Hi, I'm Ray Evans. I'm a certified copyeditor and proofreader.
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Writing a fictions book requires multiple rounds of revisions and as an author you simply can't do them all yourself.
You'll need the help alpha readers, beta readers, and critique partners to ensure you put out the best work for your audience. If you're unsure about any of these terms, and what they do, then this article is for you!
One of the first people to read your work is an alpha reader. In fact, they usually read your manuscript as you write it or see the first version without any edist.
Instead of giving reader/market feedback, their goal is to give feedback and look for problems with the story in general, such as awkward dialogue, plot holes, and characters who aren't fully developed. These kinds of problems are common in first drafts, and if you know your own story well, this feedback can help you make a great plan for later self-edits.
The next step is the beta readers. These are the people who look over your manuscript after you've made changes. Their questions won't be as complicated as an alpha's, and they'll be more about the "big picture" than anything else.
This is a great way to get feedback on your book before sending it to an editor.
Critique partners, or CPs as they're known online, are similar to alpha readers, but they don't have to read your first draft or keep up with you as you write. Instead, you could trade half-revised drafts of your work.
CPs are always other writers, and the two of you work together to fix problems in one other's manuscripts.
Can I Skip Editing if I use Alphas, Betas, and Critique Partners?
Short answer: no.
Longer answer: Alpha readers, beta readers, and CPs are very helpful and an important part of writing and revising.
But working with a qualified, professional editor is still better.
If you're sending queries, hiring an editor isn't necessary: agents know that your manuscript probably won't be perfect. But if you still aren't sure about your story or don't know how to fix it after getting other feedback, it might be time to hire a professional freelance editor for a developmental edit.
Can't They Just Steal My Work??
I can't promise anything about that. There are some bad people in the world. But this is why it's so important to work with people you know and trust.
Also, if you're working with other writers, keep in mind that they probably care about their own ideas and worry about the same things you do. Most people who are looking for feedback or want to give it to other writers are good-hearted and care about the success of the writing community as a whole.
You could give them the manuscript as a Google Doc file which cannot be copies, printed, downloaded or shared if you're that concerned but rest assured, the risk of theft is minimal.
Where Are You in the Writing Process?
If you're still working on your draft, it might be time to talk to a few trusted writer friends about alpha feedback! And if you're further along in the process, I recommend that you start working with a beta reader or critique partner. Getting feedback from other writers you trust and respect will only help you improve your manuscript and make you a better writer.
Tomorrow, I've got an article that will give you some great places to find trusted alpha, betas, and critique partners!