Thursday, November 6, 2014

Help and Who Does What.

You need help with your manuscript, but what kind? Everyone knows about proofreading, it’s what comes before that’s a bit confusing. Depending on how long you’ve been writing or your story (some come easy and others kick and scream like a two year old being told no in the toy aisle) what kind of assistance you’re looking for can vary. So what are your options?  

Free. We like free. The problem with free is it isn’t always helpful and the terminology is confusing, and confused. Take Beta Review and Beta read. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. A beta reviewer is sent an Advanced Review Copy for a review that will be posted as soon as the book is published. The purpose of this is to get the publicity ball rolling while the book is still a new release. The copy sent is the same as the manuscript that will be published.

Beta reads are a stage in the developmental editing process of writing. It’s the review before the story is completed and the only person who sees that review is the author. The copy sent isn’t a finished product and both the reader and the author know that. A good beta read finds plot holes, problems with characters, and story inconsistencies. It tells an author what worked, what tweaked the emotions of the reader, and where the reader was lost, or worse, gave up. A beta read is all about what works and what doesn’t work.

Unless your beta reader is your cousin or a friend, the one who likes everything you do and after reading your WIP says something like it’s a great read that’s really imaginative and she loves the main character, so witty. It’s nice, but it doesn’t help. It’s good to get several beta reads, but finding good readers is hard. Writing groups are about your best bet.  

Next come the paid services. A Critique hangs between a beta read and a full developmental edit and is probably the cheapest way to get a little help. It’s a deeper look that goes beyond recording reactions and goes on to make a few suggestions. In addition to what we expect from a beta read, a critique addresses the writing process. It gets into story structure, premise, and character and world build by pointing out where there are problems and where things are really working.

If you have the resources and want/need more assistance working the kinks out, a full developmental edit goes all the way into the creative writing process to help a writer fine tune the story. A developmental edit speaks to plot, characters, world build, structure, pacing, and emotion. It will help you pinpoint and develop themes and discuss language and word usage. A developmental editor will help you polish your style and prose. What they won’t do, is correct typos and grammar. That’s a copy editors job.

A copy editor overlaps with the developmental editor in that a copy editor will also look at sentence structure and word choice, along with correcting grammar, spelling, and typographical errors. A good copy editor will also point out plot holes and story inconsistencies that they come across. Depending on how many eyes you’ve had on your story it is possible there are still some minor issues at this stage.


  1. Great explanations of terminology. I use Beta readers and you are right, it's hard to get someone to really tell me what's working and not.

  2. That's been my experience as well, even with other writers from book groups. I think it's hard to get past the idea of critique as criticism, especially if we have some kind of relationship with the writer.

  3. I have edited three books so far for free. I have gone above and beyond the beta reader. One book was full of holes that readers could fall into and never climb out. The second was more of a copy edit and the occasional error in names or plot sequence. I would like to read for you if you like. I have references from the people I edited for.

  4. Thanks Christine. Email me your contact info and I'll put you on my beta list.