Beta Readers, Critique Groups

Beta readers help polish writers’ work in preparation for submitting to publishers. Sometimes they work with one another one-on-one. Sometimes they form critique groups, where members share their work and receive critical but constructive feedback from everyone. What makes them helpful and essential is they aren’t necessarily in the publishing profession. They are people whom writers can trust with their earliest, roughest drafts. They are in effect the first step to sharing work with the world.

Some say it’s not a good idea to share drafts with family. Well, family is the first source of encouragement and support, and sometimes there are relatives that can offer constructive feedback. Nevertheless, it’s important to interact with and receive feedback from people who aren’t family, but who are passionate about writing and/or are seeking publication. Sometimes they are already published and can offer insights into the process. They will provide more critical and constructive feedback, which is necessary for growth as a writer.

I’m sorry to say that critique groups don’t always last forever. For different reasons, members leave (usually for personal reasons, which is completely understandable). What’s important is whether the groups and members have something to teach you and make you stronger. I’ve have been in quite a few critique groups since I joined the Maryland Writers’ Association, and even started one of my own. I have found it to be an extremely beneficial and motivating atmosphere.

Good beta readers not only state what they don’t like, but also explain why and offer suggestions as to how to improve it. They are fair and respect the submitting writer’s feelings. Writers don’t always have to agree with beta readers’ suggestions, but listening to and appreciating them will benefit them. Those who only say they don’t like a writer’s work—if they put the writer down in their work and/or as a person—they aren’t worth staying with. And they are out there, unfortunately. I’ve encountered such people. But in such cases, the best thing was to move on, learning from those experiences and my mistakes what it means to be a good beta reader.

Writers must remain respectful of beta readers. They too have feelings, dreams, and opinions. They build one another up, which is how they all move forward. It’s best to move on when things don’t work out, especially if you receive negative feedback instead of constructive feedback. If someone doesn’t help, or isn’t willing to give you a second chance when attempting to make amends, don’t stay with them. Find people who will.

Further Reading
  1. Meghlen, Ari. Why you need to have Beta Readers.

30 thoughts on “Beta Readers, Critique Groups

  1. Well said, Andrew. Also, make sure a critique group doesn’t criticize in such a way as to change an author’s authentic voice. Cheers and happy writing, my friend!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Well explained 🙂 I appreciate that you leave room for family involvement, too. If it hadn’t been for family and friends I trusted reading my work, I would have been MUCH less likely to risk letting strangers read it!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Andrew, wonderful advice for all writers. I think, as you suggested, that family is very important when it comes to reading drafts. They are very trueful, helpful, and don’t hold back when critiquing,at least concerning my experience with my family. Of all groups that read drafts family members are so important, because they do have a vested interest. They want their family member to be successful.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I always start with family. I have some brutally honest people there who happen to be really great editors! 🙂 I do need to find some sort of writer’s group though. Non-family beta readers would be good to have, too. Thanks Andrew!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Andrew, you offer great advice.

    I only wish I could find a good critique group. I know my writing is far from perfect, but the typical response I get is along the lines of “this is good” with a couple of suggestions about a comma here or there. Sometimes being nice is not at all constructive. No worries, I will keep looking. 👍🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for posting, Andrew! I find it exceedingly difficult (so far impossible) to get Beta Readers at all, much less who understand my genre. The Beta readers I’ve encountered have expectations of the work that follow the formulae of fantasy, crime/detective, thriller, science fiction, romance, or dystopia. The genre of my novels are between literary and commercial/general. The first one is more mainstream women’s fiction (NOT romance) and the second is closer to literary … sort of a “family saga” with dark psychology and five violent deaths. I’ve had experience with readers wanting to know why stakes aren’t “hit ’em over the head” obvious in the first paragraph.
    And Critique Partners? Getting feedback on 5-15 pages once or twice a month can’t make it through my book before I’m old & grey. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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