Back in the Dark Ages, when I was getting started writing, I never heard anything about beta readers. I barely heard about critique groups. But everyone seems to have BRs these days, and, since I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I decided I wanted some, too. So when I finally finished a draft of a piece of scifi flash fiction that I'd worked on for the better part of a month, maybe more, I contacted a couple of family members who are science fiction readers and asked them to act as my beta readers. I even used the term, thinking it would make what I was asking them to do sound very professional and technical. Here's what happened:
Beta Reader 1 told me that no one would know what two words in the first sentence meant. I was able to fix that. Evidently the other 898 words were golden.
Beta Reader 2 didn't have time to read the story. I think he might have been afraid to.
I find the whole beta reading thing awkward. Remember all those times people asked you to read something they wrote and it was dreadful and then what were you supposed to do? Yeah, now you're the one asking someone to do the reading, and the people you're asking want to run for their lives. Maybe your writing is as wonderful as you think it is, but your potential beta vict--readers don't know that. Because I like to maintain the mind of a beginner, I'm open to the possibility that maybe I'm wrong.
Additionally, critiquing writing is an acquired skill. The ground isn't thick with trained beta readers.
So this wasn't a particularly successful experience. However, I met with a critique group in August, and I'll be going back in October. Things are looking positive with that, and after a couple more meetings, I'll report on my progress.
I have found that friends and family make terrible beta readers. I like your group idea
The members of this new critique group were impressive. I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes this fall and winter.
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