The Beta Reader Draft

So sorry about skipping out yesterday. I’m a full month behind on my beta reader draft, and yesterday I had my last book event of the Fall, possibly of the year (but we’re working on something at Writing Pad for December, so maybe not). Either way, it occurs to me that I should talk about my beta reader draft as a refresher for our long time readers and an introduction for our newer readers.

Basically, my process can be summed up like this. Working with my writing exchange partner, I type up a rough draft, then I let the manuscript rest for a month or two while I do something else. Then I do a huge, deep-clean rewrite. Then I immediately turn around and do a relatively quick beta reader draft. And that’s the draft we’re going to talk about today.

Ostensibly my beta reader draft is the draft that I’m going to send off to my editor, but before I do that, I do a quick read-and-dash rewrite and send it off a chapter at a time to one or two beta readers.

My beta readers are not editors or really anyone who is involved in the publishing industry in anyway whatsoever. They are normal people who read and they’re stand-ins for “my ideal audience.” For example, I wouldn’t ask my husband to beta read my women’s fiction b/c he’s not representative of the audience I’m going after with women’s fiction. But I did send my sister a copy of 32 CANDLES before I sent it off to my manuscript editor.

And now both she and my BFF are in the process of reading my chapter-by-chapter rewrite of THE AWESOME GIRLS GUIDE TO DATING EXTRAORDINARY MEN. I do this for two reasons:

1)   Writitng is a lonely business and it’s nice to bring a fresh pair of eyes to the process.

2)   I need the compliments – they will power me through my next rewrite. When I’m feeling like I can’t write, wondering why I ever thought I could in the first place, then the warm fuzzy glow of my beta reader’s comments guides me through the dark tunnel of doubt. My manuscript editor isn’t about the compliments; she’s about the edits. So hearing from one or two lay people who like and appreciate my work with only a few measly notes is one of the best ways to get through a process that feels a lot like writing inside vacuum.

I’m very insistent that my beta reader(s) not be in the industry, but I know quite a few authors who use other authors and/or someone with an editing background as their beta readers. For example, Tabitha King is Stephen King’s beta reader, and I’ve been asked by a few colleagues for notes on what I would call a beta draft. But either way, I’ve noticed that a lot of writers tend to have beta readers, so if you’re a first-time novelist, do consider who you might ask to beta read your book.