Writer’s Toolbox Week 5: The Importance of Readers
Good morning Writers and welcome to the middle of the week! We hope this week finds you well and that you are taking care of physical and mental well being in these trying times. Today we’re cracking open the Writer’s Toolbox for another hot button topic: beta readers.
The creation of a book, despite whatever outside influences you draw from, can easily fall in a vacuum. You and your characters are essentially alone for the first leg of the journey as you draft and plot and lay out the path they will take on their literary journey.
Once you’ve finished the drafting part of the process, the next leg is equally or even more labor intensive as you tweak and clean up your draft for querying or for your editor. At some point in this process, another pair of eyes could be the hinge that helps you create a fully realized draft before you hit the next stage of the process.
Your Garden Variety Readers
Readers can take several different shapes, but there is an important distinction here that the readers we discuss as part of your toolbox are not the same as the readers you wrote the book for. While fans of your writing will give some great feedback, there is also danger of creating an echo chamber for yourself. The readers that will come into play for your toolbox come in two forms:
Beta Readers: Your beta readers are your support structure. Your beta readers can help you see gaping plot holes, mixed up details, and continuity. Some beta readers will help point out grammatical and spelling errors you may have missed, but remember to respect your beta readers. They are not meant to be line editors. Your line editor is a paid position, vetted either through your publisher or through professional channels. Beta readers can be part of your street team but shouldn’t exclusively be composed of your street team, again to avoid the echo chamber effect.
Critique Partners: A critique partner is a much more intimate reading relationship. Like your beta readers, they will help you navigate the plot holes and pitfalls that happen in drafts, but a good critique partner takes it a step further in helping shape your story. They could point out scenes that don’t hit right, awkward dialogue, or character reactions that don’t make sense in context. However, a big defining difference between your beta reader and a critique partner is this relationship runs two ways. There are expectations that you will offer your critique partner the same level of in depth analysis and feedback on their work. A critique partner is an equal exchange relationship. It is important to maintain that balance and find a critique partner whose feedback and writing syncs well with yours.
Specialized Beta Reader
Another important reader we must mention are Sensitivity Readers. Sensitivity Readers are compensated for their time and emotional efforts. If you have a publisher and a work that requires a sensitivity reader, they can help facilitate this process. Sensitivity Readers ensure delicate topics are handled in a manner that is respectful, ensure better representation on the page and improve the overall quality of the novel. Sensitivity Readers are not a new subset of beta readers, they’ve been around for years, but they have risen to prominence in recent years as publishing continues to wade through diversity issues. Sensitivity Readers provide a great deal of emotional labor and perspective as part of their job and this is why they are separate from base beta readers.
Readers, across the board, fill a vital role in the Writer’s Toolbox. From the readers that become your fan base and boost your book, to the readers that put in the time and effort to help you shape your novel from draft to query ready-- having eyes on your work aside from your own is part of the writing process and helps shape you into a better author.