Recently, Rachelle and I sent out a draft of our story to a handful of people to get a feel for where additional edits might be needed. It was a big step for us, and I don’t think either of us was ready for the emotional limbo that accompanied it. These weren’t just strangers, people whose opinions we could care less about. These were our friends and family.
Still, we managed to send it, and I got to thinking of the kinds of traits you might want to look for in people when you are finally ready to share a draft of your story. After all, you want to get good, constructive feedback. You have to be clear with what you expect of a beta reader, but you also have to know what you can expect from the type of people you choose.
Here are some brief descriptions of traits you can be looking for and what kind of feedback you can expect from them.
People with this trait don’t typically read in your genre. They may have read the classics in your genre or seen movies that are similar, so they will bring a general reader’s perspective to your story. While you may need to take some of their comments with salt, they are great for giving you an idea of what the general public might have a hard time understanding in your book.
People with this trait read wide and deep in your genre and even in related genres. They will have a wide base of knowledge to know where your story fits and what you have to offer the genre. They will also know if particular elements are too similar to other works to be successful.
People with this trait especially get into the story with their whole hearts. They will laugh at parts that they find funny and they will cry at parts that they find sad. They will also get upset at parts that upset them. They can really help you see if your scenes are carrying the emotion you intend.
The Straightforward One
People with this trait love to read. They often read words and scenes literally, so they are great to help you pinpoint if the subtlety you have tried to weave is perhaps too subtle.
The Punny One
People with this trait will find puns in places that have no puns to normal people. When they point something out to you, it can help you decide if the way something is now is worth the risk of a future reader not taking something seriously.
People with this trait have uplifting things to say. They fall in love with how you say a thing as much as what you say, and even when something doesn’t make sense to them, they never seem to criticize because they care so much about the work itself.
These are just a few of the ones I could think of at this point. Of course one reader may encompass more than one of these. Whoever you choose, make sure to really listen to the advice of your beta readers, and strongly consider making changes they suggest.
By Tracy Buckler