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Beta Readers are Awesome

Beta readers are awesome people.

Every single one of my novels has gone through a few rounds of betas. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. They’re like that friend who runs lines with you before performances, or asks questions for mock interviews. They love you and they have your back, and they’ll call you on things.

Like I said: awesome people.

My novel just went out to betas. As I compiled my list, I had to smile. Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of wonderful beta readers. They come from all spheres of my life: the museum, my writing pals, my church/choir, my family, my former schoolmates…

Yay friends/peers/colleagues!

Yay friends/peers/colleagues!

For me, there’s no particular formula for finding good beta readers. Mostly, it’s about keeping your eyes and ears open: paying attention to the people around you. And making sure they actually have time. But looking closely at my Beta Super Team, some patterns emerge.

First and foremost: they’re readers. They love books; they love stories; they love words. Most are well-versed in fantasy—they know tropes; they can sense when a story’s out of joint. And those with diverging tastes are still lovers of story. They offer new insights, fresh takes, all while keeping the story’s interests uppermost in mind.

They’re conscientious and thoughtful. Some have read absolutely everything I’ve ever written ever (Hi, Cara!). This round, a few haven’t read anything of mine before. Either way, I’ve spent enough time with all of them to know: they’re smart people. Their judgement is sound; I know they won’t just fling random thoughts at me willy-nilly.

This is what the capital looks like. (Courtesy: The City of Sydney Archives)

Reference image: downtown Sydney, ca. 1890. (Courtesy: The City of Sydney Archives)

And they have insights both brilliant and varied. I like having a fairly large Beta Super Team. (Novel’s currently out to 11, and I have a few more people to approach.) Partly, this is to try and get some consensus in response. A note from one person may or may not indicate a problem; the same note from a dozen probably does.

But also—remember how my Beta Super Team comes from many, many different parts of my life? They have vastly different backgrounds, experiences, and areas of knowledge/skill.

I love using actors as beta readers because they’re trained to look at texts and analyze characters. I love using my healthcare-type pal because she’s flipping brilliant with story logic and prose-level technical issues. I love using history types who can call me on worldbuilding; fantasy lovers who can feel if the story hits right; writers who can delve into issues of art and craft.

It's like how you need a balanced Pokemon team. Here was mine, the last time I played Leaf Green.

It’s like how you need a Pokemon team that can handle anything. Here was mine, the last time I played Leaf Green. No psychic types, but psychics are mostly useful against poison/fighting, and I’ve got Sandslash and Pidgeot for those. Cover your bases, that’s all I’m saying.

All that’s great. But you know why beta readers are really awesome?

They’re doing this for love. Love for you; love for the story; love for the process. It means so much to me when someone agrees to beta read. They’re giving up their free time to help me. Everyone has their own lives and projects; it’s no small thing.

And it’s a special thing, this relationship between beta reader and author. Like falling in love – when it clicks, you know. Everyone’s working towards the same goal:

The most kickass story possible.

So, to my Beta Super Team: thank you thank you thank you. I hope you enjoy the novel, and I am stoked to hear your thoughts!


What I’m Listening To This Week:

I actually can’t listen to this piece too much, because it makes me cry, and I’m scared that repeated exposure will dull the effect. This rendition of “Calon Lân” is a beautifully-sung traditional Welsh hymn, but it’s the choir that makes it here. There’s something in these young men’s eyes—passion, spirit—that gets me every single time.

This is how choirs should sing, always. Music starts at 2:10.