The goal of writing every day is to get better. And we do, but we also become accustom to how we phrase our thoughts. In those phrases hide an assumption that what we mean is what the reader understands. A problem for the most talented and experienced writer. This is why all of us, in every skill level, need feedback.
Feedback is constructive information that the writer can choose to use, or not. Anyone that reads can offer feedback. What I mean is, your beta reader doesn’t have to be in the industry. If they know what they like, and are willing to be honest, they qualify.
You can make it easier on both of you by focusing your reader on your weaknesses. (You’ll know them better than your beta does unless they’ve read for you before.) Give them a list of specific questions. And understand that answers/opinions are very subjective. One reader will love something that another might not comment on at all. Or both will hate something that will demand a call to action.
Constructive or not, words can hurt. But before you react, let’s look at it from the beta’s point of view.
Imagine your beta reader not enjoying everything they read. They endure the rough patches, examine them, and eventually write their notes. Notes, not just on the questions you’ve offered, but also on things they really, really hated or loved. This will take hours of their time and all because you asked for their opinion.
Don’t like their opinion? Well, then walk it off, bite your tongue, and thank them over and over again. Because thanks to them, you can begin another round of revisions and determine if each comment needs addressing.
What, you say. Not every comment will improve your work. Some comments may take you away from the story core. You need to keep true to your message. So take each comment and consider it carefully before implementing the change. (Unless several readers repeat the comment. Then you have no choice, but to deal with it as they suggest.)
Here’s what happens if your beta cares too much about your feelings and not enough about your work.
Your reader reads until a rough patch and won’t go any further or skips it and continues later on. Not wanting to let you down, the reader goes over the questions and answers in very general terms, glazing over their honest opinions to save your feelings. They rave about the patches they liked.
What exactly can you do with that?
Nothing, so you send it off to a publisher and get a form rejection.
Which one do you prefer?