Being a critique partner and/or beta reader

Being a critique partner or beta reader can mean different things to different people. Critique partners are typically  other writers that you exchange work with, and give each other very detailed feedback. My main CP and I exchange everything, articles, manuscripts, rough drafts, short stories and sometimes blog posts (hiiii Elesha).

Beta readers are a bit different, they may not be writers, they may just be readers of your genre. Beta readers will give you a more general idea of your work, not a detailed critique.

Keep in mind, being a beta or a critique partner is about providing helpful feedback, and making another writer’s work shine — it’s not about ripping their MS apart, putting them down, or destroying their vision. It is their MS, they may not take all of your advice, they may only take advice that resonates with them (and that’s fine, because it’s their story). Also consider how you give feedback, point out the things that are working well, things you like, parts that make you laugh, not just the parts that need work — varied feedback really helps!

So, you want to be a beta reader?

You might be asking yourself, how can I be a good beta reader? First ask the author if there’s anything in particular they want you to give feedback on, if they have items take a note of those and keep them in mind. You will typically only read the MS once.

My other recommendation would be to keep an eye out for the following:

  • Continuity
  • Plot holes
  • Overall flow (are there slow spots)
  • Under developed characters

Things that aren’t your problem as a beta:

  • Line edits
  • Grammar

As a beta, you are just trying to give the writer a general idea if their project is working for you as a reader. You are not their editor.

So, you want to be a critique partner?

What makes a good CP? Someone loves your work like it’s their own. If you’re a CP, buckle in and prepare to read a MS more than once. You’ll need to keep an eye out for any issues with the MS, but keep in mind everyone has their own editing style and strengths.

As a CP keep an eye an out for the following:

  • Voice
  • Tone
  • Plot, character,  and sub plot arcs
  • Continuity
  • Plot holes
  • Overall flow (are there slow spots)
  • Under developed characters
  • Grammar
  • Word usage
  • History/world building/magic use, etc.

When looking for a CP or beta, be sure to find someone with a feedback/editing style that suits your needs — and vice versa. Some writers have very specific needs when it comes to feedback. For example, I know that the ‘compliment sandwich’ is a very popular method, but this method doesn’t work for me. I’m not good at providing that type of feedback, nor do I care about receiving feedback in that manner.

How fast am I expected to read?

This varies. My recommendation is to consider how long it normally takes you to read a book, and give yourself a few extra days on top of that. When you’re reading as a Beta or CP, the process is slower — you’re making notes, you’re considering the plot, etc. It’s not as cut and dry as picking up a book off a shelf and plowing through it. Give yourself a realistic deadline and let the author know what your timeline looks like — normally the author will tell you if that’s okay or not.

Where do I find authors that want me to CP or Beta?

My recommendation for this is Twitter. There are other methods, writing boards, CP/Beta matchups on blogs, etc. But I’ve found my favorite CPs and betas on Twitter. If you search for beta readers, you can often find authors that are tweeting about their books, hoping to find someone willing to read it.

If you have any questions about being a CP or beta that you’d like me to answer here, tweet at me!