Hi Story Nurse,
I am very protective of my in-process writing and it takes a lot of trust for me to ask people to be beta readers. I don’t always want another writer’s advice such as from a critique workshop. Mostly I am looking for things from a reader’s perspective such as: how does that make you feel? Does this need more description? Does it feel finished?
I once sent a short story to a couple of beta readers and they were like, more? One said: there’s more, right? That short story turned out to be a novella/ short novel length.
Any advice for finding new beta readers or places to make reader-writer friends? Have you ever considered hosting a beta reader dating service type deal via a Patreon post or Slack?
Quiet Writer (she/ her)
Dear Quiet Writer,
I love the idea of a beta reader dating service! And in fact such things exist:
- On Dreamwidth there are the Beta, Please! and Multinational Beta communities; if you’re looking for a beta reader and willing to trust a stranger, post there with the details of your work and see who replies. You need a Dreamwidth account to post, but a basic account is free, and since everyone who replies will also have an account, you can peek at their posts and see what kind of person they are before you take them up on their beta’ing offer.
- There’s a beta reader group on Goodreads. They specify that beta readers provide a reader’s perspective, not a critique—sounds like exactly what you’re looking for.
- There’s a beta readers and critiques group on Facebook.
- There’s beta readers hub on Tumblr, though it looks like no one’s posted there in a while.
Google around a bit, maybe with some genre-specific keywords, and you’ll find more.
As for making friends, try fan communities. Many of those friends will be fellow writers, but I’ve found that most fan writers give critiques of the sort you’re looking for, because they’re used to approaching work from the perspective of a fan first and a creator second. Fans are often very generous in their crits and good at squeeing about the things they love as well as poking at the things they think could be improved. Joining a fanwork community does require you to take a little time away from your original stories to create some fanwork of your own, but writing fanfic can be a lot of fun, a relaxing break when your primary project is stressing you out, and a source of practice projects that teach you new writing skills. I’ve done a few fanfic exchanges recently and the deadline pressure has taught me a lot about writing fiction even when I’m not in the zone.
If there’s a particular fandom you want to be part of, find a community for that fandom. I like to play in a lot of different sandboxes, so I ended up hanging out in Yuletide IRC with other friendly people who like tiny fandoms and rare pairings. There’s often someone looking for a beta there, especially during crunch season for the Yuletide fic exchange. If IRC is your thing, park yourself there for a while, chat with other folks, participate in an exchange or two (if you want a very low-intensity way to dip your toe into the world of fanfic exchanges, I recommend Chocolate Box, which has low requirements and long deadlines), and offer to do a few beta reads of your own, and you’ll make some good connections.
Another way to connect with passionate readers is to join a couple of book clubs, online or offline. Goodreads has over 8800 book club groups of every possible size and flavor; local booksellers and librarians can also point you to groups in your area. After a few rounds of discussing other people’s work, you’ll know exactly which book club members you can trust to read your manuscript and give you the kind of feedback you need.