10 Questions to ask your beta readers

When reading other people’s writing to give feedback – for example at our All-genre Feedback Evenings – having a few questions in mind can help guide you towards giving superior feedback. Asking a few questions that you would like beta readers to focus on can help guide them towards giving you the information you need to continue to improve your work.

Here are ten questions you can ask your beta readers in order to get really good feedback.

General Questions

1. Who were your most/least favourite characters and why?

During the editing process it is most helpful to know which characters resonated with readers. A reader loving or hating a character are both equally good – unless they love the villain and hate the hero which might indicate something is wrong.

2. Which three things “worked” best for you?

Knowing what parts of your writing are strong can help you avoid over editing parts that are already working. Help your writer friends out by letting them know where the strengths of their writing can be found.

3. Which three things “worked” least for you?

While negative feedback is unpleasant, as writers knowing the areas that are weakest (and thus in need of our further attention) is actually extremely useful information.

In many ways, these one question can be the most useful feedback you can give a writer.

Overall Impression Questions

Sometimes getting an idea of the overall impression your story has left with others can help you identify how well you hit the high points you were aiming for with your story. For example, was it exciting when you wanted romance or did you intend for excitement.

4. Does the story deliver on the promise made by the opening scenes?

All stories are, in many ways about the promise they make and the way that promise is delivered. Knowing how well your readers feel you have kept up your end of the bargain is helpful for making the final version truly engaging.

5. Did you want to keep reading?

In an ideal world, every extract that your readers preview will leave them begging to see the rest of the story. The answer you get to this question can guide you as to how compelling the writing.

Next time someone reads part of your work, enquire if they wanted to keep reading. If they tell you yes, you are on the right track and if they say no, wither the story was not for them or you simply have more work to do.

6. What emotions, if any, did the story elicit?

This is an often overlooked question. However, the emotional response that your story draws out from readers can be a fantastic guide as to what the readers are connecting with.

Hopefully, the emotions that your story elicits are the ones that you were aiming for. Still, it is better to know than to be in any doubt.

Story Telling Questions

7. Do any sections take you out of the story (“hang-up” points)

The parts of the story where people tend to want to stop are, on the whole, parts that need further work. Asking readers to highlight these and they will show you the parts of your work that are not of the same standard as the rest.

8. Is it clear what is going on fairly soon after the start?

After so much writing and rewriting, you know exactly what is going on but can your readers figure it out?

It is worth asking your readers how quickly they came to understand what was happening and why.

9. Are the descriptions vivid?

You may think so but do your readers also feel that your descriptive passages bring the scene to life?

This is an area where we writers can fail in one of two ways – too little or too much description. How your readers answer this question can help you get a feel for how well you have hit the sweet spot of just the right amount of description.

10. Does the location feel real?

Vividness is one thing but does that vividness feel like a real place?

Our aim as writers is that all our readers will come away from reading your work with the idea that the setting is a real place that they could actually visit. In an ideal world, not only would they feel it was real – they would feel like they have already been there.

Which questions would you ask?

Thanet Creative have crafted a series of question sheets that can be attached to excerpts for feedback after reading. There are available at most of our events.

Which questions would you ask your readers?

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