4 Reasons Why Every Writer Needs A Beta Reader

Writing a book is a solitary endeavor. One requiring you to sit there day after day, tapping at your keyboard, the only people to talk to the imaginary ones you’re bringing to life on the page.

By the time you finish this momentous journey, your characters are fully formed beings transformed by all you’ve put them through, and not in the same way you yourself have now become a hermit.

After everything you and your characters have achieved, you’ll need to bring others into the fold. People like the family you left to fend for themselves. Or the friends you canceled social occasions with. They are your beta readers if you apologize and promise to go places with them now you can leave your desk again.

There are other writers too, the lovely humans who followed every rant you made about failed word count goals on Instagram. And the ones who posted an emoji in solidarity of the realization, that at some point, you will hate what you’ve written.

With help from those willing, your book can be what you wanted when it was just a spark of an idea or a freaky dream you had (anyone else? Yes? No? Just me?).

Beta readers are crucial for a multitude of reasons, but here are four reasons why every writer needs one…

1. They Highlight Your Strengths

You might have liked the way you pulled together your plot in the first draft, or how your characters came together in the third. You even laughed out loud at the witty banter you and your imaginary friends came up with.

By the time you get to the draft where you’ve stopped counting the passes you’ve done, or it’s now you not talking to your imaginary friends, not the other way around, all of the good things about your MS has been forgotten.

You can’t see it for anything but the self-doubt it created and the expectations it didn’t reach. The good news is beta readers can. They don’t know you took five months to perfect the first chapter, just that it drew them in. With their beautiful fresh eyes, they can enjoy the story and let you know which parts you nailed. There comes a point when you can’t judge your work yourself, but others can. And they can let you know where you shone.

2. They Give You The Hard Truth

Shining is fun and all, but eventually, that shine fades. Unless you somehow wrote a perfect book, not all of that glitter will be gold. A good beta will tell you that. A great one will in a way that helps you.

No one likes to hear something they wrote needs work. It’s more fun to stay in the bubble of kind words, they probably have cookies in there. But that’s not going to make your book the best it can be.

It’s much better to hear if something isn’t working from your betas than an agent or publisher, who most likely won’t tell you anyway. Instead, they will gift you with a generic “thanks but no thanks” and give you another reason why you can’t sleep at night.

Learn the hard truth from your betas instead and become a better writer because of it. Although it might hurt your little hermit heart to hear it, consider all the criticism. You don’t have to follow it (or any suggestions from a beta) but give it some serious thought. It might be what improves your book.

3. They Help Your Skills

Just like reading can show you what to do, and sometimes, what not to do when plotting or developing characters, feedback from betas helps your writing skills too. After all, if you get enough comments about telling not showing or confusion over where characters are standing in action scenes, you’ll look at those areas and learn to improve them.

If you’re also beta reading for others, it’s a quick study in spotting errors in your own MS. You might be too close to your words to notice the flagging pace, but seeing it in an MS you didn’t write could demonstrate where you’re going wrong.

4. They Pick Up The Typos

When you’ve read through your draft so many times you can recite whole passages by heart, you’ve lost the ability to see the typos. Those little monsters live right there, in the sentences you’ve read so many times your eyes glaze over at the sight of them.

No matter how confident you think you are about typos being fixed in your MS, just one beta read will show you how wrong you are. It might not even be a misspelling, it could be the tense you changed last-minute when you meant to shift “listen” to “listening” but didn’t. Beta readers haven’t read your paragraphs so many times they can see them in their sleep. It’s brand new to them and that is how you catch the typo monsters and send them to hell where they belong.

I’ve been lucky to have some awesome betas read my MS. They’ve helped me make it better with a mix of positive feedback, constructive criticism, and notes making me question if I was good enough. All experiences prompted me to grow as a writer.

If you haven’t been brave enough to allow others to see your MS (and for years I wasn’t), you have more to gain than lose if you do.

Put your words out there, share your MS with willing family and friends and reach out to fellow writers who you trust. If you can’t do that and can afford it, there are professional manuscript assessment services you can try (also a thing I’ve done).

Sequestering yourself until you’ve written all the words is necessary, but so is sharing to make them better, and isn’t that what you and your imaginary friends deserve?

— K.M. Allan

You can find me and my imaginary friends sharing cookies on Instagram and Facebook.

46 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why Every Writer Needs A Beta Reader

  1. If you live where I think you do, you were up early writing this lol. Brave soul leaving the comfort of the bed where books are made!!
    These are some great reasons why to have a Beta, I am writing two things 1. Duncan Heights, what I put on here are straight to paper with minimum editing using Grammarly. So you guys are the betas (why do I feel like I am in Teen Wolf)
    the other is a novel, a fantasy. Totally different from DH. So I definitely relate to the time gap just for a chapter, I have thrown away chapters, restarted and tried again. Who said writing, was easy? Oh yeah, that was me lol. Great post

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I only got up early to post it 😊. 😅 it does feel a bit Teen Wolf to always say betas. Some people also call the first beta to read anything an alpha! I haven’t tried writing in different genres yet, good on you for mixing it up.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The best kind of friends are the ones that point out our weaknesses as well as our strengths (But in a super tactful, not hurting feelings kind of way).
    I think beta readers are such friends .
    You are absolutely right about the typos.
    My mum helps me with those.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Your post comes with perfect timing for me as I am preparing to begin the beta stage in a matter of days. You pointing out why it’s useful will hopefully give me some strength for it as well as a way to see how much I actually learned (or not) on the so far solitary journey.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. As always helpful and more informative blog you shared. but sometimes these beta readers don’t point out your error they just say ‘ it is good’ or ‘nice one’ so i have to judge their words to get the real feedback. Like if they really like it they would say ‘ OMG!!, its so awesome, you did a great job, and the scene you build, I can’t stop myself imagining it’ or if you are lucky they might talk about your characters. If they give such feedback then ya your write up is (y) but if the say ‘ nice’ or ‘good’ then I re-think on the chapter I’ve written and re-write it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sometimes it helps to give your betas a questionnaire or let them know specifically the kind of feedback you want, such as asking if the main character is likeable etc. If they tell you it’s good, you can always ask them to let you know why they thought it was good.

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    1. Lucky you, Marie 😊. I’ve found some great beta readers now too, after going through some duds. This included paying for assessments that told me very little about what was wrong and needed fixing and just lots of praise that convinced me my MS was good enough to be submitted. It wasn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I was happy with it at the time because it was the first time I’d been given feedback. Now I look back on it after the MS spent a year being rejected and can’t help but wonder if they were highlighting the good points and downplaying the bad simply because I paid for it. That MS needed/still needs work and it’s the awesome beta readers I have now that are helping me to see it. All I have to do in exchange is read for them, which is a much better deal.

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  5. I think I’m a lousy beta reader, honestly. I tend to get too lost in the story and the characters to spot typos, for instance – also, being dyslexic doesn’t help – and I do have a very hard time spotting what is wrong with the writing. I may feel it, I may know there are problems and it’s not working, but I can’t name it, can’t seem to actually point a proper finger at what it is that nags me and call it by its name. I do think I’m an excellent critique partner, though, as I can pick a book and find the good parts easily enough, as well as the bad ones. But as a beta, I know I’m worthless, although I’m always eager to read work from others and analyse it to my heart’s content!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think you are (and know you are) a better beta reader than you think. Spotting the good and bad parts in a book is something worth knowing to a writer trying to improve their book.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post, so true! And I hope it encourages more writers to share their work. I never thought I’d manage it, and this year I took the plunge (as you well know <3). It has transformed my story, and continues to do so. So valuable, can't thank you and my other readers enough x

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Doesn’t it seem contradictory, the stereotypes of writers that say on the one hand we are proud egomaniacs, who don’t want to hear anything bad about our work, and on the otherhand, we have some sort of self-chastising hatred of our own writing?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Very true and good advice. I probably sent out my work too soon, but at least I found out the sort of responses I could expect from various readers, so when I’m ready again, I’ll know who to approach.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve done that too. Sent something out and then wished I had more time to work on it because the other person probably thought I was a talentless hack 😅. At least you learn a lesson with those type of things. Hope it goes well when you’re ready to send your stuff back out 😊.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! If you’re part of the writing community through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.) or your blog, then you can always ask other writers if they’re interested in swapping manuscripts. That has been the best way in my experience, but at the same time, I’ve only ever swapped work with other writers I’ve known (through social media) for awhile. There needs to be some trust involved.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. The one thing I request when I hand a beta reader my work – It’s not personal. It’s writing.

    Most of us are kind people. It’s our nature to dish out compliments but when it comes to beta reading we have to put our kindness away. That doesn’t mean we suddenly become rude, all it means is we’re honest.

    Giving a writer honest feedback and showing them ways that you think the scene could improve is the kindness thing a beta reader will ever do. Sometimes a word added or a sentence deleted can make a huge difference.

    The key for the writer is the listen. Sometimes the beta reader is wrong but when they’re right that’s when the writer needs to put on the breaks and listen.

    As always, great post. Thanks!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Exactly…. Well expressed & every writer desperately needs beta readers….. Because they make you stronger with the hard truth and criticism….. Which if well handled, your next book comes out better than the first

    Liked by 1 person

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