Q&A Part 31: Beta readers

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@voxlibris asks: Do you use beta readers? If so, do they read as you write, or do you wait till the book is finished? How much of your editor's (or betas') input do you incorporate into your final draft? 

I do use beta readers--as long as I have time with my deadline! When I have a particularly tough scene that I'm not sure is working, I let readers read that part as I write. Usually I'll send a question, like, "Is the character sympathetic here?" or "Does she sound whiney?" or "Does this make sense?" and sometimes, just, "Does this suck and am I total loser please tell me you like me."

When my deadlines aren't too pressing, which, sadly, is getting rare these days, I love to swap the whole manuscript. Outside of those scenes where I have specific questions, I far prefer to do the whole manuscript at once. I'm a big-picture kind of girl. 

Here's the thing about working with beta readers, and, later, with an editor. Really good ones don't give commands. They give you questions. Like:

Why is this character acting in this way?

Can you make the pace tighter in these pages?

Is there a way to better say this?

And then, as the writer, I decide the best way to answer the question. It's not always an answer I want to give--sometimes I ignore the questions when they go against what I'm trying to do. But usually I treat suggestions and questions as a sort of challenge to make the book better, and I really enjoy it.

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