Beta readers are people who read your book (or other writing) before it is polished and printed. We send them our work when we want first impressions, critiques, feedback, overall feelings. See the following posts on beta readers.
But what happens when you’re in the middle of writing and you want instant gratification?
You can do what I do: Pick a few people who you know won’t mind reading first-draft level material, and send them chapters as you complete them.
Don’t make the mistakes I made of giving people partial chapters. You want your readers to experience your book at the right pace, which means you can’t leave them off in the middle of a chapter (or sentence).
Make sure you give it to people who will give you the type of responses you need/want. I know it’s hard to figure that out if you’re writing your first book etc., but you want people who will encourage, not critique at this stage.
My go-to encouraging beta reader is my mother. She has always been the encouraging nudger who gets to a chapter break (or the end of an unfinished sentence (sorry about that, mom), and she excitedly demands more. It’s encouraging and uplifting (even if it’s sometimes sugar coated)!
I also send my chapters to my Eldest Sister (who in turn let her son, my Nephew, read it—he’s almost 12, and I leave discretion to his mother [but I would never not let someone read a book that they enjoyed]). She’s a bit more honest and critical, which is important also (but in smaller doses than the encouragement).
For an example of what it’s like to get Real Time Feedback (!) on your writing, here are some of the things my mother e-mailed back to me after I sent her each new chapter of The Nameless Queen as a .docx file:
- Chapter 6 — “Did you just kill that character? I’ll be really pissed.”
- Chapter 9 — “No more yet….?”
- Chapter 10 — “Just checking to see if maybe you had more than one paragraph of the next chapter yet… :-)”
- Chapter 11 — “Woohoo, thanks for the chapter! Loving it!! Keep them coming. Please! fyi, you have two paragraphs that repeat on page 3”
- Chapter 14 — “Hmmm, did I stretch out reading that long enough to be close to getting another chapter??? I’m definitely ready for one!”
- Chapter 15 — “Wow, there’s only about a gazillion ways this can go from here… 🙂 I don’t suppose you have that next chapter yet?…. I read it as slowly as I could lol.”
- Chapter 17 — “I LOVE LOVE LOVE what she said to the wife!!!! The end made me laugh SO hard Grandma looked at me funny!! heehee!!!”
- Chapter 18 — “woohoo! I love her! :-D”
- Chapter 19 — “and the plot thickens…. hahahaha!”
- Chapter 20 — “Don’t you have another chapter yet???”
- Chapter 21 — “Some of those Ha! moments are what makes reading fun! Not everything has to be a surprise. I love that you let the reader second-guess the author sometimes… it makes getting fooled a lot easier to take if you feel like you’ve guessed right a few times! hahaha!”
- Chapter 22 — “This one made me laugh several times! :-)”
- Chapter 23–28 — “Damn. When I say there isn’t really a bad guy, you really give it to me! I couldn’t even write til I finished what I had. The only thing I’m terribly sorry about right now is that I got to read it all at once and I doled it out (innocently) to your poor grandmother a chapter at a time as they came in… and she doesn’t have this one yet! Yikes!”
This is how I imagine my mother’s reaction to those last few chapters:
Sometimes I worry my ego is inflating to dangerous proportions, but then I remember that having an ego is important to finish writing a book. I need to be excited and confident, or else my writing will reflect that uncertainty.
So, yeah! I’m going to kick this book out of the park, through the goal posts, and into the basket!