As I am finishing up the first draft to the sequel of Mellie: A Story of Vinyl and Candy, I realize I will be on the hunt soon for beta readers. And if they are good, they will mark it up and return it to me bleeding read ink with helpful criticism in hopes I can turn a piece of junk first draft into a little better second draft.
Also, I am doing some beta reading for a fellow writer on the first draft of the book she’s been working on. So I read, make corrections to grammar, advise her where to make cuts or tighten up …and I wonder, How much criticism should I give? She never specified. I know what I would be expecting from a reader, but she may be looking for something entirely different. Should I just stick with corrections to grammar, or maybe mention that sentence that doesn’t belong?
So here is a bit of advice for any would be beta readers…ask first! For instance, and I usually specify for my readers, I am looking for help with any grammatical errors I may have missed, any unnecessary details that add little or nothing to my story, and rambling off course. (A horrible habit.) And, of course, any words of encouragement are nice too. Softens the blow a bit.
Did I mention I hate criticism? I always read my marked up manuscript sitting at my desk doubled over in pain, yelling out, “You want me to cut what?” Or, “What do you mean that doesn’t make sense?” Along with a dramatic, “Aghhhhhh!” And my manuscript goes flying across the room where it will stay for a few days (and glasses of wine later). After all, my baby was just insulted. But after I’ve had a moment to calm down, I gather up the abused manuscript, reread the suggested corrections, and see, “Ahh ok, maybe the wording was off here…maybe I did take a long, unnecessary detour in this paragraph.” And I start again.
So now I will return to the manuscript I am beta reading with hopes the author will receive my criticism of her work with the knowledge I am only offering what I would expect of my own work. Although next time I will take my own advice and ask before I read!