Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beta Reader Critique Guide

Being a good beta reader is an art, a carefully crafted skill for most people. The critiques they provide are invaluable, but especially for aspiring authors throwing their work out there, so to speak, with 700,000 other manuscripts (published last year). So how do you help new beta readers out without overwhelming them? I did some searching and found a little help.

Dimitri Tishler and MelanieConklin compiled a nice list of tips for beta readers. I’ve taken a lot of their suggestions and added in several of my own to create a Beta Reader Critique Guide (see below). I place the guide at the front of the manuscript so that it’s the first thing beta readers see. It includes a personalized note at the top, thanking them in advance for taking time to read my book. Then I put the beta reader critique form at the back of the book so it's the first thing they see when they finish reading. And they can summarize their thoughts for each of the major categories. My example below is for beta readers with hard copies but is easily modified for electronic versions of your manuscript.

I don’t claim my Beta Reader Critique Guide is perfect or complete, but it’s a fantastic jump start if you’re wondering where to begin. I’d love to hear from those who have done something similar. If you have tips you’d add to this, leave a comment. The goal is to help beta readers understand what to look for as they read your book. I have no expectation that anyone will critique my book on every single point listed in the guide. But I do believe this will help new beta readers give a more thoughtful critique than they otherwise might have.


I hope you enjoy reading HOWIE & THE PRINCE OF GREED. Please feel free to mark up the manuscript as you read. If you find a mistake, circle it. If something doesn't make sense, circle it and let me know. Write in the margins or at the end of chapters or use the survey at the end of the book to summarize your thoughts. Or you can type out your feedback and email it to me. Whatever works best for you. To help get the creative juices flowing, I’m looking for any feedback you have to offer regarding the main topics described below:

-          Plot / Story Pacing
o   Does each scene have a natural flow to it or do they move too fast or too slow?
o   Are the transitions between scenes smooth or are they clunky and disjoined?
o   Do chapters start and end well, make you want to keep reading?
o   Are the scenes authentic and believable – keeping in mind this is a fantasy novel?
o   Does the plot surprise you? Disappoint you? Is it too predictable?
o   Are there enough action scenes? Do they create enough excitement?
o   Is the plot too predictable or are there nice surprises along the way?
o   Is there any payoff (sense of satisfaction) for reading this book? Is there closure?
-          Grammar / Dialogue / Structure
o   Does the story show you or tell you what’s happening?
o   Is the passive voice (was, would, etc.) too excessive?
o   Are there too many cliché phrases? Or too many adverbs (words ending in “ly”)
o   Is the dialogue differentiated from one character to the next? Are you aware of which characters are speaking by the identity of the dialogue?
o   Is the dialogue smooth and interesting or is it stiff and clunky?
o   Does the book read easy or are you pulled out of the story by frequent mistakes?
o   Who does my writing most remind you of?
-          Character development
o   Is it easy to identify with or remember each the main characters? Or are there some characters you have a hard time following or remembering? Who they are?
o   Are there any minor characters which seem over or under developed - how?
o   The story is written from the viewpoint of Howie - does the view point ever stray?
o   Are the characters believable?  Do you care about any of them? Do they do things that seem illogical?
o   Who is your favorite character and why? Who is your least favorite character and why?
-          Theme / Symbol / Metaphor
o   Do you like the spiritual or religious themes which underpin this story or do you find them intrusive and uninteresting?
o   Does the incorporation of Native American culture and mythology come across as authentic – what worked or didn’t work for you?
o   Does the Lenpe language used in the book help or hinder the story, was it written in a way that made it easy to understand or did you find it disruptive?
o   Does the medallion come across as a believable object of power in the context of the story? Did the medallion’s connection to Lenape and Christian culture/topics help or hurt the story?
-          World Building / Setting
o   Can you visualize the scenes being described?
o   Do the scenes get bogged down in too much detail?
o   Is the setting or environment believable and authentic?
o   Does the setting enhance or distract from the story?



Thank you for reading or attempting to read my book. A writer is nothing without readers. Please be honest with your feedback. Specific examples of what worked and what didn’t will give me the best chance at making improvements and of the book being successful. Please refer to the front page of the manuscript for a detailed description of questions you can answer within each feedback category covered in questions 4-8 of this survey.
  1. Did you finish reading the book (circle the correct answer):  Yes    or     No
  2. Please rate HOWIE & THE PRINCE OF GREED as you would on Amazon (circle your answer).
    1. One Star
    2. Two Stars
    3. Three Stars
    4. Four Stars
    5. Five Stars
  3. Write a brief critique that you might leave if you were posting this to Amazon or Goodreads right now (your comments will not be published or used without permission).
  4. Summarize your thoughts around story plot and story pace.
  5. Summarize your thoughts around character development.
  6. Summarize your thoughts on grammar, dialogue, and structure.
  7. Summarize your thoughts on the story’s theme, symbolism, or metaphor.
  8. Summarize your thoughts on the story’s setting (world building).

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