One milestone to hit in the book writing process is sending your WIP off to beta readers.
Your betas can be family, friends, fellow writers, or even paid for services.
I’ve used all types, including this week when I finally sent my latest work in progress to four fellow writers!
When looking for feedback, I usually just ask them to read the book like a reader and let me know their thoughts. However, earlier this year when being a beta myself, one writer (the awesome Lorraine Ambers) provided questions, and it really helped me to give her the feedback she was looking for.
If you’d like to do the same for any of your betas, here are some ideas.
Questions To Ask Your Beta Reader
If you don’t know what to ask your beta and/or you don’t want to overwhelm them, providing some general questions is a good place to start.
These q’s can be applied once they have read the whole MS, but I suggest asking them to look at these questions before reading so they know what to keep an eye out for and so they can highlight any typos as they go through your pages.
What did you think of the overall:
Where did the story get:
Did you spot any:
- Missing words
- Sentences that didn’t make sense
- Other issues you think I should know about
These questions are a great starting point if you need general feedback or are working with a beta for the first time. They also allow the beta to give helpful feedback without the process being too scary or a mountain of work for them.
Along with those general questions, you can also ask your beta some targeted ones.
These can apply chapter-by-chapter and should be tailored to your specific book. To make it easy, provide the questions as your beta reads each chapter.
You can do this by listing the questions at the end of each chapter in the MS so they can be answered straight away, or in a separate document to be looked at only when the beta has read certain sections, i.e. when you want to know if the murderer reveal in chapter ten paid off.
Discuss the option with your beta reader and work out the best system for you both.
Examples of targeted questions:
- Does (insert character name) come off as a jerk?
- Did you agree with how (insert character name) acted during (insert book event)?
- Did you understand the (insert book event) and why it had to happen?
- Was (insert book event) a surprise?
- Were you shocked when (insert character name) did (insert book event) to (insert character name)?
Having questions that relate directly to what happens in your book can be very helpful for your feedback, and can give a beta who wants guidance specific things to comment about, so it’s a win-win.
If you’d like something deeper than the general or targeted questions, or you have an awesome beta who loves answering feedback questions, you can send them those questions plus these…
- How quickly did you get into the story?
- Were you hooked from page one or did it take a certain amount of chapters?
- Was there anything specific about what hooked you—was it a character? an event? an unanswered question?
- Where did you lose interest?
- Did you want to read until the end?
- Was the ending satisfactory?
- Was the story missing something you expected? (this is a good one to ask if you’re writing a series and your beta has read all the books).
- Is the story believable in the context of the story-set world?
- Are the character behaviors believable in the context of the story-set world?
Use these questions as a guide and add your own which relate to your book. The deeper you go, the better the feedback.
If you have a beta who’s willing to answer any of these questions when providing feedback, thank them a million times over, and if they’re a fellow writer, offer to do the same for their WIP.
With good questions and the wisdom of helpful beta readers, you should be well on your way to making your book the best it can be.
— K.M. Allan