Saturday, May 28, 2011
How to be a Good Critique Partner/Beta Reader
I cannot stress enough the importance of having multiple trusted critique partners, or beta readers, for your stories. It’s a partnership, a give and take. I suggest not limiting yourself to family members as your only critics. Family tend to offer excess praise and not enough of the necessary critical eye. Find yourself another serious writer and offer to beta for them in return. A book should not be shared with the world until it’s been carefully sifted through. That being said, there are certain unspoken rules for critiquing. Feel free to add to this list in the comments!
~ Be honest. This is the most important thing. Point out the things you love, but more importantly, point out places that stand out to you as sounding awkward, unlikely, out of character or any other thing that doesn’t feel right. Pay attention to the overall story arc: the setting, plot, characterizations, pacing, etc. You are not helping the writer if you are not honest. Be as detailed as possible. Too many adverbs? Too many unnecessary smiles? An entire scene that could be cut? Let them know! And don’t be offended if they decide not to take your advice.
~ Be kind. I don’t mean to sugarcoat your thoughts, but don’t be unnecessarily harsh. Critiquing can be a sensitive process for the receiving writer, who is essentially baring themselves to you, and they will need to feel encouraged and hopeful when they read your suggestions. Try to refrain from telling them something sucks.
~ Be timely. Of course, this means different things for different people. When I beta for an entire book, I try to have it back to the author within 1-2 weeks. I don’t agree to beta unless I can make it one of my top priorities. Keep in mind that your beta partner is probably waiting for your notes so that they can revise and move on to the next step in their writing process, whether it’s another critique partner, an agent, or an editor. Communicate openly, and work out a plan about whether you will send them chapters as you finish, or wait until the critique is complete before returning it.
14th -- Jennifer Galasso
16th -- Chris Bedell
22nd -- Rosanne Rivers
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