Thoughts From a Beta-Reader – Guest Blog By Tom Rimer

Thoughts From a Beta-Reader

Last night, my manuscript was handed back to me (by my first beta-reader) with a ton of revision suggestions. Most everything was scribbled into the margins, but there was also an extra page handed to me with some overall thoughts and comments. We had an opportunity to sit down and talk through her notes, questions, concerns, etc. Here’s what I learned:

  • Some of my characters are just written better than others. This was a little surprising to me, but I completely understood what my beta was saying. She felt that she just knew some of these folks super well and that others needed to be fleshed out more. Some of her most directed comments were about my protagonist. Eek. Sure, she’s driving the plot and clearly central to the story… but, it was some of her supporting cast members that were the most vivid characters.
  • Some characters sounded too similar. This was extremely helpful. I didn’t necessarily pick up on this while I was writing. It is super important for each character to have an entirely unique voice.
  • Word choice. There were some words/phrases that I used a bit too much. One in particular stood out to my beta: plopped. She commented that she saw it a few times and that she didn’t think it really had a place in my novel… even once. Funny thing: I don’t remember ever even using it.
  • Plot holes. She definitely dug some up and now it’s my job to fill them back in. Fortunately, the two of us were able to chat about how I might do that. I already have a ton of great ideas.
  • Realistic injuries/healing time. She reminded me that my characters aren’t Jack Bauer and that this isn’t an episode of 24. She said that I need to make sure that injuries inflicted on my characters are given a realistic amount of healing time. She’s right.
  • Consistency with a new alien language. The example given to me was Tolkien’s use of language in LOTR/The Hobbit. She emphasized that when I allow a new species to speak in their own language that I must know exactly what they are saying at all times. There’s needs to be consistency. If an alien character is saying “hello” in his/her own language, then he/she needs to say “hello” the same way each time. If I’m inconsistent, my readers will certainly notice.

There’s more, of course, but this should give you an idea of some of the comments I received. I plan to spend today working on these revisions. I’m also giving myself a deadline of a week to make all of these fixes. I don’t want it to sit too long before I hand it off to my next reader.

This is my process. As I always say, different authors won’t necessarily do it this way, nor should they. Find your own process and make it work for you.

Keep checking back. Things are moving fast right now!


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Comments ( 5 )
  • Kris Baker Dersch says:

    Great thoughts as I’m starting to search out a beta reader for a WIP and am interested in the process. Thanks for sharing!

  • Katherine Dell
    Katherine Dell says:

    Good luck with finding a beta reader. I’ve had many people comb through the tangles in my work. Each person has back with different things.

  • Graeme Ing says:

    Great post! Betas, critique partners and writer groups are absolutely vital, in my opinion. I employ all 3 types and all of them make my books better. As Kathy said, each have their own strengths. Always be prepared for more rewrites though!

  • cindy dorminy says:

    I tend to ‘plop’ a lot in my manuscripts too! Good article.

  • Brittany Thibodeaux says:

    Interesting read! I’VE nearly completed my first edit and hope to get through the second before enlisting my short list of beta readers. I’m incredibly anxious about that stage, as no one has read any of my manuscript yet. Looking at your list of feedback gives me hope that it won’t be completely gut-churning. If the revisions above were all I received, I’d be quite pleased! Congrats to you on your first beta reader completion.

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