Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Benefits of Non-Writing Beta Readers

Yesterday, Lydia Kang asked the question: "Have you had your work read by non-writing members of your target audience?"

I do.  I try to get a few writers to read and also a couple non-writers to read for me.  But I never thought about the whys of it until I answered Lydia's question in the comments. 

I mean, sure, you should have writers read for you.  They're in the trenches and if you're lucky, they know what works for the publishing world, so they can help you polish your work to get it into that world.

But I don't think you should rely solely on the opinions of writers.  We're all so deeply entrenched in the trenches, I think sometimes we're looking at manuscripts differently than you average non-writing reader.

I don't know about you, but when I read a book without purposely critiquing it*, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the writerly aspects of it.  I want to be entertained.  I want to be so lost in the story I don't notice typos, adverbs, devil words - like 'it' and 'that', or passive voice. 

I think having a beta who isn't concerned with the mechanics of a story can provide you with a pure reader experience.  After all, most of the readers in the world aren't writers**.  They're just average joes trying to escape the real world a little in some nice fiction. 

Now, I'm not discounting the importance of all those things I don't pay attention to as a reader.  I think if you write the best book you can write, those things stop jumping out at even the most non-writerly reader.  And that's where the importance comes in.  Writers are automatically tuned to see those errors.  Readers aren't.  So when they stop seeing them and just enjoy the story, you've done your job. 

At least, that's what I hope is happening when a non-writer tells me how much they enjoyed my manuscript.  And if nothing else, it just feels good to hear someone outside the community say they loved what I wrote.  (Especially since I can't seem to get anyone inside the inner circle to give me the time of day.)

I know it was kind of a rambling post, but what do you think?  Do you have non-writers beta read for you?  What do you think the benefits are?  And if you don't have non-writing readers, why not?

*Okay, so I can't read any book without critting it a little.  The better the book, though, the less I find myself critiquing because I get lost in the story.   I want that for my readers.

** Yeah, I can't prove that most readers aren't writers.  For all I know, the majority of readers these days are writing something somewhere - even if it hasn't been published yet.  I mean, look at me.  For that matter, look at you.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I do think sometimes writers can give you different feedback than non-writers would. They likely notice some things that might not be important to a reader.