I recently sent out a list of questions to beta readers. It would have been less scary to just ask for their general reaction – being hunted in the woods by a hillbilly would have been less scary. But it raised some interesting points and I hope it helped them with my expectations which in turn helps me out with my submission.
I found these ones most important:
When did you first put the book down and why?
This uncovers if your protag is likeable, if there’s too much detail, and if there’s enough action in the beginning. If they are reading the book for you they probably wont put it down, but a non-beta reader might.
Seeing that you may send only the first 50-100 pages of your manuscript to publishers/agents, this is going to be where feedback is integral.
I’ve spent two weeks rewriting my first two chapters to get to the action faster ( I’m writing Urban Fantasy though). I’ve deleted some detail, and I’ve tried to thread whats left throughout in a drip feed format.
This one was tough for me because I love banter, but I decided to eliminate unnecessary dialogue – especially when it looked like Mae/I was trying too hard to be clever. The start is about setting the scene, and once you know what she’s like, I don’t need to hammer you with it.
And basically I tried to show and not tell ( are we sick of hearing this yet?) her background, her relationships with secondary characters and her personality. A lot of this is done in dialogue. You can infer a lot from the way they move and speak to each other.
What was your fav/least fav scene – could it be shorter/longer
This picks up any undeveloped ideas, or even areas where you emotionally connected with the reader and weren’t aware of it. This was also where I found that the beginning was two heavy in detail.
Was anything confusing?
I have a scene where you are taken back to the protags past. I kept it in first-person present-tense, and basically confused most people. If you confuse people they may switch off and skim, and the scene will lose its impact. It was suggested that I change this to third-person past-tense and now it makes sense again!
Could you relate to the character? Were there actions consistent?
This one was important too. Mae can be pretty dry at times. If she goes too far and I lose people, then I really need to be careful. It’s written in first-person present-tense, so there’s nowhere to hide. To help with this I made sure I didn’t overdo her inner monologue/narration.
Consistency. This was key for me. As a reviewer I’m pretty unforgiving when it comes to a characters consistency and believability. If they react a certain way in one scene, they had better be consistent with the next scene. Unless they’ve learned something, then I think its important to show that growth and make it apparent.
Would you like to see more of another character? Who was your favourite?
I’m not sure about this one. Maybe its because I got back four different responses and I got confused. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe I need to concentrate on key characters more?
Was the ending believable?
This was scariest. It’s a small cliffhanger. But ultimately, I ended it in such a way that would show that my series is heading this way and you should be aware. There wasn’t too many issues here, thankfully. But we all know, we are going to end it in a way we feel comfortable anyway.
So the feedback was great. And I took it all on board. I might change some of it now, I might leave it until publishing. But I know that that to beta, is to come first 😛
What other questions do you think you should ask beta readers?