Alpha or Beta

Critique is a part of writing.  You have to put your book out to get other people’s opinions.  It’s one of the hardest tasks because those people may come back and say hard things or worse indifferent things. 

It would be great if everyone LOVED your stories but the reality is they won’t.  Criticism is something you’re going to have to get a thick skin about.  It’s easy to justify and explain but if your readers aren’t getting it – it isn’t written well enough. 

The best advice I ever got was to not say anything (or hopefully you’re doing it by email) and read it, get annoyed, and then go back later and consider all they say.  When I took a writing class where we had to submit a piece, everyone had to read it, and then during class discuss it.  The author of the piece had to silently sit there and take it.  Hardest damn thing ever.  However, it taught me to really listen. 

I’ve done critiques for people who provided a list of questions.  I hate them but I can see how they will help an author.  I like to read and just give my opinion but this author wanted these specific questions answered so I did.  You can ask questions like:

  1. Did the story hold your interest from the beginning?
  2. Did you relate to the main character(s)?
  3. Did the setting suit the story?  (or maybe genre specific questions)
  4. Did the story lag at any point?
  5. Were there parts of the story which annoyed you?
  6. Were there any time sequence issues?
  7. Were the characters / plot believable?
  8. Was the dialogue believable?
  9. Was there enough description?  Too much?
  10. Was the conflict believable?
  11. Did the ending satisfy you?
  12. Did you find yourself skimming?

You can always Google to find more questions but you can certainly expand on any of these.  These questions do help give specific feedback. 

One thing I don’t think should be asked is about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  If they notice and comment, great but they aren’t your editor and you may or may not be confident in their editing skills.

Now there are sites (aren’t there always?) where you can go to get feedback.  Here’s an article which gives a list of sites where you can get feedback on your writing.

If you use one of these, make sure you read the fine print and they will actively work to prevent people from taking your work and either using it in its entirety or stealing parts of it.  This is one thing you need to be cautious about – plagiarism.  When you put your work in the hands of other people, you want to be able to trust them.  It would be nice to say – no one would take my stuff but please don’t be naïve.  Here’s an article about an author who did just that.

I have a small group of beta readers.  Three of them respond promptly and with a fair bit of reliability.  I get three separate opinions (often contradictory) but I use their input to shape how I edit and change my stories.  In discussing my stories with my beta readers, I’ve been able to brainstorm ideas on changes.  It’s made me a better writer by taking their input. These beta (or alpha or first) readers are invaluable if you trust them and are willing to listen to the critiques they give.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

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