Why Beta Reading is a Soul-Crushing Experience

Admit it: when you send your work to your beta readers, all you really want to hear is, “This is the best thing I’ve ever read!”

What you actually hear is a litany of what you did wrong.  The whole process can crush your soul and put a muzzle on your production.

My advice is to get over it.  You are too close to your work to see your mistakes, and it’s much better for your friends to point it out than for random strangers to tear you to pieces in Amazon reviews.

These are some of the things a beta reader can find for you:

  • Confusing passages – Of course it made sense when you wrote it; you know exactly what you meant to say. Your beta reader only has to go by what you actually wrote.
  • Inconsistencies – From characters who don’t behave as expected to huge plot holes, a good beta reader is going to spot these for you.
  • Wording and phrasing – Probably realized you didn’t how worded weirdly a sentence that was.
  • Overused words – Sometimes we use words overmuch when we don’t even realize we used that word when another word could have been substituted for that word.
  • Pacing – It’s hard to determine for yourself where the work drags.

If you go into the process with the expectation that it’s going to suck but it’s going to make your writing better, you’ll be much better off.

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5 thoughts on “Why Beta Reading is a Soul-Crushing Experience

  1. I just received a critique of a novel that’s essentially finished and in the last stages of editing. Not a beta; a final evaluation. In one paragraph, the reader showed me everything that was wrong with the novel. And you know what? I was thrilled. She pointed out things that I was aware of but didn’t think were that important, and things that I hadn’t even thought about. The novel has to be completely revised and restructured, and I’m grateful to have the chance to do it. If a writer can’t take informed criticism, they have no business writing. Give it up for something that’s easier.

    • Catana,

      I agree with your sentiment here; you must develop thick skin if you want to improve.

      It can be a demoralizing experience, though.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Brian

  2. Be fair to yourself and carefully select your beta readers as well. An over-analytical nit-picker can dry your will to write as fast as overwhelming negative public reviews, but at least the public reviews come attached to small amounts of money.

    And of course, you don’t want the other extreme. That’s why any good beta-reader group excludes mother.

    • I try to take the opposite tack. Since beta readers are a precious commodity, when I find one, I try to learn how to best use his advice. This involves getting to know his pet peeves so that I can ignore them where appropriate.

      • Frequent and brutal lashings is the best way to ignore a peevish beta reader. That or find the worst fan-fiction you can, put your name on it and ask them to act as the editor for it.

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