What Are Beta Readers and Critique Partners?

Beta Reader is a term that comes up often in the writing community. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a beta reader is someone who reads your manuscript before it is published. Their goal is to give you feedback from a reader’s perspective. Often this feedback has to do with the big picture stuff such as plot holes, believability, and pacing.

Typically, beta readers aren’t trained (or paid) and they aren’t necessarily writers or editors. They are just people who like to read. Most writers will (and should) have many beta readers. If multiple beta readers point out the same issue, it’s worth addressing, but if only one points out an issue it may just be a personal preference and not worth fussing over.

Critique partner is another term that comes up a lot. Critique partners are similar to beta readers except that they are writers as well. As the name implies, this is more of a tit for tat relationship, in which you swap manuscripts and provide a critique for each other.

Finding Them Online

Now that you understand what beta readers and critique partners are, I bet you’re wondering how to find them. Here are a few links to get you started:

  • Critique Circle
  • Scribophile
  • NaNoWriMo — has a forum thread specifically for this. Also, if you live somewhere where they host events during NaNoWriMo check those events out. You may well meet people interested in being a critique partner.
  • Goodreads — a search through the Goodreads communities shows there are many active editing and writing groups where beta readers abound.
Finding Them in Person

Another way to find beta readers and critique partners is through local writers’ groups. This is a good option if you prefer in person interactions, but sometimes finding a group you are comfortable in, whose meeting location and time works for you, can be tricky.

While not commonly advised, a final option for beta readers and critique partners is friends and family. I advise caution if going this route. It is difficult for people close to you to give an honest, objective opinion. Also, the potential for this to cause tension in your relationship may outweigh the benefit of the critique. Only you can evaluate your situation and level of sensitivity. If you’re unsure, play it safe and don’t ask this favour of friends or family.

Let the search for beta readers and critique partners begin!

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