Many people believe critique partners and beta readers are one in the same.
I admit, they can be, if you choose to use them that way.
However, if you want your book to be the best it can be then you not only need to know the difference but you also need to know where to find them and when to use them.
To make sure we are all on the same page let’s get the definitions out of the way.
- Critique Partner – A writer/author who offers up their time and experience to critique your MS in exchange for your time and experience in critiquing theirs.
- Beta Reader – An avid reader who reads through your entire polished MS to see if it is any good.
Critique partners need to be fellow writers/authors. They don’t need to be of the same genre or sub genre as you but they do need to know and understand the craft of writing.
It’s OK to look around and be choosy.
Don’t commit long term to someone until you know for sure you are a good match.
You want to look for someone who:
- Has experience writing and/or publishing.
- Isn’t afraid to give their honest opinion.
- Likes the genre you write in or at least respects it.
- Likes or understands your personal writing style/voice.
- Is able to give a good mixture of praise and criticism.
- Can explain in detail why they think something is good or offers up detailed advice when something is bad.
- Wants the same kind of critique you want along with the same amount of critiques you want.
- Is on social media or checks their emails often. Nothing is more frustrating then a critique partner who goes missing…often.
It’s best if you take a few critique partners out for a test drive. You’ll never truly know if you are a good match until you get through that first critique.
When it comes to critique partners, having only 1 is not the answer.
Look for at least 2-3. You want to find writers who have strengths in different areas (example: 1 critique partner gives strong critiques on dialogue, while another gives strong critiques on story structure and another might give great critiques according to what your genre calls for).
It’s also worth finding critique partners that write in different genres then you. Why?
Writers from different genres can inspire you to add an element to your story you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
When is the best time to seek out a critique partner?
The best time to look for one is as soon as you are done with your first draft and your first set of edits. Meaning, once you write “The End” go back and do all the basic grammar and story structure corrections then send it out to your critique partner.
The less grammar and story structure errors there are, the more your critique partner can focus on the actual story and what works and what doesn’t.
Critiquing an MS is usually done a few chapters at a time unless you both agreed to send the whole thing all at once.
Beta Readers are not writers/authors. They can be, of course, but they shouldn’t be.
When it comes to beta readers you want to find someone who’s passion is reading. An avid reader.
You want to look for someone who:
- Loves to read.
- Has the time to read.
- Can read an entire book in a short amount of time.
- Is willing to read a book for the sole purpose of telling the writer if it sucks or not.
Like with critique partners, it would be beneficial for you to find more then one. Why?
Because the more views you have on your work the better grasp you have on whether or not it will be received well by the public.
Having beta readers with different strong suites is ideal. (Example: 1 reader who is an avid fan of your sub genre, 1 reader who is an avid reader of your genre in general and 1 reader who just enjoys reading fiction.)
When is the best time to seek out a beta reader?
The best time to round up your beta readers is after you’ve fixed your problems found by your critique partners.
You want your MS to be as finished as it can be when you hand it over to your beta readers.
Look at your beta readers as a practice run for the real thing.
When sending your MS to your beta reader, you want to send the whole thing at once. That way they get the full experience of the book from start to finish.
Once you get the feedback from your beta readers, fix what needs to be fixed and then send it out for submissions.
***Side Note*** At this point some writers prefer to send their MS out to professional editors who will check it line by line for any missed grammatical and structural errors. This ensures their best possible chance of success once it’s submitted. Other writers leave that up to the publishing houses.
Now that we’ve covered the who, what and how of it all let’s cover the where.
Where can you find critique partners?
The following is a list of websites ideal for finding critique partners and beta readers:
- Absolute Write Water Cooler – Beta Readers, Mentors and Writing Buddies
- Agent Query Connect – Want Ads
- Critique Circle
- Erotica Readers and Writers Association
- Facebook Beta Reader Groups
- Facebook Critique Groups
- GoodReads Beta Reader Groups
- GoodReads Critique Groups
- How About We CP
- Inked Voices
- International Women’s Writing Guild
- Ladies Who Critique
- NaNoWriMo – Critiques, Feedbacks & Novel Swaps
- Nathan Bransford – Connect with a Critique Partner Forum
- Romance Critters
- Romance Writers or America
- Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
- Sub It Club
- The Desk Drawer
- Twitter #BetaReader
- Twitter #CritiquePartner
- Wattpad Beta Reader Groups
- Wattpad Critique
- World Literary Cafe Beta Readers and Critique Groups
- Writing to Publish
Check out “You’ve Finished Your First Draft Now What” for a list of 28 questions to ask your Beta Readers.
Wednesday @ 9 am “What Should You Read Next? How About the RITA Finalists of 2015?”
Friday @ 9 am “Plus Size Women in Art and Boudoir”