You’ve done the hard part, you finished your novel. You went back through and self-edited your work and you’re happy with it. Now what? For some writers, paying a professional editor is not in the budget. And that’s okay, everyone has a different situation. But that’s not to say it’s time to submit to a literary agent or self-publish your novel without ever having another set of eyes on it.
There are many different avenues a writer can take to ensure that they are submitting their best work but this focuses on getting a beta reader or critique partner (preferably both). As a writer, it isn’t always easy to figure out the issues in your plot or see what loose end hasn’t come together by completion. That is where a critique partner or a beta reader can come in. They are not one in the same.
Beta readers are just that—readers. They can read your story and let you know if there are any major plot holes in the story. They can also be great at pointing out character flaws. Is there an action or series of actions in your story that makes your protagonist unlikeable? Were the readers bored at any point? Was there any place in the story that confused the reader that was not intentionally confusing? Beta readers are able to give feedback on the overall picture of the story, which is invaluable before your book goes to print. You as a writer want to make sure that your message is getting across in your writing and Beta Readers can help with that. Side note-family and close friends don’t always make the best beta readers. They have a tendency to not want to hurt the writer’s feelings or they can be overly critical in an attempt to help. Not saying they can’t be great readers, just something to keep in mind.
Critique partners (CP’s) are people who will critique your work with the agreement that their work will be critiqued by you. This is a close relationship! They are going to be as involved with your story as you are by the end of working together. Critique partners are looking for all the same things as beta readers, but take it a step further and focus on the craft of what another writer is doing. They are writers too—usually in the same genre—so they understand! This is great for when a writer gets stuck or if they need to pull away from a story, critique partners can help. They will be able to aid the writer in the case of a plot hole they can’t seem to fix or help give direction if the writer feels the story is going off the rails. This can be on a chapter basis as the writing progresses or it can be when the manuscript is complete, depending on the agreement both parties come up with.
Beta readers and critique partners are instrumental in putting out quality writing, especially if a writer cannot afford an editor. Their job is to give feedback, which is one of the most important aspects to writing. Social media is a great way to find both! There are multiple groups online that can help pair writers with others in their genre or that can lead them to readers who love to read a certain genre. A quick Google search will bring up a ton of sites to help get any level of writer started. Both beta readers and critique partners are free, and their feedback will be priceless for your book. Happy writing!