Recently I was asked to become a beta reader for a friend on-line. I jumped at the opportunity, but at the same time was uncertain on what exactly a beta reader was. I soon discovered it was just a fancy way of saying ‘critique partner’!
I’ve critiqued before, but not enough to confidently voice my own opinions onto other people’s work (and thus I’m still quite hesitant on getting my own work critiqued). Pushing such thoughts aside, I threw myself into the task, and felt a bit like a teacher with the red pen. In the end, I believed I analysed the work the best I could within a tight schedule (this was between assignments) and throughout the process, I thought of my own works in progress.
Here’s how becoming a beta reader helped me analyse my own writing:
- Are my characters actions and reactions plausible? Are they more than just cardboard cutouts?
- Could the setting be somewhere else or does the setting actually fit into the story? Two of my novels are set in two different suburbs of western Sydney– is this evident within each of these novels?
- Plot development – does it flow easily from one chapter to the next? Is it plausible?
- Do I have enough description to help maintain an understanding of the characters surroundings? Do I have an even balance between description and plot, so that the reader isn’t bogged down with too much description?
- Is there an even balance between dialogue and narrative? Does each characters dialogue sound authentic?
I’m now becoming more confident in being a beta reader and plan to have my own work critiqued in the not-too-distant future. I’ve come to learn that becoming a beta reader can help make me become a better writer.