What is the difference between an Alpha Reader, Beta Reader or Critique Partner?
How can you help a writer?
Do you read a lot?
Do you have an opinion?
Then you have a lot to offer a writer and here's how.
Writers need feedback before a manuscript is completed. A reader is invaluable to a writer and even if you’re not a writer, you have an opinion.
Readers can provide all or just some of the critique points. Also, while they will discuss some of the good things they like about the story, the goal is to have a reader you trust that’s completely honest. One who is willing to point out problems and say “hey, this does not work for me.”
The Alpha Reader
- An alpha reader can be anyone who enjoys reading, and doesn’t need to be a writer.
- Alpha readers look at the big picture, help through roadblocks, and prod the writer so they can keep writing.
- Act as a sounding board, checking for readability.
- Lets the writer know if the first sentence, paragraph or chapter hooks them.
- If story, main character and world is intriguing.
- Addresses the larger elements of the story —the pacing, the tension, plot arcs, characterization, backstory, and theme.
- Points out if the scene works; confrontation, motivation, pacing or confusing.
- Likability of the characters and if any need to be fleshed out more.
- Listen for the POV voice.
- The feedback short, just enough to reassure you if the plot is on track, or to point out where the story went astray.
- The Alpha Reader doesn’t: Give line comments, unless a single word or phrase derails a scene.
The Beta Reader looks for the same things as an Alpha Reader plus:
- Beta readers welds a red pen checking for all types of problems (big and small), while encouraging the writer to produce the best story possible. The beta reader looks for all the things the alpha reader does but in more detail.
- Does line by line editing, looking for errors in spelling, grammar, characterization, and continuity.
- Character likability and POV voice.
- Pacing, the tension, plot arcs, characterization, backstory, and theme.
- Ability of plot to capture and hold their attention.
- Discuss if the end was satisfying.
- Overall impressions of what worked and what didn’t. What they liked and didn’t.
- A beta reader gives the same kind of detailed feedback and tips that you get from critique partners, but the beta reading just goes in one direction—they beta read for you, but you don’t necessarily beta read for them.
A Critique Partner:
- The critique partner (beta) reads and critiques your story, and you do the same for their WIP (not necessarily at the same time, though).
- Critique partners give detailed feedback on not just plot and characterization, but on the craft aspects of writing—lack of conflict, violations of POV, etc.
Bottom line is you form a partnership with this person.