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10 Reasons to let a Beta Reader Go Over Your Manuscript

A beta reader brings a reader's perspective
 to your manuscript.

Recently, due to union action, I found myself with extra time to invest in my writing. If you've ever been on strike, you'll know how non-productive it is, and for some of us, that is enough to send us scrambling for something to do.
While walking the picket line, I reconnected with a lovely co-worker who just happens to have a Masters in English. My writing came up during our conversation like it usually does:

"What have you been keeping busy with?"

"Oh, still working away on my novel."

Do not feel unworthy of asking for help.
You need readers to read your work.

Usually I say this with a tinge of embarrassment because I've been "working" on my novel for quite some time. However, I was very fortunate. My colleague, Dania, offered to read over and respond to my current manuscript, The Fergus She.

Immediately, I got that internal cringe of "Oh, that's too much to ask of anyone". But I’ve been working on those silly aspects of my personality, and I brushed aside that non-helpful inside voice and said, "That would be awesome!"

Within five days, my manuscript was back in my hands and peppered with the suggestions I needed to improve it. Dania's attention to detail was fantastic.
  1. She caught my protagonist slipping between slang and formal language.
  2. She marked every point where the content pulled her out of the story, and therefore, would pull every reader out of the story.
  3. She questioned the logic behind the protagonist's thoughts.
  4. "The Fergus She" Novel Edits
    She noted enjoyable sentences and dialogue, so I knew what to keep.
    She highlighted Canadian references that might push away international audiences.
    She pointed out my protagonist was not very lovable, or even likable at times.
  7. She caught errors in the timing of my events.
  8. She questioned pacing and detail.
  9. She noted vague writing where the reader might become confused.
  10. She picked up on imagery, contrasting and thematic, and then, juicy of juicies, she discussed thematic imagery with me.

On top of all this, I now had someone who understood the plot, the characters and the deeper meanings within the text, which meant I could actually bounce ideas off another human being.

Your beta reader will be able to discuss
 your plot and your characters.

In hindsight, I should have brought a beta reader on board probably a year earlier, because I'd been polishing final edits, but now, with Dania's feedback, I was back to revising.
Due to my unwillingness to "bother" anyone, I missed a key window in my novel writing and wasted precious time.

Now not just any reader will do. Lucky for me, I found an active, intuitive and educated reader who understands deeper thematic connections, elements of fiction and what makes them fail and succeed, the effective use of literary techniques, reader reaction and desires, and the current trends and past foundations of genre conventions. Jealous, right?

All of the above is necessary for an understanding of my text, but the feedback also has to be delivered in such a way that I will accept it and act on it. And that is where Dania really came through for me. Thanks to her encouraging and positive communication skills, I never had to struggle with my pride to hear what she was saying.

Writing a novel is a demanding undertaking.
It's okay to ask for help.

 I've learned not to hoard my novel until I think it's perfect before letting someone read it. Perfection comes with the last stages of the writing process (final edits). The beta reader takes the process back to the revision stages. Time is money or another novel. So from now on, I'm getting my work into other hands as soon as I can.
Or just as soon as I can find a way to ask for help. I'm still working on that personality trait.


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