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Questions for beta readers

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Fyle, Dec 3, 2014.

  1. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    I have yet to write the last chapter of my novel, but i have three beta readers chipping away. One lady is a speed reader and proof read/critiqued 44 chapters in the last 2 weeks... I hit the jackpot of beta readers!

    My idea is to start a thread of good questions to ask beta readers. A few obvious i asked were:

    Did you find any parts/characters boring?

    Do you think 'this idea' was too far fetched?

    What characters did you enjoy reading the most?

    If anyone cares to start a list of questions to ask beta readers, fire away!Lets aim for 50, if there are that many.

    Thanks....

    ( ^-^)ノ∠※。.:*:・'°☆
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2014
  2. Ryan_Crown

    Ryan_Crown Troubadour

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    Here are a few:


    Were there any scenes that jarred you out of the story flow, or just felt out of place?

    What parts of the story felt like they dragged, and by contrast, were there any points where you felt the story was pushing too far/too fast and could be improved with a pause in the action for the reader to catch their breath?

    Were there any scenes that pushed your suspension of disbelief too far?

    What are your thoughts about the ending? Did it work? How could it be improved?

    What was your overall takeaway after you finished reading?
     
  3. Did you encounter any continuity issues?

    Is the narrative to linear?
     
  4. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    I usually ask my readers to note anywhere they were confused, annoyed, shaken out of the narrative. Any of those places where you pull a face because of any reason - make a note. If a reader has a problem, there is a problem. The only questions that remain are about severity, consequences, and fixes. (This sounds like I'm saying "you have to fix every problem a reader raises". You don't. But you have to at least consider the risk of not fixing it and consciously decide it's ok and you'll wear it.)

    Apart from that, I prefer to ask more open specific questions. I find that "Does x work?" concentrates too much attention on element x - the average reader won't be paying that much attention, so you're not getting necessarily valuable feedback. If element x is supposed to cause fear and tension about the hero's chance for survival, I might ask more about how the overall journey for the hero works for the reader - and then if I don't get the specifics in the reader's feedback, ask more questions. Or even sometimes, "Please tell me how you're feeling at the end of chapter 8." (For my money, my beta-readers who basically give me an emotional/response play-by-play as they're reading are the most valuable. It lets me see whether I'm achieving what I want, and highlights where there is confusion and contradictory elements.)

    Definitely ask for positives as well as negatives! You don't want to accidentally remove something that everyone loves. :) And always ask for why, because sometimes people pull things out of your story you didn't realise you had there - happy accidental bonuses - and you definitely want to keep those and might even want to build them up a little more.

    Never argue or explain with your beta-readers. You can't argue or explain with your end-readers. If more explanation is needed, it has to go in the story. Discuss with the reader if you'd like their opinion on how best to represent the material in the story. The phrase is "Would it work better if I included..." not "Yes but that's not a problem because..."
     
  5. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    In theory I agree with this... but that depends on two things.

    a) If they missed something that has been well explained that most other readers understood. In this case, you know they missed it at thier fault not yours, then you can explain it to them.

    b) what is your relationship with the beta reader? If it is rather open, and you make it clear you want to debate and think out things, its fine.

    If it is a first time complete stranger beta reader, ya, I would never argue at first cause of course, you don't want "feelings" of the argument to get in the way of their reading. And it's mostly your fault on how they percive the reading - but comprehansion levels vary.


    Thanks for the responses! Cupiscent, could you please put a few comments in the form of a question?

    Here's the list so far! Thanks all!

    Were there any scenes that pushed your suspension of disbelief too far?

    What are your thoughts about the ending? Did it work? How could it be improved?

    What was your overall takeaway after you finished reading?

    Did you encounter any continuity issues?

    Is the narrative to linear?

    Were there any scenes that jarred you out of the story flow, or just felt out of place?
     
  6. cupiscent

    cupiscent Sage

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    Just my two cents, but NOPE. If one reader misses it, there is a problem. You just have to consider whether there's enough of a problem to warrant alterations, or whether you're happy to take the risk of x-percentage of your wider readers missing that point as well. (Hey, I've read books where I missed something. It's not the end of the world.)

    Tricky, because I rarely ask my beta-readers questions, I send notes like "I'm pretty happy with the character journey but uncertain about the plot events and whether they feel inevitable." But, here's a try:

    Are there enjoyment-stopping confusions anywhere?
    Does the progression of character decisions and plot events make sense? (Maybe this is covered by continuity already.)
    What are your biggest emotional response points? How and why?
    What are your favourite elements? Why?
    How would you describe this story to someone who hadn't read it?
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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  8. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    Okay, maybe I should explain myself better and we will probably meet eye-to-eye.

    Not everything is meant to be picked up by every reader. What I mean is foreshadowing and dropping hints about mysteries you are building. There are things that are sutble and groundwork for future events being layed out in the background without the reader totally realising it.

    I do not mean missing something import that you are trying to get across clearly. If that makes more sense.

    Also:

    If I send something to 10 beta readers and 9/10 get it and one doesn't, that reader could have just been tired that day, or that beta reader could have just misread a passage. Especially when the ones who did get it explain to me why it works and confirm how I thought it was coming off in my mind.

    Just because a math teacher explains how to solve the problem flawlessly does not mean every student gets it (some will never get it!).



    @ Thanks skip.knot!

    I'll check that out.
     
  9. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    Any pacing issues?

    Any structural issues?

    Any subplots left unresolved by the end?
     
  10. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    Thanks for adding to my list Butterfly!

    Any pacing issues?

    Any structural issues?

    Any subplots left unresolved by the end?

    Were there any scenes that pushed your suspension of disbelief too far?

    What are your thoughts about the ending? Did it work? How could it be improved?

    What was your overall takeaway after you finished reading?

    Did you encounter any continuity issues?

    Is the narrative to linear?

    Were there any scenes that jarred you out of the story flow, or just felt out of place?
     
  11. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Was there any dialogue that felt stiff, unnatural or out of character?

    Did any of the text formatting (paragraph breaks, italics, etc.) lend toward confusion rather than improving the ease of reading?

    Did you expect the ending or was it surprising? If surprising, did it still manage to feel inevitable, like a promise delivered but in an unexpected way?
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I ask mine to go through the book and tell me what they didn't get. As often asnot the reason they don't get something is that it's my fault for not having put in the background they need.

    Also, don't give them the book until the first draft is complete - you don't want to waste their energies. And also ask them to make notes as they go through it - not just summarise at the end. Ask them to point out what they don't understand. What they thought had already been ruled in or out (ie continuity issues). What seems false to them. Or boring.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  13. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    Thank you very much for the latest entry Trick! The list grows!

    Any pacing issues?

    Any structural issues?

    Any subplots left unresolved by the end?

    Were there any scenes that pushed your suspension of disbelief too far?

    What are your thoughts about the ending? Did it work? How could it be improved?

    What was your overall takeaway after you finished reading?

    Did you encounter any continuity issues?

    Is the narrative to linear?

    Were there any scenes that jarred you out of the story flow, or just felt out of place?

    Was there any dialogue that felt stiff, unnatural or out of character?

    Did any of the text formatting (paragraph breaks, italics, etc.) lend toward confusion rather than improving the ease of reading?

    Did you expect the ending or was it surprising? If surprising, did it still manage to feel inevitable, like a promise delivered but in an unexpected way?
     
  14. Julian S Bartz

    Julian S Bartz Minstrel

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    Great questions so far. A big thing for me is always to make them note if they read about a character or place and can't remember them. In Fantasy there are often a large cast and many exotic locations. It can be hard to keep track of them and often a Beta reader might not make note that it took them four pages to recall who the character was.

    The question I get a lot of good feedback from is "What would you change if I allowed you to change one thing?"
     
  15. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Do any characters act or speak too similarly?

    Was any description, action, or concept unclear?
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  16. Pamela Scalf

    Pamela Scalf Acolyte

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    Here's my contribution to the list:

    If this book were part of a series, would you want to read the next book?
     
  17. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    Real good one actually!
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    The contributions on this thread are excellent. I think I see them falling into two piles. One, questions that one could (should?) ask of one's self during an editing pass. The other, questions that one really cannot ask of one's self. One set of questions has to do with consistency, style, that sort of thing. The other deals more with whether or not the other person responds positively or negatively.

    I think it behooves us to answer the former set of questions as thoroughly as possible before inflicting our manuscript on a beta reader. This doesn't mean we don't ask the first set; it only means we recognize that we can make a run at it.
     
    cupiscent likes this.
  19. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    Skip.knox, I agree! I had a feeling we could compile a nice list... and it is growing! Pamela had a good one I would have never thought of although its pretty simple.

    *UPDATE* 12/15

    Any pacing issues?

    1. Any structural issues?

    2. Any subplots left unresolved by the end?

    3. Were there any scenes that pushed your suspension of disbelief too far?

    4. What are your thoughts about the ending? Did it work? How could it be improved?

    5. What was your overall takeaway after you finished reading?

    6. Did you encounter any continuity issues?

    7. Is the narrative to linear?

    8. Were there any scenes that jarred you out of the story flow, or just felt out of place?

    9. Was there any dialogue that felt stiff, unnatural or out of character?

    10. Did any of the text formatting (paragraph breaks, italics, etc.) lend toward confusion rather than improving the ease of reading?

    11. Did you expect the ending or was it surprising? If surprising, did it still manage to feel inevitable, like a promise delivered but in an unexpected way?

    12. Do any characters act or speak too similarly?

    13. Was any description, action, or concept unclear?

    14. If this book were part of a series, would you want to read the next book
    ?
     
  20. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

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    I didn't really know where I should put this question, this seems like the best I coudl find: is 'trading beta reader services' something that's done here? Trying to find someone here who you will think will appreciate what you've written and offer to read his work with the same care and attention you hope he does with yours. Ofcourse, I thinks it's important to be ethical with a thing like this.

    I'm asking because I don't want to violate any forum rules in case I want to try and reach out in this way.
     
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