Editing Fiction and Beta Readers

NOOB, How to Guide

How to start, Plot & Conflict, Publishing.

Beta Readers

All writers employ beta readers differently. Some use them early, some don’t use them until the editing is done.

I like getting beta reader thoughts early, because they are going to make suggestions. I might be rewriting a scene. I might be adding stuff. I don’t want to have to re-edit the entire thing because of these changes.

If you are unsure of the quality of your work, you have doubts, this is the ideal time to seek beta readers. Get their opinions.

Peer review

This would be people in a writing group, fellow students in school, and people close to you who are also writers.

Paid Beta Readers

Paid beta readers exist. I’ve never used one. Just be cautionary, and it should be inexpensive, and you’re looking for feedback on a chapter by chapter basis.

Friends and Family

Main source for beta readers. People you trust. You can’t push too hard asking them to help, but it’s a small thing for them to do. Put your own time into revision and polishing and editing first.

Writing Groups

Some people have luck finding strangers to beta read online. I’ve beta read for random people before from groups, but I’m mean, because I have to enjoy what I’m beta reading. This is true of most beta readers. I’m just far too blunt about it.


Revision

I’m oftentimes adding flesh. Thoughts, descriptions. Meat to bones. I hear other people trim the fat when they do this, but I can’t explain those people. Never enough thoughts if comedic or emotions. The way I write first draft skeletons, adding descriptions is key.

Dialog

In life, we talk on the phone, Hi Dan, Hi Geoff, then start the conversation, delete that stuff. Also the, “Blah blah blah, other character’s name,” in general, get rid of the other character’s name.

If it’s a larger group, once in a while you drop that other character’s name in to make it clearer who is being spoken to.

The other solid rule is to never explain something the reader already knows to another characters. Summarize it in a quick sentence or revise it out.

Read Out Loud

Have text to speech software read the entire thing out loud. Read it yourself and record it, if you can, then listen to the recording. This does require you to have a computer of some kind with sound capabilities.

Critique Partner

A fellow writer. A mentor. This is one of the Holy Grail of writing, and most likely if you find this sounding board, they are your partner.

Hiring an Editor

There are levels to this. Line editor or copy editor is likely what you want if you’re fixing grammar, improving sentence structure, finding missing words, and fixing pesky misspelled words that your digital spell checker will not find.

I’m trained as an editor in college, so I have a strong grasp of it. I employ the artificial intelligence to help me. Okay, nobody called them AI except me. Everybody calls them grammar checkers, and everybody mocks me for using them. I use them.

Personal choice on your part. The pages on this site haven’t been professionally edited. Between my abilities, my beta readers, and the grammar checkers, they aren’t too bad.

To use a grammar checker, you have to know what you are doing or it will send you into infinite circles where you are questioning your very existence. Just like normal days.

Developmental Editing

These people look at plot, characters, marketability. They likely aren’t fixing typos and will give a much more exhaustive review than a beta readers. Some would say this dev editor is the key to really polishing your manuscript and story.

Retired English Teachers

If you can find one of these who will help, maybe. It’s kind of a long shot on finding one.

Paying an Editor

It may seem like they’re asking for your firstborn. This can be one of the most expensive steps for self publishing. Most in the USA will take Paypal. You will most likely have to pay them before you get your manuscript back.

Even if you’re going with a traditional publishing route, in the modern era, it still needs to be edited on your end before submitting to agents or legit publishers.

Fees for copy editing or line editing range from a few hundred to thousands. It’s usually billed by the word, by the 1,000 words or more, or hourly. Hourly editors can be asked for a quote and a guarantee to stay under quote. Some will not do this.

Sample Edits

Some professional editors do not have time for this, but many editors will do a quick sample edit of 1-3 pages give or take. The editor decides what length this will be. I recommend doing this as a quick test of the editor and what kind of things they do.

Two of my horror stories sending editors sample edits:

  • Pushing it through a Grammar Checker and returning it to me with those results
  • Saying I should delete 25% of my words and replace them with description

Choose one thing to have sample edited and don’t update it every time it’s edited. If you want to embed problems, you expect them to find, that’s up to you.

I gave them something I felt was ready for editing. This is typically at the end of my own process.

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Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter