Q: “I’ve completed my first draft. I’ve revised the first draft and feel like I have something ready for human consumption. What now?”
A: Find Beta readers.
A beta reader is someone who can read your book with a critical eye and provide insight into your book. A beta reader is not your best friend or co-worker who will fawn over your book like you are Charlton Heston coming down the mountain.
(Not you. Not me either.)
When I was preparing Project Dandelion for my beta readers, I did research on good questions for beta readers. There’s a fair amount of sample questions out there. I took over one hundred different questions and divided them into five categories:
- The Introduction
Q: “How many questions can I ask my beta readers?”
A: As many as you want; however, remember they are people with lives, families, and jobs and they are doing this as a favor. So try to be respectful and reasonable.
An interesting study on surveys showed that if a survey takes longer than 8 minutes, the completion rate drops to <20% (at low as 5%). So if you ask too many questions, less than 1 in 5 of your beta readers will complete your questions. This same study shows that 15 questions takes 5-7 minutes to complete.
Guess how many questions I ask my beta readers?
Q: “Only 14 questions? What do you ask?”
A: I ask what I care about. I want my story to make you feel something, I want you to want to read my story, I want you to not feel confused or bogged down, and I want you to enjoy yourself.
“Life of Death: Project Dandelion Book 1” is about a young woman on a planet full of danger and death and her encounter with another planet, where war and death are nearly unknown, and people live nearly a thousand years.
“Life of Death” is currently being reviewed by my beta readers and here are the specific questions that I ask.
Question Regarding Intro
- How did you feel about the story when you first started reading?
- At what point did you first stop reading?
- When did you feel like you understood whose story is being told, where, and when it’s taking place?
Question Regarding Pacing
- Where did you get bored?
- Which parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?
- Which parts needed more details? Which parts needed less?
- Which scenes/descriptions/paragraphs/lines did you really like? Which needed improved?
Question Regarding Character(s)
- How did you feel about the main characters?
- How did you feel about the dialog between characters?
Question Regarding Clarity
- Which parts are confusing? Which parts did you re-read in order to better understand them?
- Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, etc.?
- Did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation or capitalization errors?
Questions Regarding Close
- How did you feel about the climax and resolution?
- What questions are unanswered at the close?
Write Something That Matters.