I just sent out my manuscript to a number of beta readers and thought I would share some thoughts on the process.
First thing, you should be sharing a fairly polished manuscript. You want them to read it as if it’s a completed novel. While your beta readers may be fellow writers, they don’t have to be. I am using a mix of writers and non-writers. They main criteria for a beta reader is that they generally read your genre, know what they like and don’t like, and aren’t afraid to tell you what they think.
You will often get different feedback from writers and non-writers. Writers will more likely be more analytical, much like a critique partner. What you really want is your readers to give you a reaction to the story.
Many writers send out their manuscript and ask beta readers to comment. I prefer to send a list of questions to guide the readers. My list of questions might look overwhelming, but they are easy to answer in just a couple of sentence. I think it make responding easier. When I worked full time, I led a lot of stakeholder consultations. I learned that feedback was more focused and useful when I provided a list of question to stakeholders regarding a particular issue or background paper.
Here are the questions I sent out to my readers. I’ll report back at the end of January how well the process worked.
- Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
- Did the setting interest you, and did the description seem vivid and real to you despite the fact that it is a fantasy?
- Was there a point at which you felt the story began to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Which parts, and why?
- Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
- What parts should be elaborated or brought more to life?
- Did you find any discrepancies, or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
- Did you find yourself skimming at any point? Where?
- At any point did you not want to read on? Where?
- Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
- What are your favourite scenes?
- Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable?
- Did you get confused about who’s who? Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Any issues with names?
- Which characters did you most connect with?
- Which characters need more development?
- What three words best describe the main character?
- Does the main character surprise you? When?
- Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural Was any of it difficult to follow?
- Was there enough conflict, tension and intrigue to keep your interest?
- The scenes on Mars were first person but many of the other were third person. Did that impact on readability?