You wrote a fantastic novel or children’s book. You have completed that non-fiction exposé on shadow governments or a heart wrenching and heartwarming memoir of the pain and redemption that is you. Wonderful. Cue the applause. You are done now, right? Not so fast young grasshopper. It must now be read, and not for the umpteenth time by you. You need real people. People who don’t talk, sound or think like you. You need readers, but not the readers to whom you will eventually launch your book. You want the “pre” readers; you want beta, readers.
Beta readers are those intrepid first adopter types that love to know things before everyone else does. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they enjoy saying “Na, Na, Na, I got the ice cream, and you no have none.” Whatever their personal motivations, you need beta readers. Beta readers will take your future bestseller and then smell, taste, chew, and digest it (and if necessary throw it up) to provide you with critical feedback on the literary meal they just ingested. So yes, you need some literary “food” critics for your word veggies, paragraph carbs and chapter entrees. Can you tell I was hungry when I wrote this?
One of the best decisions I made when I wrote my novel The Donor: When Conception Meets Deception was to identify and recruit beta readers. When you are writing your book, you are isolated “in your head.” For months on end, you only hear what YOU think. You develop the premise, do all the necessary research, and create strong characters. You draft all the back stories, narrative, and dialogue. The problem is, at the risk of sounding like a guy from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that’s a whole lot of “you’s”! As a result, your story will need some tightening up.
As authors, WE know what we are trying to say, but we can and do miss a lot of mistakes in our writing. When I shared the first chapter of my novel with my beta readers, the feedback I received inferred that it took a little too long to get to the action. Readers indicated that my words were “beautiful”, “poetic”, and I “painted pictures with language” but the story was a bit too poetic and dense. Once the beta readers got to the dialogue they said, “You had me on the edge of my seat,” “I couldn’t put it down,” “I wanted to know why he (the protagonist) was doing what he was doing.” I let go of my ego (you MUST do that as a writer) and trimmed the fat. I shared the revised version, and my beta readers loved it. Thus, having others outside myself read my manuscript was essential in recognizing where I needed to improve my story.
As an author, it is crucial not to fall into the trap of loving the sound of your voice. Beta readers save you from publishing a book that only one reader will understand and enjoy…YOU! Since we already went over the pitfalls of the “you’s”, you betta get you some betas.
Brother Dash is the author of The Donor: When Conception Meets Deception whose tagline reads: “In order to keep a secret past from destroying his perfect lie the man who “has it all” will be blackmailed into repaying a debt…with his body.” Get freebies on the Brother Dash email list http://www.brotherdash.com
Layla Abdullah-Poulos is an alumna of SUNY Empire State College with a Bachelor of Arts in Historical Studies and Literature and is presently a student in the School for Graduate Studies. She expects to complete her studies and receive a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and Advance Certificates in Women and Gender Studies and American Studies by 2016. An aspiring academic, Abdullah-Poulos uses her knowledge not only to develop her own scholarship but also that of other SUNY Empire State College students. A proponent for the enrichment of higher education through diversity, she plans to continue her work as an educator who conveys to students an ethnically diverse historical awareness and furnish them with the skills necessary to acquire political proficiency and constructively affect societal change.