10 Questions to Ask Your Beta-readers

Asking for Feedback

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, a lot of us are asking “what’s next”?

I mean, clearly there are those of us, many of us, who either didn’t finish NaNo, or whose NaNo wasn’t long enough to finish our stories, and of course the answer for us is clear – finish that rough draft.

For the rest of you, run your novel through spell-check, do a few read-throughs, make sure your story says what you want it to. I like to print it out at this stage, mark it up, write pages and pages of new material on the back, sort it out by chapter, making index cards for each one… There are a lot of ways to edit it, to clean it up and make it consumable by eyes-that-aren’t-our-own.

But, eventually, we’re going to have to let the manuscript go. To send it to a beta reader for our hopes and dreams to be crushed – or not.

Not all beta-readers are made equally, though. There’s certain things you want to hear from them. Harping on your grammar and syntax is probably not what you’re looking for at this stage, you’re looking for the “Big Picture” feedback. However, that can lead to wishy-washy feedback. Or inconsistent stuff, where different readers focus on different things, or get stuck on one fragment that doesn’t really matter to the rest of the story.

So how do you get useful feedback?

The best way to get something is to ask for it. Wishing and hoping and wondering is all fun and games, but not the most effective way to go about it.

What do you ask for?

When I originally shared a draft of my current work in progress (WIP), I sent my readers this questionnaire: things for them to think of during their read, and to answer (so much as they felt like) when they finished.

I’d researched what to ask readers and then I narrowed it down to these 10 key questions.

10 Questions to Ask Your Beta Reader

  1. Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
  2. Did the setting interest you, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you?
  3. Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly?
  4. Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  5. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  6. Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable?
  7. Did the dialogue keep your interest and sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial or not like that person would speak?
  8. Did you feel there was too much description or exposition? Not enough? Maybe too much dialogue in parts?
  9. Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
  10. Was the ending satisfying? Believable?

I admit it, it was hard to limit myself to ten. I consider the bonus questions mostly ego-stroking, but useful information!

Bonus Questions:

– Which parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally?
– Are there parts where you wanted to skip ahead or put the book down?
– Which parts should be condensed or even deleted?
– Which parts should be elaborated on or brought more to life?
– Which characters did you really connect to? (None is acceptable)

Anything my questionnaire misses that you find as vital feedback?

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12 thoughts on “10 Questions to Ask Your Beta-readers

  1. This is a great list. I feel like I am so far away from this. I am giving myself the rest of the year (2 weeks) to get my draft “ready” for a full read through for myself and to then re-write in Jan. After reading your post though, I’m wondering I should ask for a neutral read from a couple of writer friends or pay for a professional editor at that stage before undertaking my own re-writes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My first nano? I took December off and took until AUGUST to finish the draft. We’ll see when I finish this one.

      I would probably take few weeks off and do at least 1 edit before sending it to friends to read-through. Make sure you’re coherent. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice Morgan. The sort of thing one needs to send with the manuscript so a beta reader knows in advance the type of thing an authors looking for…

    As for what’s next after NaNo2016, apart from finishing the novel, psyching up for NaNo2017….last year for me was a last minute decision….next time….I’ll be ready…maybe…ish….probably not…🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Morgan! Thanks for following me, and now I’m following you back; looks like you’ve got some interesting content on here!

    Re beta readers, I had several for my book, and you know who was the most helpful one? The one who was most BRUTAL of course! 😀 He happened to be my (fearless) son-in-law! LOL. He’s a fabulous writer himself, so I took (almost!) everything to heart and edited accordingly. Out went my smileys! Gone are the footnotes! The point is, it’s better… I think. No, I’m pretty sure it’s better. Am embarking on self-publishing as we speak; he’s agreed to walk me through it. Wish me luck!

    BTW, my book is a memoir. But I have the greatest respect for novelists. To create fiction, and sustain it over 300 pages or whatever, wow wow wow. How difficult – to create GOOD fiction. Right? I don’t know if I’ll ever have the oomph to attempt it.

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