Books Magazine

Beta Readers and Winnie the Pooh

By Lexi Revellian @LexiRevellian
Beta readers and Winnie the PoohPooh murmured to himself

"But whatever his weight in pounds, shillings, and ounces, 

He always seems bigger because of his bounces."

"And that's the whole poem," he said. "Do you like it, Piglet?"

"All except the shillings," said Piglet. "I don't think they ought to be there." 

"They wanted to come in after the pounds," explained Pooh, "so I let them. It is the best way to write poetry, letting things come." 

"Oh, I didn't know," said Piglet.

This is an early example of a beta reader having his advice overruled by the author. Piglet's suggestion is correct, yet the removal of the shillings would not improve the couplet.

I've reached the end of my next novel, and I've started sending it out to beta readers. I don't send it to everyone at the same time, since I'm making changes as I get feedback and I want to get comments on the latest version. (Also some of my lovely betas are doing Nanowrimo.) I'm still obsessively tweaking the fight scene, too; in my experience fights take a lot of rewriting. It's very interesting, reading betas' suggestions. I've had three reports so far, and none of them have queried the same things, and they have all made some suggestions which I have leaped upon and incorporated, and others which I have not.

The variety of responses confirms me in my view that half a dozen good betas perform better than the average editor. I write for readers, not people working in the publishing industry, so it makes sense to have readers vet my books. I imagine it's possible for an editor to become jaded, or didactic. I like a nice mix of readers and reader/writers. Readers can tell you what's wrong, and a fellow author can often tell you how to fix it.

My betas so far have liked my latest novel. This is a relief. It's lonely, writing a book, and quite worrying waiting to see what readers make of it. I hope to publish in the not-too-distant future.

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