(reblogged from Fiction by Rachel Ritchey)
As a writer, just starting out and afraid to tell anyone I was writing, I couldn’t imagine having anyone look at the title let alone the very essence of the story I had so painstakingly laid upon the altar of paper. I could have easily been living in a vacuum of space, a gap in reality if you will.
But my writing was this offering of a part of my soul, and the thought of having someone make comment on the secrets I’d wrenched from the hidden places of my mind sent shivers of fear coursing through me. (can anyone say ‘a little melodramatic’ here?) I loathed the idea that I’d be judged unworthy based on the imperfection of not my words but my heart. There was this impossible idea of separating myself from my work, and I resisted having anyone read what I’d written.
It took a lot of reading, researching, and talking about it to finally accept that if I wanted to move forward with this infinitesimal dream of publishing it would be in my and my story’s best interest to have people read it and then, in return, give me a piece of them: their thoughts, feelings, and suggestions about my work.
If you are just starting out and wondering what to do, this is the best place to take the next step. Get beta readers. Find a group (or construct your own) to read and comment on your work. It will be painful at times, but there are moments of shared laughter and such beautiful encouragement, too. You are free to accept or reject anything that your betas share with you, but often you will find that their insights open your eyes to things you might never have considered.
Writing groups in person and online can be great places to make connections for beta reading. This gives you opportunity to learn by experience as, in turn, you beta read for others. But bear in mind that in this setting you are likely to receive much more constructive assistance (or criticism) because of the combined experience of other writers helping each other improve at a craft they all love.
I think it’s wise to also find beta readers who are just that: readers. They approach stories from a different angle and will round out your feedback. Readers can be found in your circles of family, acquaintances, and strangers from across the world. The internet, and especially the blogging community, are full of people who love to read.
The Write Life has a great post on ideas for finding writing groups, which is a perfect launching point for locating a variety of beta readers, too. Keep in mind that beta reading is for when your story is written but you need to know if the story will hold up with your audience. It also gives you the opportunity for basic proofing. The good part of writing groups is you can have both critique in-process and after it’s complete.
Goodreads has an extensive searchability and offers many beta reader groups for you to choose from. Just enter “Beta Reader Group” into the search bar and choose the option “Groups.” Here’s an example with more than 7000 members: Beta Reader Group on Goodreads.