Hi Ya’ll! (Apparently I picked up a bit of a southern accent after my interview with Texan author Jodi Linton!)
After receiving a question about beta reading vs. critiquing, I thought I’d offer my understanding on the process.
First, a beta read IS a critique. But, you don’t have to be critique partners with someone to get a beta read. Please see this post on finding beta readers to reach out and gather a group.
In general, a beta read is an agreement that you will READ the presented manuscript and, after reading, you will write up a document or email for the author with your perspective on characters, plot development, pacing, and anything else the author wanted for you to consider while reading the manuscript. I’ve given beta reads documents and received beta read documents that were anywhere from just a few paragraphs written to a few pages (depending on the condition of the/my manuscript).
Now, a critique partner, CAN and DOES beta read. But they can do so much more too. First, having a critique partner to me means a supportive relationship, not just a one time exchange. So, digging one another out of the “I suck” slums to celebrating writing victories big or small. Encouragement, support, and friendship matter here.
Often a critique partner can give you a more in depth perspective on your manuscript. To me and my critique group, when asked for a full critique, we understand this to mean comments throughout the manuscript using Word’s comment button. We also present line edits via track changes. Not only does this help us help one another but it also improves our own writing skills. We’ll set up chats to discuss character development, plots, or how to handle R&R’s. Basically, it’s a combination of developmental, line, and even copy edits (depending on the skill of your critique partner).
Now, this is where it becomes important to have multiple critique partners and beta reads. Everyone has different skills and varying opinions. You need to look at their critiques as a whole picture when deciding how to develop/change/shape your manuscript.
So? What’s your process? Here’s mine.
I give my manuscript out to trusted critique partners, having one to three do a “full critique” with line edits, comments, etc. Then, after I implement the changes I feel need to be made, I extend my manuscript for beta-reviews to other critique partners and other writing friends.
As you approach implementing opinions, here are some key concepts to keep in mind.
1. This is your novel, you don’t need to agree with every suggestion.
2. If you see a theme running through each critique (ie. a character is too harsh, the plot has horrible pacing during the three hour walk to the grocery store), then open your eyes. It probably means there is really something there to consider changing.
3. Always be thankful for a critique. If someone takes the time to critique/beta your work, honor them with at least considering their opinions on your work. You don’t have to agree with them, but it’s important to consider what they’ve said. I believe everyone’s time is valuable. If I don’t want line edits, I ask only for a beta read. If I already have my novel out with too many beta readers, I’m not going to ask someone else to beta read just because they seem cool. I’ll catch them with my next manuscript.
4. Communicate with your beta readers/critique partners. Set up a time frame that’s realistic for them to complete reading your novel. We aren’t all full time writers. Sometimes you need three weeks to turn around a beta read and even longer for a full critique. That’s okay. Just make sure to communicate so you are on the same page.
5. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. If you ask for a beta read or a critique, expect to be giving them as well. It may not be from the same author, and that’s okay. But give back! I promise you’ll become a better writer that way!
One last question I got, how many critique partners until you know you are ready to query? sub?
Hmm, that really depends on the condition of your novel. I know an author who uses only one (a full critique). I know some who use twenty.
For my first novel, EFFORTLESS WITH YOU, I used two full critiques…but that’s only because I had two critique partners at the time. For my second novel, that I just submitted to my agent, I went through seven critiques. Three full critiques and four beta reads.
For those who have critiqued before, how do you approach the situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!