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« Are You Tied to Your Genre? | Main | WIP Wednesday and Seeking Betas »
Thursday
Jun242010

What to Ask Beta Readers

 

Question Mark Graffiti

Photo by Bilal Kamoon

Sometimes the hardest part about a a critiquing relationship is finding people to exchange work with in the first place.  Yesterday, I put the call out asking for beta readers and you guys were awesome.  Thank you to each of you who volunteered.  I'm beyond appreciative.

But now that I have readers for my book and am going to be beta reading in return, what's the next step?  What exactly do I need from them and they from me?  These expectations are important to set up before you exchange work.
One of the biggest issues is what level of feedback you are looking for. With my critique group, we want it all--detailed line edits, big picture stuff, repetitive words, whatever we can find (similar to what I give on Beta Club days).  This is great to get but is also a slow, time-consuming process.  To get through one book that way can take months.
For the new betas I connected with yesterday, I'm going to be asking for global feedback.  Did you like it?  Did it make sense?  What parts lost your interest?  Did you fall in love with my hero, connect with my heroine?  Did anything make you want to beat your head against the wall?  Were you invested in the story and the characters?  etc.
But as I was thinking through my questions, I searched to see if they was something more organized and ran across the questionnaire below.  I really like the structure of this one, although I will be tweaking a few things. (Don't worry betas, I won't be asking if the love scenes made you hot.  I don't need to get that personal, lol.)

Now, I'm pasting this in because the author said on the site to feel free to share, so that's what I'm doing.  You can find the original copy here.  Hope you find it as helpful as I did.

 

 

Is it BORING?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Does any part of the story Drag?
  • Are their parts that you skipped to get to ‘the good part’?
  • Do I over-inform anywhere?
Did you Get it?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Did you understand every phrase / term I used?
  • If someone unfamiliar with this world or genre read this, have I explained enough for them to understand everything?
  •  -- Did I forget to mention that someone was demon-possessed, half angelic, or had mystical powers?
Love Scenes?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Do any of the love scenes seem overly cliché? (Or overly sappy?)
  • Were the love scenes too fast, too slow, or too frequent?
  • Did you have to reread any part of the love scenes to understand who was doing what?
  • Did any action in the love scene make you cringe?
  •  -- Was your Comfort-Zone line crossed?
  • Did it make you hot?
Do the scenes FLOW?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Does one scene lead logically into the next?
  • Is there enough downtime between intense scenes to allow it to build to the next?
  • Did the actions & positions flow smoothly from one to the next, or did they jump as though something was skipped?
  • Were the Flashbacks smoothly integrated to fit onto the current scene -- or did they seem plopped in, like a chapter that was in the wrong place?  
Is anything VISUALLY Confusing?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Can you SEE every action clearly?
  • If you went there in real life, would you recognize the places?
  • Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to understand who was doing what?
  • Could you SEE what the characters looked like clearly?
  • Did I forget to describe their Clothes, their Hair, their Eyes, any other distinctive feature that pertains to a specific character?
During DIALOGUE scenes…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Could you SEE what the characters were DOING while talking?
  • Could you SEE where the characters WERE while talking?
Did the Characters WORK?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Do the characters ACT realistic?
  • Does the Dialogue sound realistic?
  • Do their reactions seem logical & realistic?
  • Could you feel the Emotions between the characters?
  • Did the characters seem IN CHARACTER?
  • Who did you like best and WHY?
  • Who did you hate and WHY?
  • Who got on your nerves and WHY?
  • Does any one character get in the way of the STORY?

By the way, if you want more on beta-ing relationships, check out Justine Dell's blog.  She's done a whole series this week on her relationship with her beta, including sharing samples of their crits.

 

Alright, so I'm curious how your beta relationships work?  What expectations do you have for each other?  Do you seek the details or the global?  Do you give them questions upfront or do you wait and just ask follow-up questions when they're done?  Also, how'd you find your betas?

 

**Today's Theme Song**
"You Get What You Give" - The New Radicals
(player in sidebar, take a listen)

 

Reader Comments (23)

I don't have betas. Nor do I have a manuscript that's ready to be read by anyone. (These last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic and writing took a backseat.)

I have my own set of questions that I'm formulating in my head for when I do get betas for this project. These were interesting and there might be a couple I'll include.

I do think that when I do go to beta stage I'll have a few questions I want answered, but that I'll leave it pretty open for my readers to come up with their own feedback.

Good luck with the betas.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie McGee

I like these questions - they will help deter my knee-jerk reaction to line editing.
I have a couple of beta readers as well as a crit partner and some mentors. Each play their own role. My betas are often non-writers because I just want to know if the story works, if there are plot holes, etc
Looking forward to reading yours...

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

omg - that questionnaire is AWESOME!
I totes starred this post because i am going to use it like CRAZY!

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFalen

LOVE these questions for general feedback! They are perfect!

Thanks for the shout-out! ;-)

~JD

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustineDell

Yhis is a great outline!!! Thanks for sharing! :D

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlbdiamond

That is a great outline, not only for beta readers, but for myself when I'm looking at my own work and others.

I had a friend suggest asking for specific things when you send to beta readers. For my first chapter of my latest draft, I want to know if there's too much back story.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

I like that questionair! (how ever you spell that) Im thinking about setting up a small group of writers in my area, to help each other along and bounce Ideas off of, and I might use this!

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley Cox

I prefer the global response on longer pieces, but for a 1-2k excerpt, line-item editing sure does help. I'll ask questions if I feel some part is sagging.

- Eric

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric W. Trant

I agree. This is an awesome set of questions for beta readers and beyond! hehe

I'm learning so much about beta readers and the process from people's blogs. I was originally going to send without having any but that has changed due to all this information getting.

Hope you don't mind me noting, and umm maybe using some of this. It's just so awesome that it could be of use to all of us really.

Thanks. :-D

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn Embers

Looks like a great list of questions!!!! And I agree...you need different feedback from different people. I love getting feedback from fellow writers...they can point out grammar mistakes and such, plot issues, character issues. But sometimes I really need the feedback of non writers...just a pure reader opinion. There's such a big difference between the two.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Awesome questionnaire! Bookmarking this now!

Thanks, Roni, and good luck with your new readers.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTere Kirkland

This was excellent Roni, thanks! When exchanging with other writers, we do a detailed critique. But I also have non-writers read and I ask the more global questions of them.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterali

This list is fantastic. I'm nearing the beta stage, as are some of my friends, and I've been worried that I'd totally screw it up. Honestly.

This list will definitely come in handy!

-Madeleine

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMadeleine

Oh I love that list! I've had beta readers of all kinds. For the "story readers' I tell them to judge my story and tell me if it works or doesn't. For the line by line critters, I tell them to point out ever issue they see. For the Character people I ask if they connected with the characters. I try to play to each readers strength. It works out sometimes but more often than not I feel I need more from them. I may have to use something like that list myself. It would give better direction.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie S

I'm still looking for beta readers *sigh* But I love these questions~ :) My mum is going to be reading my current wip, and I just might have to use this list. Thanks!

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAchingHope

This is awesome. I don't have any beta readers, but I am a beta reader (in the middle of a MS right now, actually) and I think I'm goint to steal this when I give my full feedback to the author. Mostly when I go through a MS I only point out line-edit type stuff if it jumps out at me. I love the track-changes functions in most word processing programs because that way I can make comments or suggestions as I go for a more detailed approach and then do a big summary at the end (which will now be made more comprehensive since I've got this nifty new outline!).

As someone who's acted as beta for a few manuscripts, I can say that the more explicit the directions from the author (what *in particular* are they looking for) helps. I'd hate to spend days editing for grammar, for example, when they were looking for plot holes.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterj.leigh.bailey

I've never had a beta reader, but if I did, I would ask them most of those questions.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOddyoddyo13

I've found that some beta readers appreciate questions or some sort of guide.

But some, I just kind of know their strengths and tell them to just give me their opinion. One might be good at spotting potential plot holes, others pacing or character concerns/consistency.

It really depends on who you have as beta readers. Good ones are difficult to find, and should really be appreciated.

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry W. Ervin II

Justine's blog is awesome thing week (not that it isn't always!!) but it taught me a lot already!

Thanks for the awesome tips!

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I think your list is great, and a wonderful place to start. Maybe as you read along, the right things to ask and say will fall into place. No?

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Musil

This is a great questionnaire. Thanks for posting it! :D

June 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStina Lindenblatt

Great Questionaire there!

I tend to ask for people to catch me out and point out the good and bad points specifically. No real questions about plot or anything but, then again, I haven't completed the first draft totally yet so when I do get around to sending it out I think I may use those questions.

;)

June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMia

I'm finishing my first official novel and I've been thinking about beta readers so this post was perfect timing! Thanks for sharing the suggestions!

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramy

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