Author Topic: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?  (Read 4848 times)

Offline jfinley

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"Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« on: January 18, 2012, 10:01:16 PM »
As someone who has been working on my first novel for what feels like forever, I would love some perspective. My novel has been through 6 full drafts. I have self-edited and used editing software (Autocrit). I have had the novel critiqued by 7 people – a mix of friends, some family, and acquaintances, including someone who has edited a nonfiction manuscript that sold well. I've also received comments and critiques on a number of chapters from my writers group. Now, none of these folks were total strangers, so I don't know if they'd qualify as "beta readers." Yet how many more critiques/revisions should one go through before determining the manuscript is ready to submit to an agent? 

My gut tells me my manuscript is “done” – at least until a professional editor looks at it. Still, all this talk about “beta readers” has me wondering if I need to do something more. So here's the issue: Am I reading too much into the concept of "beta readers" in questioning whether I'm done with this process? Or, is it time now to move on? In other words, when is enough enough?

For those interested in reading more about my revision Odyssey, I blogged about it a few months ago at http://fresh-scrapedvellum.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-revision-odyssey.html
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Offline bodwen

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2012, 10:20:12 PM »
If your gut tells you it's done, it's probably done.

Offline jfinley

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2012, 10:32:57 PM »
Bodwen, thanks for the advice.  Also, great cover and title for your book.  I just bought a copy on Amazon -- could use some levity right now  :)
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Offline Sarah Ahiers (Falen)

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2012, 08:12:29 AM »
Yeah, what Bodwen said.

And i sent my MS out to like 6 Beta readers who were not in my usual cabal of readers. All of them liked it, but only 1-2 gave me crits that actually helped me improve anything. I think it's much better to have a strong crit partner than a few beta readers, but that's just me.

Here's the thing, if it doesn't do well querying, you can always stop and break out the revision tools again. No one says you have to query it, as is, into the ground, right?

Good luck!
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Offline shadowwalker

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2012, 08:50:02 AM »
I'm not sure you've had an actual beta reader (or crit partner) except perhaps your writing group (depends on whether the group is a crit group or just a 'let's discuss writing' group, I guess). But if you feel it's done, set it aside for a few weeks and then reread it. If it still 'feels right', then start querying.

My personal involvement with betas - from both sides - is that they start out relative strangers with a common interest (improving one's writing) and develop into [very honest] friends.  ;D
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Offline LateToTheParty

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2012, 09:53:33 AM »
Yeah, what Bodwen said.

And i sent my MS out to like 6 Beta readers who were not in my usual cabal of readers. All of them liked it, but only 1-2 gave me crits that actually helped me improve anything. I think it's much better to have a strong crit partner than a few beta readers, but that's just me.

Here's the thing, if it doesn't do well querying, you can always stop and break out the revision tools again. No one says you have to query it, as is, into the ground, right?

Good luck!

F, I think we know the same peeps. My first crit group through Houston's Inprint series was a total waste of time. Out of 12 people, only 7 or 8 showed regularly. Worst of all, everyone was more interested in socializing than writing. My second group through the Houston Writer's Guild was slightly better. Roger Paulding is a dedicated coach and dogged critic. The rest of the group, eh, not so much. I met two people that were as serious as myself. The rest would've nodded approval if I read the Sunday funnies.)
Critiques should spur growth and improvement. Neither is painless.

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Offline clutzattack

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2012, 11:22:53 AM »
I will attest to the let it sit for two months then look at it again rule.

And I've found that while beta readers are good, beta reading is better. Have you at least critiqued four other writer's novels and identified all the weaknesses and strengths in their work, then compared that to yours?

And last but not least. Print it off and read it out loud and make sure there aren't awkward, tripping phrases. (They are not easy to catch when just reading it on a screen.)

But ultimately, if you're gut is telling you it's ready, then you have to trust it.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2012, 11:26:52 AM by clutzattack »

Offline Sarah Ahiers (Falen)

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2012, 12:06:16 PM »
F, I think we know the same peeps. My first crit group through Houston's Inprint series was a total waste of time. Out of 12 people, only 7 or 8 showed regularly. Worst of all, everyone was more interested in socializing than writing. My second group through the Houston Writer's Guild was slightly better. Roger Paulding is a dedicated coach and dogged critic. The rest of the group, eh, not so much. I met two people that were as serious as myself. The rest would've nodded approval if I read the Sunday funnies.)

This. This is my frequent issue as well. Le sigh.   :badday:
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Offline allegretta12

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Re: "Beta Reading" & Critiquing -- When is enough enough?
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2012, 12:56:53 PM »
I think it's a personal issue. You can end up rewriting things forever, and hearing a bunch of random opinions about your work might not actually be helpful (it's your story after all!) But my personal experience with beta reading has been great. For me, when I thought my manuscript was ready I left it for a few months and then sent it to a couple of beta readers whom I didn't know in real life. Their comments have been really helpful and I was able to find ways to strengthen my MS even more. I've been happily revising for several weeks and am thankful I stopped to find more readers before continuing to query.