When should you get Beta readers for your novel? Not after the first draft, that is for certain. Really, not until you’ve written the first three drafts at least. When you’ve done all you can do to make your story the best you can, then it’s time for outside input (a.k.a. Beta readers).
Keep in mind that a Beta reader is not an editor. So you definitely do not want to ask them to read your work too early in the process, nor should you expect them to comb your story for grammatical errors (although they will naturally catch some).
I’ve seen some social media posts in writer’s groups where the writers are sending their work to Beta readers after they finish writing their first draft. Um, no. Not good. No one should be reading the first draft but you, the writer. Or maybe, if you really need it, you can summon the help of Alpha readers at this point.
A first draft is simply putting down your story so you have it in one place, start to finish. It will not be “readable” just yet. The second draft will be adding skin and bones. The third draft is about working those skin and bones into place and making them pretty with lipstick and nice clothing. When that’s done, then it’s time for the all-important Beta readers.
Beta readers will read with a reader’s eye and tell you where you have inconsistencies, holes, and any major problems. They’ll let you know if and when they lost interest, or how the characters came across to them. And more. So you can see how it’s important to have your novel as ready as you can make it before you ask a Beta reader to take a look.
Again, if you want a reader’s help early in your process, those readers are called Alpha readers. They are typically friends or family members, or trusted fellow authors who have a lot of patience.
When your story is ready, contact a few Beta readers and let them do their magic. Their input will help you take your book up to the next and best level. Trust me. As writers, we can’t get out of our heads and really look at our work with a fine-toothed comb, or even objectively. That’s what Beta readers do for us. Yay for Beta readers!
A great place to find Beta readers is the Goodreads Beta readers group. You can also find some at WFWA if you are a member, or whatever writing association you belong to. Remember, Beta readers should read for free. You do not need to pay a Beta reader. They get to read a book, and you get helpful feedback. Another reason your book should be the best you can make it by the time you pass it along to them. That way it’s a win-win.
Bottom line: don’t ask a Beta reader to read your work too soon. You need them after you’ve done all you can to make your story the best you can make it up to that point. After the Beta readers (you’ll want several) do their thang, have your final work edited, then send it off to publishers or agents.
Best of luck my friends!!
Thank you for visiting my blog and happy reading (and writing!).
“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”—Oprah Winfrey.
The Happiest Man on Earth, a true account of an extraordinary life lived and written by Eddie Jaku when he was 100 years old. It’s a fast, yet powerful read.