Is Your Beta-reader an Enemy of Progress?

Beta-readers are the test monkeys of the literary community (sorry, guys). They could be your friends or just strangers you find on the internet, but they are all tasked with the same job—to give you honest feedback on your work.

The quality of feedback you get from your beta-reader plays a huge factor in the success of whatever you have written. It’s very advantageous to have one that knows what she/he is doing. So today, I’m going to help you figure out all you need to about them.

As I said earlier, a beta reader is tasked with giving honest feedback on your work. This is not to be confused with an editor or a critique partner. A beta reader is a second eye. She/He will read your work from the reader’s perspective only. A beta reader for instance, might make a comment on the tone of your writing, or the readability of a specific paragraph, whereas a critique partner takes it a step further to probe into your writing style and plot.

What does this mean? Well, it means your beta-reader doesn’t need to have extensive knowledge on writing. However, your beta-reader should at least have some semblance of what good writing looks like. If your writing is genre specific, your beta-reader should be somewhat acclimatized to that genre. It’s only people with impeccable taste in cuisine that become judges on Master Chef, no? Likewise, only people who have read good literature can give good constructive criticisms.

Besides the ability to snuff out good literature, your beta-reader needs to be an effective communicator. This means she/he should be able to effectively put into words how your work made them feel. Seems easy right? It should be.

Your beta-reader should also have a good command of English, or whatever language you communicate in. This means not using passive phrases. For instance, if you send a three thousand word short story to your beta-reader and she/he responds with “it’s nice” without going on to say what exactly makes your work nice, your beta-reader is an enemy of progress.

<< A huge sorry to the many people I have been an enemy of progress to>>

Lastly, your beta-reader should be kind enough to respect your time (especially if it’s not volunteer work). Someone who is able to get back to you as soon as possible is worth keeping.

So, if your beta-reader possesses all of the aforementioned qualities, you are good to go! If not, well…

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Amarachi Ike writes from Enugu, where she is currently studying Medicine at the University of Nigeria. She is an essayist, fiction writer, blogger and aspiring author.

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