How to Get Beta Readers and Critique Partners
One of the most important steps you’ll take as a writer is letting someone else critique your work. It can be the most terrifying thing you’ll have to do as a writer, but it’s also the only way you’lle ver achieve the following:
• Getting a book published
• Earning loyal fans
• Writing an incredible book with good characters that people actually enjoy
This list is presented in no particular order. Obviously. (Right? That is obvious, right?)
Allowing someone to not only read your work, but critique it can be completely daunting.
So, where to start? I’m glad I insinuated that you asked that question so I can tell you my answer!
Connect With Other Writers
First of all, you need to be connecting with writers. Good thing you already know how to do that, right? Right.
Now that you’re connected with other writers, start reading their work. This is valuable for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. This is your friend, and as a friend, you should want to support their work, so read up on what they have to offer—you never know if they’ll be your new favourite author.
There are fringe benefits to this, though. You can learn their writing style, their strengths and weaknesses, their voice, and even their writing process (this would be more from talking to them, but it’s still good).
Now you’ll know if they’re a good person to critique your work or not, and also if you’re a good person to critique their work in return.
Give Before You Get
I think I’ve had three or four stories critiqued in the two-ish years that I’ve been actively making writer-friends online. Alternately, I’ve critiqued about 10 full-length books and so many short stories that I can’t even begin to estimate.
What’s really cool is, now that I’ve got some industry interest in my novel (which caused much screaming and running around excitedly), I have a bunch of people who are grateful for my feedback and willing to return the favour. It’s completely win-win.
Learn to Give Good Critiques
You can’t just give critiques, you have to give good critiques. By “good” I mean useful. Be honest. Did that character annoy you so much that you couldn’t finish the book? The author needs to know this. Did the plot get too confusing for you to follow? They also need to know this. It can be hard to give anything but the glowiest, most happy and positive review…especially to a friend…but it’s necessary. And if you do it with the intention of helping make their writing better, then they’ll appreciate it. It’s a lot better to hear this from you than from the audience once their book is out there and in the world, after all.
But there’s another benefit here, too: By giving truthful reviews, you’ll start to solidify the understanding in yourself that a negative review of a book is not a negative review of a person. Don’t be mean, of course, but do be honest. You’ll start understanding where and why “bad” comments can come into a manuscript…and you’ll be less wounded when you get your own corrections. (And you will get corrections).
You’ll give a critique for someone who will never return the favour, or you’ll get a critique from someone who only tells you nice, happy comments. You won’t mesh well with someone as a critique partner, despite doing great with them as a friend. It happens—it’s natural. Keep looking, keep seeking. Even after you find someone good, keep looking—you might find another good critique partner, and now you have two!
Having a few trusted, knowledgeable, and honest friends in the writing industry who are familiar with your stories, genre, and style can be one of the most valuable things you’ll ever add to your life, not just on a professional level, but on a personal level, too. You’ll make some of your best friends this way, and that on its own is worth giving out a few critiques.
What has been the greatest improvement your writing has experienced since getting feedback from others? And if you haven’t gotten feedback yet…why not? What’s holding you back?