I’m new to this, though without realizing, I had been beta reading for my daughter since before she sent her first book to an editor. I Googled information on what is expected of a beta reader when I began to volunteer to beta read a few books. Even so I still do not fully know what I’ve gotten myself into. How much is expected of me as a beta reader? I know I’m looking for typos and grammar and inconsistencies in tense or the plot, but what else should I be looking for, if anything? Beta reading is not the same as reading for review, that is certain. There is a steep learning curve here and I’m determined to get to the top of that bell. There will be changes in how I write my responses as I climb that learning curve. I do want to be a valuable asset for indie authors.
I’ve been reading some first person works and am a bit disconcerted about how some authors treat the first person narrative. Maybe I have it all wrong, but as an avid reader, I don’t think so. When I read a first person narrative I want to be drawn into the characters, identify with them on an intimate level. The words I read need to draw me into the part, help me see what the character sees, feel what the character feels, it needs to be real for me. I want to feel the mud between my toes, the sensations of steamy romance and the pain of injury or heartbreak; smell the lilacs in bloom, mom’s home cooking and the putrid waste of decay; taste the cold salty air and the tang of bitter waters; hear the waves crashing against the rocks, the bells of the clock tower, and footsteps ascending the stairway down the hall; see the blood splatters on the wall, the fear in his or her eye, and the neon clouds of an orange sunrise. Let me experience the life of the character on an intimate level. I would rather live the story through the written word than be told the story as an outside observer.
I’ve read books where the story is told in third person point of view. The narrator can still give me the sensations that I want to experience through the descriptives of what is going on in the mind of the character. I ‘m drawn into the story and empathy for the characters brings an intimacy to the reading where it is just me and the characters as though I am the one with them regardless of the point of view. I do prefer the omniscient 3rd person so I know what each character is experiencing. It seems easier for authors to maintain the proper tense in this perspective. Maybe one of these days I will understand why consistency in tense seems easier to maintain in 3rd person POV.
I’m not one to stumble on occasional typos. I can point them out for an author to fix. When the typos become more frequent or is something that I cannot make out the meaning of the passage then I stumble and have to re-read until I either figure out the meaning or simply give up and move on. That interrupts the flow of the story. I’m not an editor and though I could probably learn to be one I don’t think I would enjoy it. I do believe that once I find the right balance in what I need to do for authors in my beta reading, I will enjoy the process. During my professional career I often had a tendency to get bogged down in details. Detail oriented person here. The same thing will be a problem for me as I beta read more and more books. If I am not careful to find a good balance it will become a tedious task and no longer enjoyable. I want to enjoy beta reading and give authors helpful feedback that will improve their writing.
I’ve realized there is a point at which some passages are more wordy than necessary. I have a tendency to be too wordy. It has taken me awhile to recognize when something could be stated in fewer words and get the point across better. Verbiage does not always improve understanding. Sometimes the waters become murkier with more words. I read some articles about words that authors should eliminate. Those were interesting and I need to apply the knowledge to my own blog posts. I’ll post a few links on that topic.
Beta reading is a new adventure for me and I am sure that I will have opportunities to read many good books before they are published. It is my hope that those authors I read for will use my comments to improve their books and readers will want to read more of the authors works and share the gems they’ve found with others.
Happy reading everyone!
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