So, you’ve finished your draft and done some editing on it, what’s next?
Before you publish it you should have some other people read it and give you comments. These can either be beta readers or critique partners. I’ll go through the differences below.
Beta readers are readers in your genre who read through the book, either all in one go or chapter by chapter, and give you feedback. This can be as detailed and take as long as the two of you agree on. If, as the author, there are certain things you want your beta readers to look out for or think about you can give them a list of questions to answer. One tool for managing this I’ve seen online is BetaBooks. (I am not affiliated to this and I’ve never used it, but I have heard good feedback from other people using it.) Though who you ask to beta read for you is a personal question. Some people swear by friends and family, while others feel that would be the end of any relationship you had with them. If you’re not going to ask friends and family then you’ll need to find readers groups online and ask people there.
Critique partners are fellow writers and they often see an earlier draft so they can give you advice on the craft of what you’re writing. If you’re lucky you can a group that meets locally on a regular basis. Your library, NaNo regional groups, and meetup.com are all places to find one where you live. Otherwise there are a whole load of online critique groups. If you choose to go this route then take your time to look through them, compare costs and how each of them works. There’s a list of some options on TheWriteLife.com along with other suggestions for how you might find a critique partner.
The one I use is Critique Circle, though I’m not very active to be honest. This has a variety of levels of membership, including a free one. The basic idea is that you earn points by critiquing other people’s work, which you can then spend in order to post your own pieces for comment. I’ve been really impressed with the amount and level of feedback that I’ve got back on my work from this site.
Once you’ve got all the comments back you get to go through your work editing it again! You will probably find that you will get comments which disagree with each other, and that you disagree with. You need to look at all the comments dispassionately, so separate yourself from your work. These comments are to help you improve it, not a personal attack or a value judgement on your writing. You may need to take some time before you go through them, and that’s understandable. We’re all attached to our writing, and don’t like to see it criticised, but equally we want to make it as good as it can be before we publish it. For every comment you have the choice what to do about it, how and if you want to make any changes. I would advise you not to ignore all of them, but there is no requirement for you to make every single change everyone suggested. You need to weigh them up and use them to improve your work. Even if you don’t take their advice think about how you can make that aspect of your work better.
Whatever method you choose, another set of eyes (or more) on your work is really helpful to pick up the issues you’ve missed before your book is published.