The Importance of Beta Readers

When I was a child, I shared my stories with my friends and family. Being naive, I thought everyone wanted to read my writing, and I even thought my stories were quite good. I was so confident in my writing that I even wrote stories for people as their Christmas gift; lucky them! I loved writing and wasn’t scared to share it with the world!

Eventually I decided to try my hand at getting something published, because why not? It was a piece entitled “Signs You Might Be a Vegetarian.” I submitted it to the website HelloGiggles, and low and behold, it was published! But, that’s also when I had my first experience of negative feedback, and what a way to receive it, on a website that millions of people read. People were commenting on my article telling me that I as a person was stupid combined with many other hurtful comments. I was so embarrassed! I wanted to burn everything I’ve ever written and never try again.

As if feedback from internet trolls wasn’t bad enough, I was also living with someone not supportive, so much so that I had to hide my stories, because this individual would pick them apart, especially if there was ever a romantic relationship involved in the piece I was writing. This person assumed that whatever love interest I had in my story must be based on something that was happening or had happened of which I never informed them. I didn’t realize I had to disclose my “fictional” life in addition to actual life!

After those negative experiences, I hid my writing from everyone. My stories were tucked away in a notebook under lock and key, far from prying eyes. What I was writing was personal, my thoughts and feelings being reflected through my main character. I was afraid if anyone would read it, they would laugh at me or tell me they were horrible. Eventually, it became such a chore hiding what I writing that I stopped. I also wasn’t in a good place at the time so all my creative juices were sucked from me.

Once I left that terrible situation, I tried my hand at writing again. It took awhile to get back into the routine, but once I finally felt comfortable being myself, the words began flowing. But I still didn’t talk much about my personal writing, so when I told my now husband when we first began dating that one of my hobbies was writing, and he showed interest in reading it, I shut down again and my thoughts ran rampant! What if he hated them? What if he thought that because I was writing about a love interest, I must be cheating on him? What if after he read what I wrote, he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore? But, I knew he was different, so I gathered up all of my courage and had him read the first draft of a book I wrote. And guess what, he liked it, a lot! And, he gave me incredibly helpful positive feedback of ways I could make it even better.

After that, I shared my book with a few close friends who were also great and helped me gather my thoughts and ideas. Now, I’ve even joined a Twitter group where we share our writing with each other and bounce new ideas back and forth. Through these experiences, I’ve realized the importance of having first readers, aka “beta readers.” The key to finding a good beta reader is making sure you trust them. You need someone that will tell you the truth about your book, but in a positive way. So instead of them saying, “That part is terrible,” they might instead offer the following suggestion, saying “This part has potential. What if you do this, this, and this to bring out your main character’s turmoil?”

My beta readers have really helped me work out some scenes or characters that didn’t seem to jell. It’s true what’s said about the dangers of working in a silo; you need others to help you figure out if what you wrote works. And, if it doesn’t, they might even give helpful suggestions on how it can be fixed. I’ve received some of my best inspiration from feedback I’ve received from my early readers, especially my husband! A big thank you to my loyal beta readers! I wouldn’t be able to write without you. I’m also always looking for new beta readers to read my work. If you are ever interested, please let me know! Consider it an early Christmas gift! 😉

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