I’d be completely lost without my critique group. They
shred analyze my manuscripts, tell me what’s ridiculous working, and provide me with very pointed point-on suggestions. After they’re done with me, I know my work will be a lot stronger.
But I don’t stop there. After I complete another revision based on my critique group’s comments, I also like to get feedback from a second group of people, my beta readers. (Some call them lay readers, others call them first readers. Just don’t call them late for dinner!) While this group changes a little from manuscript to manuscript, it’s composed of family members (hi mom!) and friends. (They don’t mind doing it—at least that’s what they tell me.)
The two groups serve different functions. My critique group gives me very detailed comments, from line edits all the way through thematic interpretations. My beta readers usually just tell me if they like it and why.
Both types of feedback are important to me.
My beta readers are first and foremost exactly that: readers. You know, the people I’m writing the book for. If they’re happy—if the book is engaging, well-written, suspenseful, entertaining—then I know I’ve got a winner. If they offer up the dreaded, “It’s nice,” then I know I’ve got some more work ahead of me.
Writers, what about you? Do you use the feedback of beta readers, in addition to critique groups?