It is an interesting concept, and it is one that’s worthwhile for every writer to have whether they are published or unpublished. I have had my own work read by a beta reader, and his observations were unique when providing a different perspective concerning my overall writing.
Now that I consider it, this is not a new experience for me. It is new with my writing. Yet during other aspects in my life I have either given critiques or been at the receiving end. I have a few examples for you.
From 1991-1993, I attended a technical school during my high school days. I enrolled in Computer Business and Information Science classes, which is just a fancy title meaning I learned how to create computer programs while debugging potential problems in the applications. The class was straightforward. The teacher would hand out textbooks for a certain computer language (Fortran, COBOL, MS-Dos, Spreadsheet) and we had the remaining nine weeks to get as far as we could through the book. The more we did, the higher the grade. The only time the teacher stood in front of the class to actually “teach” was whenever all the students struggled on a particular chapter. That was it. The students were on their own in getting the work done.
We helped each other out, which the teacher allowed so long as we did not copy the other person’s program sheet. Often I scanned over someone’s printout, looking for those bugs that he/she could not find, providing feedback on what would help to make the program run smoother. In essence, I provided a fresh set of eyes and an open mind for what was on the page.
Another time I have experienced critiques is when I am involved with my wedding work. I would create sample invitations that I have sent out to potential clients, who would study the work and which designs they want to keep and which they want changed. Also, I have worked with a florist who has asked my opinion about her floral arrangements. She needed someone else’s attention to detail that would help her in creating a pleasing floral piece.
These instances are similar to what a beta reader does when they look over a manuscript. They have not read the story before, so their minds are quicker to catch those problems (like plot holes or waffly scenes) that the writer has missed because they have become too meshed in their own story to see those problems clearly. The beta reader takes note of those places that need editing out, or something added in, to create a pleasing work that satisfies the reader’s mind.
Critiques are found in everyone’s life. Whether it is having someone taste the spaghetti sauce as they suggest adding more pepper, or you straighten the skewed picture frame hanging on the wall at a friend’s house, we are open to advice that makes our existence a little bit better.
So why not when it comes to our writing?
Thank you, my beta reader.