Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Beta Readers Are Your Friends

No, really, they are. 🙂 In my case, some of my very best friends.  And I am here to tell you that it doesn’t make it any easier to show your work to someone.

Beta readers are pre-readers who will read your novel and tell you what they think. When I was preparing my first novel to be sent to my editor, I used two different kinds of beta readers.


First, I sent my self-edited manuscript to one of my dearest friends and asked her to rip it apart. I wanted to know every confusing sentence, every grammatical mishap, every poorly chosen word and redundancy. I wanted to know where I lost her as a reader. Did the story hold her attention throughout? Were there areas that seemed too drawn out? Others that seemed too abrupt? Was there a good balance between dialogue and narrative? Did she love some characters and hate others?

Every little aspect of the novel was to be analyzed and commented on. And she did a great job! Word’s tracking was crucial to our process. She could highlight and comment and I could track changes. If you haven’t used this feature, do yourself a favor and start!

When the back and forth with her was completed, I went through the whole novel a few more times, tweaking here, adding there, deleting and polishing.

Then, I used a reader in my target age group and her mom. With them, I wanted to focus more on the story than the mechanics of grammar and sentence structure. As a mom to cats, I don’t get to hang out with my target age group very often. I thought kids would enjoy the story, but I needed a kid to tell me for sure. They read a chapter or two each night and emailed me feedback.

I learned that there were a few occasions when I had chosen a word that was maybe too advanced for the target group. Seeing that there were only a couple though, I chose to leave them in. To my relief, I found that she loved the story and characters. There were a few spots that confused her, and one where she wanted to know more.

Armed with all the feedback from my young reader, I attached the novel again, clearing up the confusion and adding to the scene the seemed too short.


Then came the really scary part -hiring a real live editor… I will tell you how to do that and get the most out of the experience next week!

In the mean time, here are some great articles about beta readers and sharing your work with others:

10 Tips for Taking Feedback On Your Writing
5 Things You Should Know About Working with Beta Readers
What Makes a Good Beta Reader
How to find Beta Readers @
How to find Beta Readers @



  1. Sounds like you found some great betas! I’m right in the middle of the editor part, and I keep swinging between ‘I can’t wait to see it!’ and ‘oh no, what if it’s awful?’ Well, whatever they suggest, even if it’s drastic, it’ll make the novel better in the end, and that’s what counts.

    • It is anxiety-inducing to wait to get your manuscript back from the editor. Remember though, a good editor will make suggestions not mandatory edicts. It is always up to you whether you want to change something. I worked well with my editor and took almost all of her suggestions to heart, but she made no plot or charact change suggestions so I didn’t have to make those hard choices. 😊

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