Guest Blogger–Toni Noel

Who needs a Beta reader?

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.

10 thoughts on “Guest Blogger–Toni Noel

  1. Toni, great blog! I am nothing without my beta reader/critique partner-in-crime. Typos, leaps of logic, hair color changes…she catches them all. And sometimes, having her retell me what she thought my scene was about reveals how well or poorly I crafted my writing and what I still need to adjust.

  2. Hi, Toni–I don’t have a real Beta reader, only my little writing group who
    will read through portions. Even with a Beta reader and a paid one at that,
    I see too many errors in books–eBooks, yes, certainly, but even in major publisher’s paperbacks.
    One publisher I have has a reader to do a read-through after the first edits. In one of my books, she caught that I began 44 sentences with “Well.” How embarrassing! I’m Texan, though, and well, we add a lot of “wells” in our speaking. We left a few in, especially for one character, but we deleted the remainder.
    And even with a reader, there can be a conflict about the proper wording. I used “Green Fees”–the book had a golf theme, and I’m a golfer, and so is my husband. The editor exlained it should be “greens fee” because the greens were the plural–18 of them on a course. This went back and forth–I disagreed, so I Googled the PGA, since the professional golf association has a rule for everything, and I found they prefer “green fees,” such as I use. I won!
    Good advice–thank you–Celia

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. Careful proof reading takes so little time compared to how long the mistake that slips by hangs out there to haunt you.


  4. Just shows what I know. I would have written greens fees because there’s usually a group of golfers complaining about paying them.

    Thanks for your enlightening comments, Celia.


  5. Hi, Toni….Gret blog. Trouble is I need a beta reader since my husband’s recent death. Have one but I’ve overworked her and need another. He’s done all my other books before anybody else saw them and some of the mistakes are hilarious when your fingers trip you up.

  6. Hi, Jean,

    Thanks for dropping by. Your husband is doubly missed, I’m sure.

    Unless I have a tense or word use question I no longer involve my husband.

    As a former English teacher he doesn’t understand that its okay for romance writers to write incomplete sentences. If I ask him to check my punctuation we all most come to blows about content instead.


  7. Great blog – and oh yeah – after two critiques and a major rewrite, my beta reader still caught mistakes in my latest manuscript. She’s priceless! Now I can send it out without worrying about what they might find that I didn’t see. She doesn’t miss anything!

  8. Hi, Donna,

    Glad you’ve found the right reader. And for those confused by all this Beta talk, a Beta reader is the same as a trusted reader, the person you can depend on to point out your mistakes without putting you down.


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