Now that you know how to find your squad, it’s time to look at when to assemble your loyal betas.
I know the tempting thing to do is to ask for betas the moment you finish your first draft. You’re on a high after having typed The End and trust me, I get it (The. Best. Feeling!) – but allow me to convince you that this is not the best moment to call in reinforcements.
I recommend, strongly, that you only call in betas when you yourself can’t figure out what else to change. You’ve done one or two rounds of edits, maybe a critique partner has already gone over your book baby, perhaps your editor has even done a developmental round – and now the whole thing has stopped making sense to you. You know that strange feeling when you read a word over and over again until it looks like it can’t possibly be a word? (Try it, it’s very frustrating.) That’s when you know you’re ready for betas. You’ve done what you can, and now you can’t do any more.
By the time you’ve edited your own work once or twice you’ll know every last shady corner pretty well, so you’re even more likely to gloss over obvious errors.
Chances are you’ll find a thousand things to reword, cut, slash, slaughter, and add when you do your first edit. Make sure all that is done before you ask for betas, so that, by the time they get your draft in their inbox, it’s as close to the final version as it can be!
Your betas should point out where you’ve missed a smudge after you’ve already polished your work. They shouldn’t have to do everything – that’s your job.
Think of it this way: The draft you send your betas should be a draft you are happy with – a draft you’d be happy to publish, even! (except you’re not, you wouldn’t be asking for betas otherwise *ahem*) You essentially test your book on readers, and it’s harder to do that when you know your WIP still needs a lot of work. You want to know how it reads amongst other things; if it’s still riddled with spelling errors by this stage it’ll be harder to enjoy, and you won’t get the most out of your betas.
Your beta readers aren’t your editor. You want them to point out mistakes, but you should still attempt to clear the field before you ask them to diffuse whatever bombs you’ve missed. If you can think of a few things you should change/add/cut/rephrase, please fix those first. Your betas will be grateful!
If you feel that you do need a second opinion before you reach the beta stage, you can always get a critique partner or two. But that’s a topic for another post 🙂
How do YOU know you’re ready for beta readers? If you’re a writer or a beta reader with questions regarding this step, please don’t hesitate to ask (once you’ve helped yourself to tea and biscuits, naturally).
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