Alright, everyone. Last week we talked about our first topic on beta-readers and critiquers: why we need them. This week, we’re looking at how to find them. So, let’s take a look.
Beta-reader and Critiquer Problems
Finding yourself beta-readers and critiquers can be tricky. But you definitely need them because they’re the ones who will take your story for a trial run. So, now you’re stuck with the sticky situation of needing one but not knowing where to start.
To make matters worse, it’s really easy to get beta-readers or critiquers who don’t know what they’re doing, aren’t helpful, or are just straight up cruel. Most of us, if we’ve ever put our work out there on the internet anywhere, have had someone who comments and all they seem to do is shred the work. But they also don’t seem to know what the story is about or it’s just personal preference, not an actual issue with your story.
When people do that in comments, they’re considered trolls. Unfortunately, some of those kinds of people could be the ones you get stuck with beta-readers or critiquers. They’re the ones who rip your writing to shreds but don’t ever improve anything.
Though I sincerely hope that hasn’t been your experience, it’s possible that it has been. If it hasn’t, then great! You can start off with a clean slate and a clear idea of what you should look for. If it has, you may feel that a beta-reader or critiquer is useless or even harmful. To you, my recommendation is to go over the information in these posts about beta-readers and critiquers and give it another chance. Get the right kinds of people, and you’re going to be much better as a writer for it.
Finding Beta-readers and Critiquers
The good news is that it’s entirely possible to find the right kinds of people for these positions. The bad news? It’s going to take some research and searching on your part.
Other Authors in Your Circle
If you’re lucky enough to have a wide circle of other like-minded individuals who love writing and are seeking to improve, you’ve already got a good pool to work with. These people, most likely, understand that they aren’t perfect writers and neither are you. They’re more likely to share the knowledge they have in areas where you’re weak in ways that are palatable and constructive.
But not everyone has that. So, if you don’t, where can you start? If you’re on writing sites like Inkitt and Wattpad, you can often find others in the community who can help you out on this front.
Online Writing Sites
Just be wary as you search because, while there are plenty of nice, well-meaning people, there will also be a large number of people who enjoy reading (and might even enjoy your novel) but don’t have a clue how to help you make it better. Remember, we’re looking for beta-readers and critiquers, not a fan base.
So, if you’re searching for people to help you out with these two roles on a writing site that isn’t dedicated to quality review services specifically, you should do some research. Go look at their writing if they have any available. Chat with them a bit and try to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Chances are, if they’re only telling you how great they’ll do and they don’t admit to areas where they can’t help much, they’re not going to be a good fit. Some might be, but most won’t because they have a view of their abilities that is inflated above what it really is. Similarly, if their writing is of poor quality, don’t expect them to offer you much help.
This doesn’t mean you should toss someone out just because they don’t immediately explain the pros and cons of working with them or because their writing is weak in an area. You have to way the benefits against the costs to see if it’s going to be worth it.
If they’re bragging and act arrogant about their own ability, it’s probably not a good fit. But if you ask more questions and they’ll happily admit that there’s a weakness in some area you asked about, it might be fine. On the writing end, they may be very good at the aspects that you’re struggling with. If they are, they might still be a good fit even if another area is weak. But if they’re weak in the same areas where you’re looking for help, move on. This is particularly true for critiquers.
Beta-readers have a little more slack because they’re supposed to read it like a reader would and comment on the overall story. Critiquers need to be able to deal with the story in a manner that’s somewhere between an editor and a beta-reader. They have to pick up on more things than a beta-reader would, but they’re not responsible for fixing every little grammatical error in the manuscript either.
This is just the beginning of the journey that working with critiquers and beta-readers presents. Finding the right one can be difficult, but once you do, be prepared for an experience that offers plenty of opportunity for growth.
Do you have any tips to share for where to look for beta-readers and critiquers? If you do, share it in the comments below!
Next time on Thursday Technicalities, we’ll take a look at some other things you need to know about beta-readers and critiquers. See you next time!