The Importance of Beta Readers

Monday, February 9, 2015

Beta readers are essential when the writer isn’t part of the audience.
I read a lot of middle grade fiction, but I read it with adult eyes. And I was a middle grader once, but that was a long time ago.
So after I did an initial polish to the manuscript for my middle grade novel, I went looking for beta readers. Within the past few weeks, I gave out eight copies. Sunday I got my first two responses.
These two evaluations came from sisters—one in 4th grade and the other in 6th grade. Both told me that my main character acted too young for her age (which I had been unsure about) and that the chapters were too short (contrary to what the “experts” said chapter lengths should be). The 4th grader really took the assignment to heart, telling me that I should show more of my protagonist’s routine before Pearl Harbor, help the reader know Emi’s father better, and make the chapters flow more smoothly. (Her actual comment was that the book “kind of jumped around.”) She even pointed out that I used “choked back a sob” and “gulped back a sob” a lot. Pretty perceptive for a 4th grader.
On the other hand, I had worried about the vocabulary level. I wanted it to be challenging but not frustrating. Both comments indicated that I had succeeded in keeping the vocabulary understandable.
I already have some ideas on how to make changes, although I will wait on most until I get the other responses back.
These two evaluations also confirmed something I already knew—when writing for an audience the writer doesn’t belong to, beta readers from that group are a must.
And I can’t wait to read the rest of the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment