Tag Archives: Beta Readers

How Many Beta Readers?

30 Aug

As I mentioned in my post about fantasy, I’m writing a short piece now for a contest. I’ve edited it based on feedback I got on that post (thank you to everyone who helped out!) and when I was happy with it, my husband read it. He had some good feedback about consistency and a change or two to make and I’ve edited again to a point where we’re both happy with it. My question is, where does this process end?

With such a short piece (500 words) I don’t want to edit the piece to death. With a longer work, I’ll ask multiple people to read it and let me know what they think. Different points will strike home with different people so having multiple beta readers is helpful. But with such a short piece, it’s hard to miss any plot element. I’m thinking of asking one more friend to read it before I submit the piece.

Are two beta readers enough for a 500-word story? What about 5,000 words? Or 50,000? Is there a point where you reach critical mass and more eyes don’t help anymore? Please tell me what you think, reader. I’m trying to find my perfect balance.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!


How do you Beta read?

12 Jul

A fellow writer from my monthly group asked me to read a piece of his recently. Having more time from school, I obliged and asked for the Word document version so I could use tracked changes and comments to give my feedback. He told me he didn’t have MS Office and my brain exploded a bit.

This is the second time some has asked me to read for them and given me a PDF or OTF file. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I’ve only ever used Word to Beta read for someone. I could manage Google Drive fine as well because of the similar features. I can leave comments right where I want them, not at the end saying, “In the second paragraph of the third page…” I can make quick comments on grammar and I can leave a tirade on why I don’t like a sentence that hides easily when you don’t want to see it anymore. The only other way I can do this is on paper. But, with modern technology, that’s not always the easiest.

Maybe I’m set in my ways. Maybe I need to update myself to other file formats or maybe I’m too detail oriented for a Beta reader. I give overall comments and detailed comments. I know 90% of a first draft gets re-written, but I’m going to make sure the remaining 10% has no split infinitives!

How do you Beta read for a friend? What kind of feedback do you look for from your Beta reader? I’d love to hear what others are doing and how I can help my cowriters more.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Who is a Good Beta Reader?

11 Feb

I’ve had an amazing experience lately that I never would have expected. Over the Christmas and New Years holidays, I was able to hang out with a good friend from high school. He and I had a friendly academic rivalry going on then and when we went to schools far apart, we fell out of contact. There was a summer we were both interning around Washington DC and met up a few times and we’ve stayed close since then. He works five hours away from where I live, but when he comes home to see his parents we always meet up. Over New Years, I talked to him about my writing.

I have two completed manuscripts, one is a YA novel set in the 1920s and another one a contemporary piece about a young woman in her mid-20s going through a pregnancy. Neither were pieces I suspected a bachelor in his early 20s would be interested in reading. He offered me a beta read and at first I was skeptical, but I agreed to send him my YA novel anyway.

I think he’s read it three times now, and not because he loves it (though he’s assured me he enjoys it) but because he wanted to help me make it better. He’s sent me tons of texts about what he thought could improve and things that seemed inconsistent when he re-read it or that stuck out to him more than once. He even called me right after his second read-through to talk about the book.

It’s an understatement to say I was overwhelmed. I never expected this level of support from a high school friend that I see maybe four times a year. It makes me wonder if there are other people out there who would read my book, maybe a friend from college or someone I used to work with.

Reader, where have you found unexpected Beta readers? Is there a pattern we can discover of people who will read our manuscripts and provide some amazing feedback? I wonder where all these people are hiding.

Until next time, write on.

When is a Character Too Much?

13 Jan

I had a friend of mine read my book last week. It was weird for me because it’s a Young Adult book mostly aimed at girls and he’s a young-20-something-professional. Not exactly my ideal reader. Sill, he read it through (twice!) and gave me some good feedback on scenes and characters. And of course, I’m going to blog about it.

One of the things he said is that a character of mine seemed over the top and unbelievable. I understand completely why he said this. My problem is that I wanted her to seem a little over the top, but not unbelievable. It got me thinking, when is a character’s personality ‘too much?’

I recently started watching the show New Girl on Netflix and I find it funnier than a baby turtle eating a huge strawberry (Google this, it’s hilarious). One of the characters in the show, Schmidt, I find over the top and unbelievable. But do you know what? He’s my favorite character. I can’t imagine ever meeting anyone like him in real life because he’s such a character. And yes, I mean that in more ways than one. There are other more realistic characters written into the show that help accentuate how eccentric Schmidt is and I still love him. Now, I’m thinking that it might not be a bad thing for a character to be a little unbelievable. We’re each such individuals that no one would believe that we’re real.

I further questioned myself, is it bad that my character is over the top? Do I want her to be? Yes. Do I want her to seem unbelievable? No. But where is the balance? Where is the thin wire and how can I jump onto it?

I’m thinking of people I’ve met who seem over the top. I knew an ‘over the top jock’ in high school, I’m friends with an ‘over the top theater nerd,’ I went to college with a ‘I think I’m Japanese even though I was born 100% Caucasian in the Midwest’ girl and at a NaNo event, I think I saw a British pixie. So that’s about four, five if you safely assume I’m forgetting one at the moment. And these people are memorable. I can describe their characteristics that make them almost unbelievable in vivid detail. Isn’t that what we want in our characters? Don’t we want them to jump off the page and scream at our readers so that they can’t forget them?

Thinking back on my manuscript, I think I could tune my character down a little bit and maybe humanize her a little more by adding more motivation so you understand what made her so over the top. Besides this, I don’t really want to change a lot; I like her. Though, I want my readers to like her as much as I do.

Reader, I need your advice. When is a character too much? When has a writer gone past ‘over the top’ and hit the moon instead? Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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Until next time, write on.

Novel Girls: Emotion, Implication, and New Adults

15 Oct

The Novel Girls are at it again! This time around, Nicole came over and we each went through a new chapter. My husband is a little sick and he stayed on the couch, contributing his two cents whenever he could (annoying English majors).

The first thing I want to address is emotion-driven conversations. I have a very critical and emotional conversations between two of my characters in the scene Nicole reviewed today. I concentrated so much on what was said that the first part of the conversation is mainly dialogue. In the second part, I add in some action and reaction. Nicole’s suggestion was to add in some action because the emotion of the dialogue was lost without descriptive reaction. She thought the scene was rushed and needed to be slowed down with some action because it’s very crucial to the plot.

The second thing we talked about is when something is implied in the text.  Some authors will allude to a fact as a part of foreshadowing and some authors will allude to something so that they don’t have to say it outright. This is a very tricky area between being obvious enough and being too obvious. I think the best way to get through this is to have people read your manuscript.  If several people (in your target age range) pick up on what you’re implying, then you’re good to go.  If more than one are left hanging, then you may need to come on stronger.

The last thing we discussed is something dear to our hearts: books. To be specific, books that we as 20-somethings can relate to. Nicole’s WIP is about college-age woman and my NaNo WIP is going to focus on a woman in her mid-twenties. With books like Fangirl getting so much attention, we wondered where books about 20-somethings were before? Part of this is the emerging New Adult genre. When I did my two-hit Google research, I saw a lot of mixed feelings on the genre. Before I read about it, I defined New Adult as books written for (mostly) women in their 20s and 30s who like the simplicity of YA writing but want content more geared toward themselves. This genre sits precariously between YA, contemporary literature, erotica, and romance novels. That’s a lot to balance!

One of my hits was an article from the Huffington Post that went out to defend the New Adult novel. I happen to agree that this is a wonderful genre and that it is very different from the aforementioned genres. I’ll take a second to explain my reasons:

  • YA: While the writing style might be similar, characters will be older in age, probably 19-29 or so, and will be experiencing things teenagers don’t.  The content can be more sexually explicit and contain a lot about coming of age alone in the real world (not finding yourself in high school with your parents around).
  • Contemporary Literature: The themes in a lot of main-stream literature is much more complex than the theme of a New Adult novel would be.  The simplified theme is what makes New Adult stand out and appealing to people who previously read YA.
  • Erotica: The purpose of erotica is purely for what its name implies; erotic.  New Adult does tend to have more sexually explicit scenes, but unlike erotica, they serve to move the plot forward and are not the end-all of the piece.
  • Romance Novels: This genre focuses on the romantic relationships between (normally) a man and woman.  While this is a common theme in New Adult, many New Adult novels are more ‘coming of age’ or ‘finding myself’ novels that may or may not have romantic relationships involved.

I hope this explains what I believe are the biggest differences in the New Adult genre.  It’s a genre I think is going to stay relatively small due to the low number of readers in that age group (many of them being college age or with young children).

Reader, what are your thoughts on the New Adult genre?  Do you like it? Write it? Read it? Was my writing advice helpful this week?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Novel Girls: Revision Process

16 Sep

One of the writerly topics I’ve been contemplating is the revision process. When I was in school, nothing I wrote ever needed major revisions; I could get away with changing a few words, at most a paragraph. Now, as I write entire manuscripts, I realize that I’m not so lucky.

Nicole and I met up to work on our novels yesterday. After my Novel Girls meeting on Thursday, i realized I had a lot of major updates to do. (Many times we meet, KK and Nicole will give me some major things to change and I usually put them off. They’d caught up with me.) These major changes hanging over me, along with a blog post I read by Emily on Adventures in Fantasy, made me start thinking about my own revision process.

For the WIP I’m currently on, I’ve done a re-write and I’m now going through chapter by chapter in a workshop, which is bringing out a few scenes that need another re-write. This weekend I’m going to do a read-aloud to help point out a few more scenes that sound weird/are inconsistent that need a re-write. I have a plan to take all of my dialogue and make sure that each character has a unique voice as far as idioms and speech pattern. I have a writing workbook that I’m thinking of going through as well. After that, I have a few betas lined up, which should lend itself to some more re-writing. Hopefully I can micro-edit from there and call it ‘done!’

Being the planner I am, I already developed a plan for my NaNo. The obvious first step: write a 50K+ word novel in 30 days. Easy enough. After that I plan to leave it alone for at least a month if not two. I then plan on doing what I call ‘the notecard thing’ which is where you write your major plot points from each chapter on a notecard. Then, you throw the notecards in the air and put them in an order that makes sense. You might have notecards you can take out, or might move the order of the plot to something more logical. (You can also have someone else put the notecards in order. They might be able to come up with something you missed and needs to be added a bit better.) Then, I’ll do a re-write without even looking at the first draft. I figure that at this point, I’ll know my characters better and this re-write will have more character consistency and development. I’ll go back through the rough draft and do what I’ve decided to call ‘digging for gold’ where I highlight sections that I absolutely love in the rough draft and re-write scenes to bring them into my second draft. Depending on how useful I find the workbook and dialogue pull from WIP 1 revisions, I might try those. From there, chapter by chapter workshopping, specific scene re-write, betas, and micro-editing before I’m done.

I’m a very methodical person and I need to have a plan to work to. What’s your process? Do you have a standard process you go through before you call a manuscript ‘done’ (or at least ready to send out)? Do you have suggestions for me? Please leave a comment and let me know!