Beta Readers

Beta Readers

Today I am writing about Beta Readers.
You’ve put forth your best efforts. You’ve completed your book. Now you’re ready to publish!
Not so fast.
Have you gone over your book looking for the smallest of errors? Have you followed up by editing the book? If yes, then good, but you’re still not ready.
Let me pause here for a word of transparency. While I have used readers to check my work they don’t necessarily fit within the “Beta Reader” definition. Also, I am not necessarily recommending that you use Beta Readers. It’s a choice. Whether you use Beta Readers or not, it is your choice.
With that out of the way let’s review the following which is based on an article written by editors.
What is a Beta Reader?
A Beta Reader is essentially a person who provides feedback that potentially helps your book to be better than it was. Not everyone can provide that service. A Beta Reader should be:

  • the kind of person likely to buy your book
  • be more knowledgeable than you are on the craft of writing
  • be a reader of books in your genre

It is unlikely that you will find such people in your circle of friends.
Where do you find Beta Readers?
Listed below are some ideas. You are free to add additional ones.

  • Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) by asking for help
  • Scribofile where you offer feedback on other works and receive reviews of yours
  • Join Wattpad where you upload your book with a compelling blurb enticing people
  • Visit local writing or critique groups for face-to-face feedback

Working with Beta Readers
Just locating Beta Readers is not enough. You must have rules. The editors of the article point out authors don’t usually pay Beta Readers, so your interaction with them needs to be positive and affirming.
Don’t forget this little rule: How you treat your Beta Readers will determine whether they ever help you again. So it is to your advantage to treat them well. Use the Golden Rule: treat Beta Readers as you would want to be treated.
Having established that all important rule, let’s look at some others:

  • Give them your completed manuscript, not a draft
  • Send the manuscript in their desired format and method
  • Keep them informed on what kind of information you’re looking for
  • Provide a list they can follow
  • Never display disappointment or offense at negative feedback
  • Reward them by mentioning them in your acknowledgement page (people like compliments)

What’s the alternative to Beta Readers?
Your circle of friends can provide the alternative. Not all friends will be willing to help, but some may be willing. The thing to remember is to provide the same rules as for Beta Readers. And remember that these people are not necessarily trained to do such work.
But I have found that a friend who is willing to read my book and critique it can be very helpful. As I write this I have in mind a woman who took the time to read one of my manuscripts and critiqued it. Her comments and suggestions played an important role in the writing. Unfortunately she’s not really available anymore because of time constraints but readers like that are like platinum!
What should I do?
My suggestion would be to first look among your circle of friends for one or more people who’d be willing to critique your work. Note: the fact that a person may be an educator doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she should be used. Writing is fluid and sometimes crosses the border of so-called rules of writing as taught in the schools. That doesn’t rule them out, but just be careful.
Once you’ve done that you can try the Beta Reader routine.
ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for book reviews. Whether it is Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), World of Shem (Book Three), World of Abraham (Book Four) or Death Ship to the Stars I value your reviews.
If you would like to review any of these books contact me at marketing@tr-indbkstore.com with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review [book Title].’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

PC EDITING Part II

Last week I wrote about PC Editing, today is part II. First a quick review:

PC Editing (Proof Copy Editing) is a term I invented because an Indie author generally does the editing, copy editing, and proofreading themselves. PC Editing incorporates all of these responsibilities.

PCE is the practice of examining manuscripts from the earliest draft through the continuous copyediting until the final draft. Then proofing kicks in as the final draft is prepared for publication.

After posting the blog I received the following comment:

Instead of the things that you list, mine editing tips for indie authors would be stuff like:

As the author of the chapter, you’re already emotionally invested in the characters and events. Pretend that your only knowledge of these characters and events come from the words on the page. Do those words engage you? Or do they bore you to tears? Do they make you care about the characters? Or do they bore you to tears? Are you excited to know what happens next? Or are you bored to tears?

Okay, so not much of a list. Just don’t bore your readers, which is the main problem I find with writers new enough to find lists like yours useful.”

My response: Interesting comment. I don’t oppose what you say, but bringing your characters alive is more than editing. I teach this prior to editing. The process of creating great characters begins at the beginning and carries through the entire experience. My blog was dealing with the basics of editing which probably should have included your points. So thank you for pointing that out.

I thought the writer was going to write more on the subject that I could include. But I haven’t received anything.

But he is correct. The characters need to be believable. It doesn’t matter if they are historical or fictional. Thus it is important for you to create characters that draw the reader in.

It is well to consider that your characters are human and humans have desires and flaws. When creating a character make him/her as real as possible.

For example, mankind has a perpetual desire to return to the innocence of the Garden of Eden. Some people believe this and some don’t, but all have it. Some even envision an idyllic world where man is at peace with his surroundings, himself, and with God.

How does this impact a novel? The truth is that every novel ever written or to be written is impacted in some way. The degree of impact will depend on the author’s understanding of that desire and ability to put it to paper.

The exciting thing is that your fictional characters start out with nothing and you can build on that. Then again, your character may be a real person. In the book Perished: The World That Was many of the characters were real, lifted right off the pages of the Bible. Therefore some characteristics or traits were already known. Even so I was able to take those few facts and develop the characters further.

In the case of Adam there was a constant inner desire to return to the Garden where he walked with God. But that was impossible. So what did he do? He built a small garden within his home and called it Little Eden. It was a place for quiet meditation or important meetings. That yearning was never really addressed but it expressed itself several times within the story.

The Yearning Factor

Your character is going to have strong and weak desires. Those desires will shape his/her expectations, experiences, and decisions as the story moves forward. So your first duty is to identify the Yearning Factor.

Basically the Yearning Factor is the primary desire of your character. So ask yourself, What motivates my character? How deep does it go? What does the character believe about him/herself?

Since your character starts out with nothing, you can start molding it right away. You can either tell (narrate) certain facts that reveal the character to some extent or you can let the character demonstrate it. Often you can do this by exploring the character’s past. Have there been broken hearts? Perhaps your character has desired things in the past and failed to realized them. Or perhaps your character has flaws that has prevented those desires from being attained.

The key is to know your characters strengths, and weaknesses. A well-written character grows from the beginning of the book to the end with constant, if not obvious, progress toward that goal. The character’s reaction to events transpiring in the story will both reflect and develop the desire.

So during the editing process  take a closer look at your character(s). As the commentator said ask yourself some questions:

  1. Are you (as the reader) engaged?
  2. Do the characters bore you to tears?
  3. Do you care about the characters?
  4. Are you excited to know what happens next?

If you’re engaged, interested, caring, and excited then you probably have created characters that others will care about and get excited about.

Here’s a thought to consider: The end of the story represents the end of the quest. Your character never truly attains the goal or desire. In life we end up with a mixture of successes and failures. To be realistic let your character also experience success and a small degree of failure. Perhaps a victory doesn’t satisfy as much as the character anticipated.

If this character will be a part of another forthcoming novel let the character develop and expand in that future novel. You can even put little teasers in the first book that will be answered in the second.

Developing strong characters not only enhances your book but builds your voice.

What is voice? There are probably a dozen or more interpretations, but essentially your voice is:

An author’s unique style and way of saying things. You should be able to recognize an author’s written voice the way you recognize a person’s spoken voice. In creative writing, one goal is to develop your written voice.”

This covers more than characters, it covers your entire story. As people read your stories they will learn what makes you unique and interesting. So having strong, interesting characters builds your voice.

As stated in the first blog, PC Editing basically finds and removes the most objectionable errors. The more often your manuscript is reviewed, the more often you will streamline your book. So don’t fall in love with a character or a scene or anything. Be ready to edit it or even remove it!

PC Editing is a process that you want to master. Put your own spin on it. The primary goal is to make your manuscript as error proof as possible.

PC Editing is a needful practice for the Indie Author. It is your responsibility to create an entertaining, gripping novel. If you fail to do this you will likely fail as an author.

One final thought.

Don’t worry so much about what others think of your book. What do you think and feel? There are always critics. Some will delight in tearing down your book and you. But if you can honestly say you like your books plus the characters and events in the book, then it is likely others will agree.

At the same time, don’t be satisfied. As you begin a new novel determine to make improvements in your characters and story line. You should learn and grow as a writer after each book is published.

Feel free to comment on this blog. As you can see I read your comments and may include them in a future blog. But whether I do or don’t, you can be sure that I will read it!

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R. Frederick Riddle is the author of several books. For more information on him visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured.

PC Editing

PC Editing (Proof Copy Editing) is a term I invented because an Indie author generally does the editing, copy editing, and proofreading themselves. PC Editing incorporates all of these responsibilities.
 You can divide this into three areas:
Copy Editing – This concerns examining drafts for:

  1. Proper grammar
  2. Spelling
  3. Word use
  4. Consistency (spelling of names are consistent throughout, etc.)

 ProofreadingThis is typically done after all copy editing is done. It is making your final draft ready to submit for publishing.
So, PCE is: the practice of examining manuscripts from the earliest draft through the continuous copy editing until the final draft. Then proofing kicks in as the final draft is prepared for publication.
How do you copy edit?
Have you heard the term KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid? Not a nice way of saying something, but it does apply to editing. The simpler your story writing the better it flows and the more satisfied your reader. With that in mind I have provided below 13 editing rules.
 

  1. Avoid long sentences whenever possible. Short sentences tend to speed up the story flow while long sentences tend to bog the story down.
  2. Stay with one voice, either 1st person or 3rd person.
  3. Limit use of adverbs (i.e., words ending with “ly”).
  4. Watch your punctuation.
  5. Avoid overusing parentheses,  colons and the like.
  6. Avoid redundancies, such as ‘exact same thing.’
  7. Use common words rather than jargon or slang.
  8. Keep prepositions to a minimum. Sometimes you need to add ‘of,’ ‘to,’ ‘for,’ etc. but probably not as much as you are doing.
  9. Watch words like ‘that,’ ‘thing,’ ‘start to,’ ‘in order to,’ ‘very,’ and ‘really.’
  10. Avoid use of a passive voice.
  11. Always refer to people as ‘who.”Let your writing be personable.
  12. Use contractions (that’s instead of that is).
  13. Watch your spelling.

OK, we have a set of rules to follow. How do you edit? Different people have different ideas, but I prefer the following:
 
EIY (Edit it Yourself)

  • Many professionals will cry out not to do this, but it is an option that works if done properly.
  • Be the first to review your work and make corrections.
  • Have corrected copy reviewed by someone else, then edit.
  • Get a third person to review, then you edit.
  • Repeat these steps as often as you can.

 
PC Editing basically finds and removes the most objectionable errors. The more often your manuscript is reviewed, the more often you will streamline your book.
PC Editing is a process that you want to master. Put your own spin on it. The primary goal is to make your manuscript as error proof as possible. By the way, take with a grain of salt claims by some authors that they don’t make any errors. I have read great novels by celebrated authors and found errors. At the same time, don’t take a “whatever will be” attitude. Strive for perfection, but don’t get hung up on it.
Being an Indie Author puts a lot of responsibility and pressure on you, but you can do it. And the satisfaction that comes from a well-written novel is tremendous.
I might suggest that after you have completed the PC Editing process that you reward yourself. The old way of editing was to hire editors. So why not pay yourself for doing the work. Perhaps money in the bank, a nice dinner out, or buy something for yourself.

Do you have comments or questions? Leave a reply in the box below. And don’t forget to “follow” my blog.