How I use beta/critique readers

Every writer pursuing a career with their books MUST have beta and critique readers.

That wink isn't meant to be taken lightly, ha.

I'll be honest, once I finished The Willow Tree (formally known as Unbroken if you've read older posts or have followed me on AgentQueryConnect ,) I thought only a beta reader would suffice. But that was a lie. And after getting rejection after rejection, I figured I was doing something wrong.

So here's how I've taken complete control over beta/critique readers:

Beta Readers:

Beta readers are basically your second pair of eyes. After I finished the complete manuscript of The Willow Tree, I had a distant friend read it over, merely for content. I didn't want to know her opinions or grammar corrections, I just wanted to know how she felt about the manuscript as a whole. After receiving her feedback, I did more editing. Then, mid-way through the next dozen rounds of editing, I had another beta reader read through for content. Again, after feedback, I did more editing. Then, once I finished the complete manuscript--like ready to ship off to agents complete--I had one more beta reader read over it. With this last beta reader, I wanted to know his/her complete opinion on the material. For example: what did you like the most? What stomped you? How did you feel while reading this part, and so on and so forth.

Critique Readers: 

Critique readers are almost essential to writing a manuscript. Scratch that. IF you are going to write a book, you NEED at least two-three critique readers. I know, that almost sounds like a lot, but trust me, it's so worth it.
So after the first beta reader, I found my first critique reader on Agent Query Connect. She was probably the most legit criticizer I'd ever found online, and she was a huge blessing toward my manuscript. We worked together for about two months through a constant flow of emails, and she helped me polish my manuscript to almost perfection. The next critique reader I had helped me with the first three chapters, then, with her advice, I re-edited the remaining chapters by myself (I'd also found this critique reader on agent query connect. Whoo!) The last critique reader I found was actually a close friend of mine, and because she has a strong eye for catching grammar mistakes and content, I saved her for last. I sent her up to three chapters at a time, and since she was on a timed mission, we finished the LAST edits of my manuscript in about 5-6 weeks.

How long did it take you to polish your complete manuscript? We're talking agent readiness. 

Some of you might already know this, but after the first few edits, I thought my manuscript was ready to be shipped off. However, I was dead wrong. Previously, it had taken me a month to get it to what I thought was agent readiness. After that, I worked on it by myself for about four months. Then I worked with three critique readers afterwards. With six total months of editing.

Was it difficult for you to send your novel to someone you didn't know?

Definitely. That was probably the hardest part. I bet you could imagine the list of things I worried about. But getting my book published was higher than any fears I had, so I conquered it. For the most part, all the critique readers I had were from the same writer's community that I was a part of, so it was easier to send chapters to those people. Opposite of that, all of the beta readers I've had have either been someone I've known or someone I didn't know at all from World Literary Cafe.

Did you ever send your novel to your family members?

The very first version of my book, before it was even edited, was sent straight to my aunt and my Nana (aka my grandmother.) They were just content readers, and I knew that the version of the book they read
wouldn't be the same in the long run, but since they asked for it, I gave it to them. However, I'd stray away from sending anything to close family members or friends. Sometimes their opinions can be bias. Unless you trust that emotions/relations won't get in the way of the editing process, I'd send it elsewhere.

Any last minute advice?

I've said it before, and I'll probably keep saying it, join an online community. Literally, that was probably the best thing that's ever happened to me.

I hope this helps with  your beta/critique readers.

Till next time blog world!

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