You do, if you want to submit a manuscript free of errors to an editor.
Even the most careful writer’s eyes play tricks on them sometimes. We see what we thought we wrote instead of what we really wrote. In these days of less editorial help and more dependence on the author to get it right, a Beta reader is priceless. Pay him/her well. If a friend is your reader, send candy. Often.
What has a Beta reader done for me?
- Caught the time I gave the heroine three hands.
- Caught repetitive phrases.
- Caught the hero about to walk through a locked door.
- Caught when my heroine’s eye color changed from blue to brown.
- Caught the heroine hiding behind the sofa where I’d carelessly left her.
Okay, perhaps you’re a more experienced writer and would never do any of these things. Ever typed its when you meant it is? Ever get confused about whether you want to type pen and pin? Can’t remember whether to type sit, sat, or set? Every author has words they stumble over. Some of mine are lose or loose? Aught or ought? Further or farther? There or their? Then or than?
Seems then or than is a tough choice for some authors. While recently judging contest submissions I continually encountered the incorrect use of then and than. Use than when making a comparison. Example: This looks more like a burn than a bruise.
Never use then when comparing things. Another example: I’d rather go than stay.
Here’s a common error I’ve noted: Using different than when the writer should have used different from. The copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White I keep by my computer reads, “Here logic supports established usage: one thing differs from another.” Do not use than to make comparisons, even though other writers seemed determined to do so. They are wrong.
Today on the news an announcer reported, “A College class was trying to stimulate an earthquake.” He meant simulate. Your fingers do not always type what you mean for them to type. Someone not emotionally involved with your manuscript is more likely to catch the use of the wrong word. I recently saw where the writer wrote patients instead of patience, completely changing the meaning of the sentence.
Remember the old adage, “Two heads are better than one?” In your writing, this applies ten fold. A Beta reader soon learns if you’re prone to type our instead of out, and isn’t afraid to point out where you’ve used the wrong verb tense.
And let’s not forget point of view shifts. It’s so easy to slip into someone else’s head and so hard to spot those slips. Your trusted reader should question the use of any word she doesn’t understand. It’s her job.
In the big rush to get a manuscript in print, writers get careless, especially in the second half of the book. If you’re pushed for time when revising, work on the second half of your novel first. Then forward the manuscript to a trusted reader and start your next book.
Now that Desert Breeze Publishing has released Law Breakers and Love Makers, I’m busy editing my next release, Temp to Permanent, another romantic suspense, scheduled for release on June 1.