This e-mail from Stephanie touched on a topic that I’ve been meaning to post about for some time. Here’s what she wrote…
Hi Susan, I keep hearing about critique groups and beta readers. One editor who recently sent me a rejection letter even suggested I find a critique partner? What’s what and which one is best for me? How do I know a good one from a bad one?
Let’s start with critique partners. That’s someone who you exchange manuscripts with. You read their work, they read yours, and each give your feedback on the stories.
Critique groups, as the name suggests, involves more than one person giving feedback on your work.
Beta readers, I like to think of them as non-writers, but people who are fans of the genre you’re writing in. You let them read your story and they give you feedback about what they liked, didn’t like, and what they felt worked, and what they think needs tweaking.
Deciding which one to go with comes down to where you’re at in your writing career. If you’re just starting out then the critique partner is the way to go. Once you have some writing experience under your belt and feel more confident getting lots of feedback, go with a group. Beta readers, I think are more for published authors and self publishers who’d like some feedback as opposed to a full critique of their story. Think of it as market research.
I found getting a critique partner was almost as hard as getting published. I’d find someone, they’d do one critique and then go missing. This went on for years and then I finally found someone through Harlequin’s writer’s forum…not sure if they still have it. Shortly after finding that person, I found another critique partner. It’s actually because of her that my Perfect Pairings series got started. They really are worth their weight in gold and if you find a good one, treat them well!
The ideal one points out the weakness in your story but always gives you suggestions on how to fix any problems. They’re not critical just for the sake of it. They’ll also there in spirit when you get the dreaded rejection letter!
With groups, you’re looking for people who once again aren’t just critical. My motto is feedback should be constructive and never destructive.
As for beta readers…look for someone who is well read in the genre you’re writing in. Never give a horror story fan a romance to read and expect them to give you the essential feedback you’re looking for. Yes, they’ll know about characters, plot etc. but each genre does have its own rules and requirements which only a fan truly appreciates.