours?

If you said, “Rush to get it published,” I’m only going to say that that’s not the answer I was going for. If, however, you said “I’m going to get a beta reader or two to look at the story,” then congratulations! You got the answer I was going for.

As you likely already know, beta readers are readers who look at a story somewhere along the editing process and give critiques and feedback. They may also give help with the spelling/grammar/punctuation issues of the story, depending on what they can offer. And over the past year or two, I’ve made sure to use beta readers for every one of my short stories.

Let’s face it, authors can be our own worst critics, and our own worst editors. We can see a lot, but occasionally things slip by our notice. In fact, a lot of things can slip by our notice. Typos, plot holes, inconsistencies in character development or backstory, implausible situations or things that don’t jive with reality. Beta readers point out things authors miss, or don’t want to think of as problems because they love their stories too much (it happens).

Take my recently-completed short story Afternoon Tea, the one about the cursed silent film. I found two beta readers who were willing to read the story and give me feedback. Both of them got back to me really quickly, and they said the story had a lot of potential and that they liked it. They did, however, both notice something that made no sense to them. One actually wrote quite a bit in their notes about why that plot point made no sense or was confusing.

Seeing that they both mentioned it made me realize that they had a point. That single plot point did have its issues. I had to take it out, which made me realize I needed to rewrite that section of the story. Which I was able to do with a bit of brainstorming. And I think it makes for a much better story. One of those same beta readers has already gotten back to me about the second draft and said there’s a lot of improvement, so listening to them was a good decision.

Not only that, but sometimes beta readers bring their own life experiences to help improve a story. Earlier this year I wrote a short story called Primordial Nuclear Soup, which involved a number of military characters. My beta reader happened to be a veteran, so in addition to pointing out numerous flaws with the early draft, they gave me their military experience to help with those characters and scenes.

Without the strong eye of a beta reader, you can miss much. Photo by Wallace Chuck on Pexels.com

None of this stuff I would have known or spotted without the help of my beta readers.

Of course, you do meet the occasional beta reader who turns out to not be so helpful. They send back a lot of praise for the story, but they don’t point out that much that you don’t realize needs fixing. Which can be an issue further down the line when you’re trying to get the story published. What can I say? The majority of them are human (I’m an exception).

But after a while, you do figure out how to spot a helpful beta reader from an unhelpful one. It usually shows in the notes they send back. If that happens, keep looking for more beta readers. You eventually will find someone who can give you the feedback you’re looking for. And sometimes, you even create a circle of beta readers who will gladly look at your work when you need them to and provide the feedback you need. When you do that, you know you’re in good hands.

Suffice to say, beta readers are a great help in making sure your stories are the best they can be. It may not be easy seeing all the problems in a story you’ve poured sweat and tears into, but in the end, listening to them and fixing the story based on what they said helps out immensely.

“Mother of the King.” Available Dec. 1st

Getting the stories published afterwards, however….that’s another fight altogether.

What are your experiences with beta readers like? How have they been helpful with your storytelling endeavors? Let’s discuss.

And before I forget, my Arthurian fantasy story “Mother of the King” releases day-after-tomorrow! If you haven’t preordered a copy of the ebook yet, you can check it out with the links below! Believe me, both beta readers and eARC readers have been raving about this story, so why not check it out? And if you do, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story.

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

Comments
  1. Beta readers are super helpful, but so are writing-critique groups and critique partners. I think as long as an author is using some sort of early feedback system that works, then it’s all good.

  2. […] Why Beta Readers are so Helpful […]

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