Meet Your New Best Friends—Critique Partners and Beta-Readers


By Pam Lagomarsino


“It’s good. I liked it.” Now, isn’t that what every author dreams of hearing about their book? Not necessarilyespecially when are looking for ways to improve.

You know that while you’ve worked on your manuscript countless hours, still some areas aren’t where you want them. Yes, the material is good, but you just don’t believe it’s quite right yet. Therefore, this is the time to reach out to beta readers or critique partners to help you.


How Can You Benefit from a Beta-reader or Critique Partner?

Authors spend so much time on their manuscripts they can’t always see them objectively — no matter how much self-editing they did. Some advantages of reaching out to beta-readers/critique partners include:

  • Identify plot holes and inconsistencies
  • They can tell you if something doesn’t make sense or seemed confusing
  • They will often point out if something seemed out of order or didn’t flow well
  • Offer suggestions to improve a character’s actions or to strengthen their personality

Your ultimate goal is to write the best possible piece, and often authors will enlist others in the process.


What’s the Difference Between a Beta-reader and a Critique Partner?

Critique partners are writers who offer suggestions. Sometimes you critique each other’s work. Many times, a critique partner will be knowledgeable in character development, point of view, structure, and flow. etc. Often, they can offer specific suggestions to change something.

Some people are in writer’s groups who give each other feedback in a group setting.

Beta-readers are often not writers. They have the privilege of peeking into your story and giving their opinion. Many times they are family and friends. They can tell you if they enjoyed the story, but most may not always be able to define why something didn’t work.

Who to use first? Some authors prefer to use beta-readers first while others prefer the critique partners. It is just best to do what you feel most comfortable with. Many authors will share part or all of their manuscript with critique partners before sending it to an editor.


Where Can You Find Beta-readers and Critique Partners?

  • Facebook groups
  • Online writing groups
  • Local writing groups
  • Yahoo groups
  • Writer’s conferences or events
  • Online search
  • Writing courses
  • Trusted friends and family
  • Mentors


Okay, Now You Have Some People Lined up, Now What?

Start small—maybe one or two close friends who will be honest with you. Perhaps you have been confiding in someone and sharing your excitement as you wrote each chapter. These are the people to begin with. Maybe they can read small segments.

  1. If there is something specific about your manuscript you aren’t pleased with, share that and ask how you can make it better.
  2. Also, provide a few open-ended questions to each reader. Here are some to choose from:
  • What did you like most?
  • How could I make this stronger?
  • What did you come away with after reading this?
  • How would you improve the organization?
  • Were you able to clearly see the beginning, middle, and end?
  • How did the ending surprise you?
  • Did you feel something was missing?
  • How can I better engage the senses?
  • Which character was most believable?
  • What would make characters more believable?
  • Were you confused by anything? If so, what?


How to Receive Critique:

Opening yourself up for a critique can make you feel vulnerable. Others may not be sensitive to how much you have poured yourself into your manuscript. However, many beta-readers and critique partners are fellow writers and understand what it takes to put a manuscript together.

Sometimes, people offer suggestions that sound harsh, but in reality, these people just lack tact. Such occurrences can seem hurtful, but remember the average person isn’t trying to cause you pain. Some beta-readers and critique partners will revel in power, while others will doubt their judgment. Some will be too critical, while others are too timid to make helpful, constructive suggestions. How do you discern the various responses you receive?

  • Readers aren’t attacking you. They are offering helpful suggestions to improve your manuscript in the competitive publishing industry. Would you rather the reality of needing to change something or a bad review?
  • Consider the various suggestions before responding. It is tempting to explain each thing someone talked about before considering their angle.
  • Thank each person who offered assistance on your publishing journey.
  • After you have received feedback, think about Let it settle in. Then, go back to the manuscript and make any changes you feel you need to make.

Remember, the overall goal is to produce the best possible piece to touch your readers. Using beta-readers and critique partners isn’t a guarantee an agent or publisher will accept your manuscript, but you can know you have created the best possible work.

While critique partners and beta-readers may identify grammar, spelling, or punctuation issues, that generally isn’t the goal of using them. However, any problems they find will make the overall editing smoother.

Many editors at Authors Community would be available to help you when you are ready. I would welcome the opportunity to come alongside you on your publishing journey as your editor. I also offer manuscript critique and review services. Please visit my author page and connect with me in Authors Community Forum.

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