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Dear Beta Reader

If you are friends with a writer, then you may have been approached at some point to read that friend’s work, and give your advice/opinion on something they have written. This blog is for you. And if you haven’t had the opportunity to do this for a friend yet, but have this opportunity in the future, this is for you too. Print it out. Save it. Keep it somewhere safe. I promise your reader friend will love you for all time for it.

Dear Beta Reader,

Congratulations! You have been chosen to be part of something very special. Because of your intellect, good sense, good taste and loving heart, you have been selected to be a part of a very exclusive club: the Beta Reader club. Please know that you were hand picked to be a part of this very special group, and not everybody gets to be a member. Membership has its’ privileges (maybe a personalized thank you in that writer’s future novel), but it also has its’ responsibilities. Should you choose to continue on and decide to be an active member of this club, please follow the 4 simple rules below:

1. If you are given something to read, do it and do it soon. PRETTY PLEASE? There’s nothing more frightening and anxiety inducing for a writer than having their work in someone’s hands, and having to wait to get feedback. Silence is excruciating. Know that you have their baby in your hands, and the writer is waiting with bated breath to know whether you think their baby is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, or if it’s some hideous beast that needs another few months to incubate. If you can’t read their work in a timely and immediate manner, and give them notes promptly, politely pass on reading it at all and cite time constraints as the reason why. Believe me, the writer will thank you for it and your friendship can remain intact.

2. Try to be as specific as possible. Overall notes like “It’s good” can be just as damaging as “It sucks.” Remember that your good taste is what got you chosen in this coveted role to begin with, so the writer wants your opinions – specifically. Tell them exactly what spoke to you and what didn’t speak to you because that’s what the writer is looking for.

3. Be constructive about your notes. A note like “Your main character should be killed” really doesn’t help, and it’s not because it’s a negative note. This is a bad note because it doesn’t tell your reader WHY your character should be killed. Is it because they’re too vain? Too sad? Too pretty? Again, specifics are what help, whether they’re good or bad.

4. And if you can’t remember to do rules 2 or 3, just do rule number 1. Really. I can’t stress that rule enough.

I promise that if you follow the above rules, not only will you be doing a tremendous amount of good for your friend’s writing, but you’ll also be doing wonders for your friendship with them. Remember that your friend obviously has an enormous amount of respect for you to have chosen you to be a part of this very special journey. Do it kindly and do it with the above rules in mind. Please :)

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