How Beta Readers Can Improve Your Writing

beta-300x88I’m am in the home stretch of my current novel Love and Cola Wars. July was a dead zone of writing, but August has proved more fruitful. The novel is where it needs to be for beta readers after using Larry Brooks’ Story Coaching Service and through a summer writing workshop at University of Toronto. Finally, it has had one pass with my lovely editor Pauline, who has made it quite clear that I have issues with grammar and spelling, although she would never come out and say so. She is very professional.

For those of you that don’t know, beta readers are a second set of eyes, to point out plot holes, issues with narrative and voice, or just tell you when your book sucks, but hopefully in a more constructive way. They are not copy-editors per se – that is what an editor does, although some beta readers will do this too.

Thanks to Goodreads, I found four fresh and avid readers to beta read my book before its publication date. I also have another three people to also give it a gander, but two of them are my family, so they don’t really count. I continue to get their two cents for two reasons: they provide great feedback and they actually get back to me.

Love and Cola Wars Screengrab

Screengrab of Love and Cola Wars, while in the editing stages


That’s the number one complaint I have heard about beta readers, and what my personal experience was with my debut novel, Ravenous. With Ravenous, I asked four family members, two friends and four co-workers to look at my novel. Of the ten, only four actually gave me written feedback, two gave me some verbal feedback and four didn’t read the book at all. What can you do when asking people to dedicate 6 solid hours of their lives, without remuneration, to help you with your dream in becoming a published author.

So this time I sought out readers who actually want to beta read and gave them a reasonable deadline. I hope that this time I will get feedback within a timely manner. I’ll let you know soon.H.L.

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