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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chapter-by-Chapter Beta Reading

Beta reading a manuscript a few chapters at a time is a little different than reading an entire manuscript at once. It can take longer, for instance, because of the wait for the next set of chapters. Also there will be a more severe focus on each set, rather than on the MS as a whole. Here are some tips for beta readers and writers that want to take the chapter-by-chapter route when it comes to beta reading.

Beta reader
1. Keep a document of all of your comments. When I email my comments to the writer, I copy-paste them into a document along with the chapter numbers that those comments refer to. It helps me to keep track of what I've said and see if there are any reoccurring problems.  

2. Consider keeping a second list of private notes that you wait until after you've finished the MS to send. Some problems won't become evident until you can look at the MS as a whole, such as character development or the overall plot arc. Also take note of any questions that you have and whether they're answered later in the book.

3. Use the slow reading to your advantage. Reading a few chapters at a time can really make it obvious when the pace slows down in a story and there isn't a lot happening, or when the pace speeds up and there's too much happening.

Writer
1. Try to send the next set of chapters in a timely manner. If days (or weeks) go by in between, your reader could forget the details of what's going on in the story.

2. If you get a lot of the same comments, consider asking for a little time to revise the next set of chapters before you send them. This is especially true of spelling and grammar mistakes that your reader has already corrected. If you get to those mistakes first, then your reader can focus on other things.

3. Remember that your beta reader is only evaluating what they've read so far. If they ask a question that's answered later, either keep that in mind when reading their critique or consider moving up the answer in the story.

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