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writing process: beta reading, first round

April 27, 2010

4. Beta reading, first round:

As soon as I complete a chapter, I send it off to my beta reader, my critique partners, and my test readers – I’ll blog more about their role in my creative process later.

I continue writing while I wait for feedback. Some writers wait until they have completed the story and then send the whole manuscript. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. I personally prefer to get my beta readers involved as early as possible. It keeps me from having to rewrite a 180,000-word story because something essential in chapter one isn’t working.

I rewrite the chapters as soon as I get feedback from my beta readers. Sometimes, it’s just changing a few words or sentences; other times, I throw out and rewrite whole scenes or even chapters. So by the time I type “The End” for the first time, it’s actually more of a second or even third draft.

If you haven’t read it already, check out the results of a survey on beta readers I did two years ago.

So, how about you? Every worked with beta readers? Been a beta reader?

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11 comments

  1. I rely HEAVILY on my beta-readers. I’m fortunate to have several I can call on and count on. I’m one of the ones who usually waits until the manuscript if finished before I send it off, but I sort of like your idea of sending it out chapter by chapter. I’m going to have to talk to my beta readers and see if they are willing to try that. Thanks for such a great blog!


    • If you’re working with several beta readers, you could try having some of them work chapter by chapter while you write and sending others the complete manuscript once you finished the first draft. That way, you get the support and feedback while you write and you get another pair of fresh eyes for revisions.


  2. I worked with a couple beta readers at the height of my Xena fanfic days, and sent them chapter by chapter, then posted serially to my email group(s). Now, I tend to wait until I’m finished, and send the entire short story or novel to very specific individuals asking for very specific feedback.

    I’ve found I need the ability to look at the manuscript as a whole, single animal, which I wasn’t able to do — and had inconsistencies as a result — when I was serially writing/posting stories.

    My work when posted is still essentially third or even fourth draft. I rewrite quite a lot as I go along before anyone else sees my work.


    • I can understand your approach. When you have only parts of the story, it’s easy to lose track of the story as a whole.

      Still, given the length of my novels, getting all that feedback all at once would be too overwhelming.


  3. Here’s my super important question: do you really type “The End” when you’re done? 🙂

    Never been a beta reader, but I’m afraid I might get “fired” from this assignment, since I’d be bugging the author for more chapters so I can find out how the story progresses.


    • I know you weren’t directing the question to me, but I’m gonna offer up my habit. I don’t write “The End” on manuscripts. It’s frowned on if you want to be taken seriously as a professional. I have been known to write “The End” on fanfics, mostly to clue readers that I’m done with that story, because I did/do post fanfics in parts.


      • Lara,

        always feel free to answer any question. I’m sure readers know that I’m certainly not representative for all writers (or all Germans, for that matter), so it’s more interesting to hear from other writers too.


      • Makes sense. I’ve read some fanfics which I weren’t sure were completed. And some that I wish didn’t have “The End” in them, since I wanted the story to continue.


  4. I actually do write “The End” — just because it feels so good. I can always delete it later 🙂

    Mama Champ, I doubt you’d be bugging me for more chapters. Beta reading is serious work. I know one of my betas reads the chapter once, just to enjoy it, then sits down and searches for mistakes and ways to improve the chapter.


    • Oh, good point. I was thinking I could get away with just reading each chapter for my own enjoyment. Looks like I’ve been caught.


      • Nope. While it’s nice to have beta readers who actually enjoy my stories, they need to look at it with a critical eye — so that, finally, readers can read the story just for their enjoyment.



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