Beta readers. Those wonderful people that we love and dislike immensely in equal measure.
Let’s face it, there comes a point where you have seen your work so much that you have become cross-eyed. You know it so well that you gloss over large swathes of text, briefly, simply fact- checking. You need new sets of eyes to take a gander.
This is where those spectacular people come in.
But what exactly is a beta reader?
A beta reader is someone who test reads your unreleased work, like the literature version of a software beta tester. Their job is to provide feedback from the point of view of your average reader. They give commentary and advice on your work and express their opinions. They are also a potential sounding board to determine if a book has the intended emotional impact. The general idea behind this process is to give you a platform from which to start making changes and fixes where needed to the plot, pacing and the consistency of the story.
And we love them for this! But we also have moments where we despise them. Their feedback is absolutely invaluable, they find plot holes lurking in the deepest, darkest corners of your story. They tell you when your character is maybe being a little too much of a bitch.
Sometimes, though, their feedback cuts like a knife. Sometimes they will criticize a piece you were particularly proud of to the point where you want to tear it all apart and bemoan your existence as a struggling author.
It hurts, I won’t lie, the criticism really does hurt. Here you are, having put your heart and soul into a story that you are proud of, and someone is dismantling it, even if it means it will make your story better it hurts.
Take a deep breath.
It is incredibly difficult, but try to distance yourself from the criticism you receive, it is not personal. If it is, ignore it.
If you let all of the criticism you receive get to you, you will crumble under it and you will not survive as a writer. You need to find a way to rise above it and look at the criticism objectively.
Use what is useful, discard what is not.
Not all criticism you receive will be useful, this applies to both the feedback you receive from your beta readers and with regards to your work in general. The criticism that can be used, put it to good use. Make the changes, but use your discretion. If it will sacrifice the integrity of your work then you will need to make that judgement call. If more than one of your beta readers express the same or similar concern, then consider it more strongly, but making all changes that are suggested will just make for a messy manuscript,
If you are struggling to accept a particular piece of criticism, it is worth speaking to other writers, let them take an objective look and give you an outside perspective on if the criticism is valid or not.
At the end of the day, you are your own worst critic, don’t let yourself. You are allowed to let yourself be critical, it will help you when you edit. Don’t let yourself be dragged down by your self- criticism, it can be detrimental to your mental health as a writer.
Trust your beta readers and do not let criticism ever stop you writing.