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Monday, January 17, 2011

How Beta-Readers and Critiques Make my Writing Stronger

Hello Fellow Writers!
I'm loving my beta-readers right now. I write a lot, and I try not to overwhelm any one person, so I utilize the help of several authors before I dare submit anything anywhere. In exchange, I beta-read and line-edit their manuscripts as well.

It's so worth the time I put into it. So, so worth it. Not only do I get a chance to read a hot story before it gets published, but I get to hone my own editing skills by applying them to another author's work. It's easier to spot problems when you're not too close to a piece. That's why there's only so much I can do with self-editing.

I may think I've polished something to perfection, but every single time I get a manuscript back from a beta-reader I learn something new. When I take the advice my manuscript gets stronger. There might be little things I disagree with, and that's fine. I don't need to do every thing they say. But a lot of times I do.

To beta-read/line-edit a manuscript, I do a Save As and rename the document - Title_ShoshannasNotes. Then I turn Track Changes to On and go through the manuscript carefully, line by line. I make comments when something stands out - whether a certain bit is so funny I LOL'd or so hot I squirmed in my seat, I let the author know. I also make comments (using, in MS Word, the Review, New Comments) when I have a question or think something doesn't work. I also fix typos, grammar, etc.

Right now I've got two full length books out with two different beta readers. I just got back a short story from a third, and after revising I'll probably submit it to an anthology tomorrow. It may get rejected, it may not. At this point I've decided that when I get rejections it isn't meant as an insult to me personally. Of course, I prefer contracts to rejections any day of the week :)

In conclusion - yes, I said in conclusion (the 9th grade essay writer in me just made an appearance) if you're getting rejections and you're not sure why, find another writer whose work you admire and ask them to critique your manuscript. Don't get offended by anything - use their comments to make your writing shine!


  1. I have so much fun being one of your beta-readers! And I know I learn a lot from you reading my writing as well. It's amazing that there are always little things that can be tweaked to make a ms stronger even when we've gotten to the point of looking at it so much we can't see straight. Ok, enough from me...back to beta-reading your novel! *I'm 2/3 through!*

  2. Hi Shoshana!
    I totally agree! You need a strong critique partner, someone who will be honest, someone familiar with the genre you write in. I like a tough critique. It's how you improve.

  3. Great advise. You're a writing machine! :)

  4. Stephen King has some great advice about this in his Memoir On Writing. Don't forget to hand it over to your muse!

  5. I love King's On Writing! Such a great book, with so many useful tips!


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