Sunday, January 24, 2010

Alpha, beta, whatever

Yesterday I finally discovered the difference between alpha readers and beta readers, thanks to the wonderful Natalie Whipple. I'd never even heard of beta readers till a few months ago, and since then I've heard nothing of the alphas. I've been vaguely curious, but not enough to actually ASK someone.

So, alpha readers = cheerleaders who read your writing as you go along. I don't think they have to be ACTUAL cheerleaders (although, why not? That could work too. Gimme a C! C!), but they have to enjoy your writing and know better than to nitpick and pick away at your confidence just when you need it most. That's not to say they can't be critical, they just have to be critical in the RIGHT way. And point out gaping plot holes and any wrong turnings before it's too late. I have an alpha. She's ace.

Beta readers = people who read your writing when it's done, perhaps when you've finished your first draft. Betas can be slightly more critical, more forensic in their approach to your work. And since they're reading the whole novel in its entirety, they'll provide you with a fairly good idea of whether the novel is made of awesome, or merely made of quite-good. (Let's just assume it's not made of bobbins.) Beta readers must be HONEST. My beta reader is the same as my alpha reader. She's a veritable Greek alphabet of readers, all wrapped up into one. I may or may not try and find a couple more beta readers to look at my current novel (which I'm a looooong way from finishing). We'll see. Anyhoo, I'm very pleased to have learned something this weekend!

Had lunch with my editor on Friday (holy moly I have an editor!). We discussed titles and covers. It was fun, and reassuring that we were both on the same wavelengh. I hope to be able to announce a title in the next week or so. Are you bored of me going on about titles yet? I kind of am. Sorry.


  1. Ooh a week or so until the big title announcement. That is very exciting! Never heard of alpha or betas but it all makes perfect sense.

  2. I like title discussion. (I also like hearing people discuss what to name their babies, maybe the two are related).

    I hadn't even thought of what an alpha reader was, but that's interesting. When people have read stuff I'm working on, I've always tried to encourage them to be more critical, but now I would reconsider that approach. More encouragement makes sense at that stage.

  3. I am so keen to know your title. And a bit more about your book. And to get the chance to name one of your characters...

  4. Becky and Keren- The title will probs be a huge letdown after all this faffing around!

    Lauren- You may well have a thicker skin than I do. If someone is super-critical WHILE I'm writing, I feel like throwing the whole thing (and myself probably) out the window. Maybe your readers weren't being critical because they LOVED your writing!