As some know, I started in this business as a reviewer on Amazon and for a couple romance review sites. Through meeting authors and giving honest and beneficial reviews, I began beta reading for a few authors who I’d inhaled every book for, and beta reading for others as time passed. When I decided to start writing myself, I remembered the emails of thanks and gratitude from those individuals, and their words of how important it was to them to have a “village” behind them to publish each story. And I’ve always believed that it does take a village – a team – to make every author/ story shine. So in ensured that I have two or three critique partners who read each story, as well as at least two beta readers as well.
Benefits of Critique Partners – this is mainly other authors who write in the same genres as I do. And if I’m writing in a new-to-me genre, I seek out an additional author to request her/his critique so I know I’m not messing up. [Example: My first shifter with Fighting for Honor, I sought out an author who I believe writes great shifters and whom I knew would give me invaluable advice/suggestions … Thank YOU, Doris!!! *g*]
CPs are a godsend in my opinion. Other authors who have a vast knowledge in what can make a story great. They have to be trustworthy individuals who you can count on to share ideas with to “beef up” a story, offer advice on which plots may not work, ways to dig deeper and explore even more of the characters, and let you know what kind of crazy I might be on. LOL
Having CPs, authors should know to check themselves, set aside the egos and know-it-all attitudes. CPs are on your team in order to help you, and authors need to be open enough to criticisms, taking suggestions that may be hard to hear and getting past comments they may not want to hear in order to realize the CPs are only trying to make the story – and your writing – better. When looking for a CP(s), authors have to find people they trust, people they know will only have the best of intentions but also be strong enough and willing to offer beneficial advice. In my head, whenever I get a critique back, I remember to look at the story again in a different manner, like an outsider or as a critique I’m doing. I remind myself to open my mind to all view points and going in, knowing that it’s all to benefit my stories, I look forward to getting the feedback. And by the time it goes out to the CPs anyway, I’ve done three drafts usually, and I’m ready to be done with that story for a bit, so sending it off to the CPs exhilarates me because the process is moving forward.
Benefits of Beta Readers – So you’ve written the story, your CPs have helped you slash and slice away all the unimportant words that add no value to your story, and you’re characters are tired of you messing with their story. You’re nearly ready to submit this new masterpiece off to a publisher … but WAIT … there’s one more step. At least one that I take. Beta readers – for me it’s readers who I have added to my team who are avid readers, have a vast knowledge for many genres and are whom I trust to spot any minor details and also tell me if I am way off track as far as my characters / plots. Now I know you’re thinking … what the hell, you and the CPs have worked tirelessly over this MS, how can there still be things that need improving. Trust me, there is – sometimes. Beta readers are the audience you’re targeting. What the author and CPs think can sometimes still be off track of what your audience may agree with / like. It doesn’t happen often to many authors, for me I’ve been blessed that my beta readers have found no reason to tell me I’m off my rocker as far as what I’ve written, but it is important to have that feedback – from people in your target audience. It doesn’t mean that there may be a reviewer/reader somewhere someday that finds something in your story objectionable, but as an author, I truly feel I want that validation that I have crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s so to speak in creating the best story possible and though some may not agree with it, it is part of my process (and I know for many other authors as well). It’s the process, working to give our audiences the best stories possible. Who better to ask than our target audience, right? *g* Plus when you have a team in place who reads each story, beta readers are perfect for ensuring your series books have all the facts, you haven’t forgotten your heroes bald and blue eyed in book one and in book two you have him sporting a mullet! LOL My beta readers are so good at calling me on things like that. *g*
All in all, no one knows what works best for you – the author. Each author has to choose their own way of doing things, finding a process that works for them. I’m an A-type person who doesn’t like shortcuts or thinking that my writing/stories are so perfect that they need no critiques or validation. Of course my stories are perfect — of course, of course. LOL
But in the end, however many people you have on your team / the process you use depends on your needs. Mine runs pretty smoothly with my invaluable team.