Last week, I shared how I’ve failed at being a consistent test reader. Depending on who asks you for help, or, perhaps, you offer it yourself, you need to keep these things in mind before you jump in as a test reader. And don’t worry! I have tips for those of you who are already test readers and things to consider as you read and give feedback.
1. How Soon Do They Need Feedback?
I’ve waited months for one or two chapters from readers. The last time I gave feedback was three months ago for one writer. Last week, I did sit down and finally give feedback for the last ten chapters. Finally caught up! It’s why I’m talking about test reading today.
Some people, myself included, will give certain test readers longer periods of time for feedback. These special time allowances usually go to the test readers who are consistent at giving decent feedback, or in the past, have been more consistent. But this does not mean every writer will wait 4 or more months for your feedback on five or less chapters.
I’ve had one test reader maybe 4 or even 5 years ago was given one chapter, and 2 years ago I was told she would eventually get to it. It’s okay for writers to drop test readers, especially if they haven’t earned the name.
You need to really look at your commitment. Is this something you can give priority to? Can you set aside time every night, or a few times a week when you receive material to go over it?
What kind of time frame is the writer looking at for feedback? I’ve written a document detailing what I need my test readers to do, and preferably, I would like feedback within the first two weeks of receiving the chapters. I do have test readers who are not always able to do this. But this has helped me sift out my test readers and know what they are able to give me.
*And yes, I’m totally convicted as a test reader writing this.
2. What Does The Writer Expect And Need Out Of You?
When I wrote my first piece, it was only three pages, and even then I learned a lot. People thought being a test reader meant they automatically became an editor as well. This misunderstanding caused people to fade away from being a test reader, and they didn’t tell me.
Since then, I’ve written down exactly what I need my readers to do. What I expect my readers to help me with, and what is not expected of them.
If you are asked to be a test reader, or you have offered, you need to know EXACTLY what is being asked of you. Ask questions and ask for specifics.
Ask these questions ahead of time so you know what to look out for:
- What are some things you would like me as a test reader to be aware of?
- Do you require me to be aware of grammar mistakes?
- Am I only reading or am I also editing?
- Do you want opinions on sentence structure? How paragraphs look?
- What should I be aware of when reading characters and their development?
3. Can You Give Decent Feedback?
Writers spend a lot of time working on writing and editing. Telling them, “It’s good,” and that’s it…is not helpful. In fact, you may be dropped as a test reader either immediately or possibly for a future book. Feedback takes time because you’re not only reading, but you have the opportunity to really help the author understand the reader’s perspective.
Some things to keep in mind as you read:
- Can you visualize the place from the description in the story?
- Is the scene relatable?
- Are characters relatable?
- Are you not connecting to the scene/chapter/character?
- Do you feel the chapter or scene is lagging?
- Once reading a chapter, how does this push the story forward? Do you see the significance in the chapter for characters or plot?
- Are conversations easy to follow or confusing?
- Are you able to identify characters? Do you have enough time with them or you forget them once they leave the scene?
- Which characters do you really like?
- As you read, what are some things you wonder about? Are you starting to see connections or wonder if people are connected, even if it was not revealed? Are you thinking about the plot? Do you desire to learn more about other characters? Writers want to know this.
4. Are You Able To Be Honest
Now, you may lose some writers. I know, sounds odd, but some people aren’t ready yet for true feedback. Some writers only want to be praised, and when honesty comes into the picture, sometimes writers get defensive.
I’ve been there, and I’m learning to work through strong pieces of critique.
Truthfully, we need those test readers who aren’t afraid of saying things that do not make sense to them. Readers who may pick apart our stories.
First off, honesty helps editing majorly! If there are problems, feel free to say so. If you have opinions and views, and something you read makes you not want to read it anymore because of how it is written, say so! Maybe…
- it sounds unrealistic
- it’s written harshly
- it needs a lot of editing / doesn’t make sense
- it doesn’t have enough research
- the writer is touching on a sensitive topic with not enough care
Writers need this truth. And hey, if you are part of the grammar police, go at it! Even if the writer did not tell you that you have to help with editing. If grammar is something you are really aware of, let the writer know BEFORE you start reading, if you’re concerned.
I have one test reader who picks up on things I have never thought of before. Some of it is a preference, and that’s entirely okay!
Test readers add perspective, and we truly need more of it.
5. Do You REALLY Want To Be A Test Reader?
Or do you feel like you “have” to?
To appease someone. To make them happy. To not be a “bad” friend.
Listen, reading is not everyone’s cup of tea, let alone test reading! Before you can be honest with someone else, you need to be honest with yourself.
Maybe you want to be a test reader…but not for the story you’re asked to be a test reader of. That’s okay!
My friends know ahead of time the things I do NOT read, and it’s a lot, truthfully. No sex. No cursing. No horror. No gore. Etc. Whatever you stand by do not give in just because you feel you’ll be letting others down. People need to respect your boundaries, too.
They are called boundaries for a reason.
Know what yours are.
(NIV) Hebrews 3:02, “He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.”
Was this list helpful to you? Is there anything you can think of to add that would be helpful to test readers?
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