Anyone who writes with the intent to be read by the public, from the brand-name published authors to the fan-fiction scribbler, will tell you that a good Beta Reader is worth their weight in GOLD.
So, what is a Beta Reader really FOR?
Most Beta Readers look for obvious grammar boo-boos and glaring spelling errors, but the really good ones look at your story as a whole and tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are so you can adjust them.
These are what I ask MY Beta readers to check.
-- Whether you're a Writer looking to check your work or a Beta Reader who wants to point out a few things to your favorite writer, feel free to borrow, spindle, and mutilate this list of questions to your heart's desire.
MY Beta-Reader's Questionnaire
Is it BORING?
- Does any part of the story Drag?
- Are their parts that you skipped to get to 'the good part'?
- Do I over-inform anywhere? (Also known as Info-Dumping.)
Did you Get it?
- Did you understand every phrase / term I used?
- If someone unfamiliar with this Fandom read this, have I explained enough for them to understand WHY everything was happening?
-!- Did I forget to mention that someone was demon-possessed, half angelic, or had mystical powers?
- Do any of the love scenes seem overly cliché? (Or overly sappy?)
- Were the love scenes too fast, too slow, or too frequent?
- Did you have to reread any part of the love scenes to understand who was doing what to whom?
- Did the actions and positions flow smoothly from one to the next, or did they jump as though something was skipped?
- Did it make you hot?
-!- Was your Comfort-Zone line crossed? (Did any actions in the love scene make you cringe?)
Do the scenes FLOW?
- Does one scene lead logically into the next?
- Is there enough downtime between intense scenes to allow it to build to the next?
- Were the Flashbacks smoothly integrated to fit into the current scene -- or did they seem plopped in, like a chapter that was in the wrong place?
- Do I repeat whole scenes that Don't need to be repeated?
- Was there a nice clean scene-break or chapter break between each change in point of view?
Is anything VISUALLY Confusing?
- Can you SEE every action clearly in your mind like a movie?
- Could you SEE what the characters looked like clearly?
- Could someone who was Not familiar with the fandom SEE what the characters looked like clearly?
- If you went there in real life, would you recognize the location?
- Did you have to reread any part of the action sequences to understand who did what?
-!- Did I forget to describe their Clothes, their Hair, their Eyes, any other distinctive feature that pertains to a specific character?
During DIALOGUE scenes?
- Could you see what the characters were DOING while talking?
- Could you see WHERE the characters were while talking?
Did the Characters WORK?
- Do the characters ACT realistic?
- Does the Dialogue sound realistic?
- Do their Reactions seem logical & realistic?
- Could you feel the Emotions between the characters?
- Did the characters seem IN CHARACTER?
- Did the characters with mystical powers USE them in the story?
-!- Would Original characters have worked better for this story?
- What character did you like best and WHY?
- What character did you hate and WHY?
- What character got on your nerves and WHY?
- Does any one character get in the way of the STORY?
- Was there a character that would have made the story Better by being Left Out?
The answers to these burning questions will keep your fiction crisp, focused and Popular. If your Beta readers like it then loads of other people will too.
I still think that if George Lucas had used a few test readers for those last three Star Wars movies, the scenes with Aniken as a child would have been much shorter--and made more sense. Jar Jar Binks would never have appeared. The romance between Aniken and Amidala would have been a Romance, and the clone war would have been a frikkin clone War. But that's just MY opinion...