So if you've cruised around writing forums/blogs as much as I have, you'll eventually encounter the "Beta-Reader" and the perilous quest many writers undergo to find one. So...what is a beta-reader exactly?
Simply put, a beta-reader is usually the first person to read your entire WIP (work in progress) with the intention of helping you clean it up and submit to publishers or agents. A beta is not the same as your best friend or your boyfriend reading your WIP. Beta-readers are NOT your cheerleaders, they're supposed to tell you what works and what doesn't. That is why beta-readers are a necessity. Without having someone else (preferably another writer) take a critical look at your polished second draft, you could overlook something important. Unfortunately, the worst part about being a writer is our inherent need to "offer up" our work for critique/review. Otherwise what's the point? So you gotta hold your breath and wait for that inevitable first reaction from your peers. And it can be nerve wracking!
A shy writer (such as myself) finds the whole beta-reading task a daunting one! Finding the right beta can make all the difference while you slug through the grueling editing/revising process. However, when you are lucky enough to find a beta who works well with you, this partnership can be a magical one! However, be prepared to meet a lot of duds along the way...awesome betas are extremely hard to find. *waves at Theresa* I must also thank Michan, Aaron, Al, Karen, Tal and Anna for sticking it out with me through this process! You guys are the bestest! *blows kisses* And working with you has been great!
So how do you find a beta-reader? We all know writers are private solitary creatures, so it's not like you can just waltz into a bookstore/coffee shop/library and ask the first stranger you see. Usually you can find a beta by using the internet, such as absolutewrite.com or other local writing "guilds" in your area. You can start a writer's group yourself or search for one using meetup.com. The trick isn't so much finding a beta, it's finding a GOOD beta, or a beta who you work well with.
I've always done this writing thing by myself. I never sought out the opinions of others, and my writing suffered for it. I've grown so much by meeting other writers/bloggers and learning from them. Writing can be a tricky business, but working with your beta-readers should be a fun and challenging experience.
Happy writing, minions! (and happy leap year!)