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All right, here's a question for you:  are beta readers just lame or is it me?  I know all the arguments in favor of them, but aren't they really just a way of reinforcing out ourselves, of just matching beta readers with our hopes that say, "That's great!"

 

Before you all hang me, Zee's got an example where she has five beta readers.  Four of the beta readers like her story, and the fifth doesn't.  Should she

 

A.  Discount the fifth entirely, and say thanks for reading my story and never ask her again

B.  Maybe that fifth beta reader is right, and she should make corrections because the other four are just yes men

C.  Take a vote and go with the first four because there is safety in numbers and go with that

 

Or maybe if you really are destined to be a writer, take the other opinions (all of them) into account and go with your gut feel.

 

I'd be interested in what you have to say.

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First, you have to know your beta readers. If they are your mom, your aunt Bertha, and your college roommate, they will be lame and probably just tell you how great you are. So this question really be

If that's what's happening, then you're simply not doing it right.     Not familiar with the details, but it really all depends on what that fifth person said.   If you get

Clearly, you've never met my family...     😄  

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First, you have to know your beta readers. If they are your mom, your aunt Bertha, and your college roommate, they will be lame and probably just tell you how great you are. So this question really begins with you and who you have as beta readers. That doesn't mean you can't let aunt Bertha read it, you just won't put much weight on what she says. It's almost like a decision analysis - your beta readers' input should be weighted according to their value in this process. On the other hand, if you ask someone who normally reviews hard sci-fi to review your sweet romance story (and for whatever reason they agree), it is likely they won't like the story no matter how good a sweet romance it is.

 

Now, let's say you had five well-chosen beta readers and four of them liked the story but one didn't. You can discount the fifth reader as an outlier, but I would see what from that critique I could use to improve the story without fundamentally altering it (i.e. what can I do to please the ornery reader while not ruining it for the other four). And if there is no way to reconcile them, I would go with my gut because it's my story and I'll do what I want thank you very much. That doesn't mean I wouldn't ask the fifth reader to review another story later. Whittling your beta readers down to just people who love you isn't going to serve you well long-term.

 

Also, the lovely and talented Zee is still waiting for me to send her a draft of my novel to read. It's coming, Zee, I promise! 😅

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Well, in my case, if a reader suggests a change, I almost always make it, and almost always find my writing is significantly improved when I do. Writing for me personally is a very collaborative process, in that sense—I share early and often, while the story is still forming in my mind.

 

But occasionally there is a moment when I realize that a suggested change is going to take a story/scene/character in a direction I don’t want it to go...and then I don’t make that change.

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I should add that I’ve never used anyone I know personally as a beta reader...and I wouldn’t trust a reader who had nothing but positive things to say.

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Yep, we are.  I'm doing it for my first time.  I'm providing thoughts and opinions as I read, as well as suggested changes.  The author knows I'm not likely in his target audience, and I explained that up front, telling him I'll read and give feedback as far as I think I can.  I tell him when I had to look up a word, offer praise for cool phrasing, give impressions as I read and more.

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@Zee

41 minutes ago, Zee said:

Writing for me personally is a very collaborative process, in that sense—I share early and often, while the story is still forming in my mind.

 

You sound like you abandon that position after a while, and

 

42 minutes ago, Zee said:

But occasionally there is a moment when I realize that a suggested change is going to take a story/scene/character in a direction I don’t want it to go...and then I don’t make that change.

 

and where do you draw the line?

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38 minutes ago, Paul but not THE said:

The author knows I'm not likely in his target audience, and I explained that up front, telling him I'll read and give feedback as far as I think I can.  I tell him when I had to look up a word, offer praise for cool phrasing, give impressions as I read and more.

 

Now that's a good attitude, Paul!

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26 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

 

and where do you draw the line?

 

Well, for example in my latest story, one beta reader REALLY didn't like one of my protagonists, and suggested I kill him off. I didn't.

 

Another felt my "bad guy" wasn't bad enough...I cordially disagreed, as he seemed to be "bad enough" for most people, including myself.

 

When the change involves refining a bit of dialogue, clarifying a character's motivation or a confusing moment, slashing a boring scene, etc. I'm all for it. But when the change involves, say, offing the protagonist, adding more graphic violence, or completely changing a character's motivation, I probably won't.

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Some of the edits the editor suggested, I ran by my beta readers to get their reaction.  When their reaction matched mine, I went with the beta reader.

 

As for the original post, if I captured four out of five, I'd run with it.

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2 hours ago, Chris Brown said:

First, you have to know your beta readers. If they are your mom, your aunt Bertha, and your college roommate, they will be lame and probably just tell you how great you are

 

Clearly, you've never met my family...

 

 

😄

 

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I have used a combination of professional editors and beta readers..  To be honest, sometimes the beta readers (none of whom I have met or are friends or family) have actually provided far more robust feedback in terms of depth and insight. 

 

Some feedback has required a major reworking of the story either to add or shrink while others have only needed tweaks. I have found in most cases the suggestions/changes have improved the work.  But I have rejected some because I have disagreed with the reader/editor. 

That is a choice a writer has to make, otherwise you are in danger of losing ownership of your work. 

 

I have to say that I have found beta readers excellent first call for feedback and learnt a lot about critiquing from those who have allowed me to beta read their work.

 

The self-editing course leader suggested that beta readers should be engaged with before a professional edit. 

  

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19 minutes ago, Shamrock said:

To be honest, sometimes the beta readers (none of whom I have met or are friends or family) have actually provided far more robust feedback in terms of depth and insight. 

 

Really?  Boy you are incredibly lucky!  That's great, @Shamrock!

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1 hour ago, suspensewriter said:

Paul, do they represent your target audience?

This writer leans toward edgy current issues stuff and my whole story setting is a Mayberry/Hooterville/Pixley sort of place.  I like to have clean fun, and the other guy thinks I need to be edgier.  Oh well.  I like his protagonist, so far.

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My beta readers are an essential part of my process. Without exception, they've helped me come out with stronger stories. I go to them for feedback about character development, story structure, and pacing. A few of them are fellow authors within my genre, and I've used a paid beta-reading service twice.

 

I would never put a book out now without running it past at least three betas, and preferably five. I listen to all their feedback, and go with what resonates with my gut. Even if something doesn't resonate, if more than one points it out, I'll take a closer look and probably make adjustments.

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