Writer Wednesday–Being A Worthy Beta

So I’m beta reading a project from a new writer friend I met through the interwebz. I offered to read her novel because I’d read other work by her and was really curious to see more. (Kind of self-serving, eh?) Anyway, I read the first sentence and was BLOWN AWAY. Then the second sentence was just as FAB. And the third, fourth, fifth, EVERY SENTENCE was GREAT! Strong verbs, powerful descriptors, clear actions, crisp dialogue, dynamic characters–it was ALL there!

“Geez, I’m not a worthy beta,” I thought. “How can I possibly give a helpful critique when I’m so impressed with the writing that I don’t think anything needs changing???”

OK, every writer DREAMS of a beta saying: “I LOVE IT DON”T CHANGE A WORD!!!” But really, is that realistic? I mean, shouldn’t there be something I could point out that may need work?


(Truthfully, I’m developing some thoughts for the writer to consider, but really, changes are not necessary. At. All. I pretty much have only stylistic comments rather than critical ones.)

What do you do when you’re so impressed with a beta project that you’re at a loss as to what to offer for a critique?

(Photo credit)

(Photo credit)

Check out Lydia’s response to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog response to if non-writers have found/commented on her blog!

14 comments on “Writer Wednesday–Being A Worthy Beta

  1. Haha I’d love a reader to tell me not to change everything ๐Ÿ™‚ But I guess it depends how far you are down the critiquing road – if it’s early on you want it to be pulled to be pieces but if you’re ready to summit you’d be happy to just get a thumbs up.

  2. roguemutt says:

    I’m a prick so if anyone ever asked me to beta read for them (which no one has) I’m sure I’d find something to complain about.

    Really if you say, “I love it don’t change a word!” as a very insecure prick I’ll think you’re just humoring me and either didn’t really like it or didn’t really read it.

  3. I think that’s perfectly fine as a beta reader to say the work is exactly how it should be. It just reaffirms that the work needs an editor to check for the small stuff and then bam…publish that baby.

  4. I have read drafts like that for other and sometimes, I find it hard to pick bad things out. I try to add comments to the story about what I felt in a scene so the writer knows if the emotion they were trying to express was right. Usually there is always something they can improve on, even if minor.

  5. Lydia K says:

    That’s so awesome that you’re reading such a great manuscript! Hey, I think it’s okay to be mostly positive. As long as you’re honest, it’s totally fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Catherine Johnson says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Laura. Great post!

  7. I’m in a crit group where we’re supposed to write a 500 + word critique, and I ran across one novel like the one you mentioned. It’s soooooooooo hard to write a real crit when I want to write “Why hasn’t this been published yet?!?” ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. I’ve read some pretty solid stuff, but I always find areas for improvement. And as the people being critiqued, we want to hear great stuff about our work, but if we don’t make it the best it can be what are the hopes it will be published?

  9. aparnanairphotography says:

    I think that you’re a good judge and critical enough – if you didn’t find any flaws, then it’s good to go!

  10. Ciara Knight says:

    I’ve been in that position before. It’s tough because you want to help, but you can’t think of anything to criticize. In that case, you tell the author the truth.

  11. Here’s what I do – and this has happened to me before, so I know what you mean.

    First, I put it down.

    Then I go find two or three very highly regarded published books in that genre and read them. (Award winners or something – Printz award winners, or Governor General Award winners if you’re in Canada, or Newberry winners, or some other equally highly regarded award.) When I’m reading them, I try to think critically about them – what is it about these books that works? How is the pacing? How is the characterization? How does the writer use language to achieve the effect they’re going for in this book?

    Then I read the MS I’m Beta-ing again. I usually find something.You’ll probably find something. And if you don’t, then you tell this person how you feel about the manuscript.

    Hope that helps!

  12. Linda Gray says:

    I have that ‘problem’ with one of my writer friends, too. She and I read our first chapters to each other, and I was so blown away by how good hers was all I could say was, “Wow!” She is a brilliant public speaker, though, so I told her maybe it was because she read it so well. ๐Ÿ™‚ i think it’s okay to not suggest changes, especially if you know that you usually do have constructive criticism from your beta reading, so it’s not that you don’t pay attention or are not good at critiquing. When the writing is great, it’s great! Trust yourself!

  13. Oh, I’ve been there. I feel like such a failure because I know someone else will catch something I’ve missed.

  14. E.Arroyo says:

    I’ve read those too. I think it’s okay to just be honest. =)

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