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A common comment I get from beta readers is that they don’t know how to critique a manuscript. They oftentimes don’t know what kind of feedback to give, and sometimes this leads to frustration on their end and fruitless comments on the writer’s end. I’ve devised a questionnaire for my betas that I’ve found helpful for the beta reading process. I’m posting it below because I actually get requests from other writers to use it. Here it is for the taking. If you use this questionnaire, all I ask is that, in return, you follow my blog or follow me on Twitter @AliciaTubbs (or both).

A cautionary bit of advice for writers seeking beta feedback. Take it or leave it. Avoid the temptation to turn your beta readers into proofreaders. Even if the reader is–or claims to be–a grammar geek, do not let them line edit for you. Line edits add another layer of stress to the reading, which may make the reader wary of reading for you again in the future, even if the line editing was his/her idea in the first place. And you’ll probably end up changing the manuscript so vastly that the line edits will be pointless anyway.

You can ask for readers to point out general stylistic trends, like words that you tend to mix up or certain grammatical problems that you repeat, but I would highly advise against letting your betas take a red pen to your manuscript. Remember, the purpose of having beta readers is to gage how a general audience might react to your manuscript. If your grammar bothers your betas, then it’s up to you to read a style guide and fix it.

That being said, here’s my questionnaire. Happy reading to you and your betas:

Beta Reader Questionnaire

Instructions: Please read as much of the manuscript as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t finish it. Please don’t mark grammar issues, as this draft is not finalized. My only concern at this point is with the big issues, such as plot, characters, and setting. It would be a huge HELP if you could HONESTLY answer some or all of the questions below. Or simply use the questions below to guide any feedback you would like to give me. Reading the questions before you jump into the manuscript might be helpful to you, as the questions are based on the main concerns that I have about the manuscript right now. Thanks so much for your time and thoughts.

Pacing

At what point did you stop reading the manuscript and why?

Does each chapter propel you into the next or do you feel like you could put down the book without caring about what happens next? During which chapter(s) do you feel this way?

Does the story get too slow or seem to drag? When?

Do any moments feel rushed? Which?

Does each paragraph compel you to read the next or are there any roadblocks that would keep you from reading further?

Title

After reading the manuscript, or the portion you’ve decided to read, please tell me which title you feel is most appropriate for the book?

Hunt for the Invisibles
Have You Seen Gloria Rey?

Introduction

Did the first page of the story hook you? If not, why not?

Did the first chapter hook you? If not, why not?

Plot and logic

Where you confused about what was happening any point? When?

Does any event or situation seem implausible or illogical?

Do the actions seem appropriate for the characters, or do they seem to do illogical or age-inappropriate things? Specifically?

Are there any loose ends or sections that feel incomplete? What are they?

Are there any events that you don’t feel are plausible? What are the?

Audience

Does the story seem appropriate for children ages 10-11? Why or why not?

Is there any other age group or audience that this story might be fitting for? Which?

Characters

Do the main characters feel real, like you’d be able to have a conversation with them in real life? If not, referring to specific characters would be helpful.

Are the main characters unique, like would you be able to pick them out in a crowd, or do they seem generic? Referring to specific characters would be helpful.

Do the minor characters, such as teachers and policemen seem unique or distinct, or do they blur together? Referring to specific characters would be helpful.

Is Gloria a likeable protagonist? Do you care enough about her to keep reading her story? If not, please explain.

Dialog


Do the characters talk like real people, or do their conversations seem unnatural? When?

Does the dialog seem too packed with information at times? At which times?

Description

Can you picture what’s happening in the book or are there sections that are difficult to visualize? Which sections?

Can you feel what’s happening to the characters? Or are there times when you’re confused or unsure about what the characters are sensing/feeling? What moments?

Conclusion

Does the manuscript feel like it could stand on its own as a book (even though it’s part of a trilogy)?

What questions do you have at the end of the story? Do these questions, in your opinion, need to be resolved in book 1? If yes, why?

Does the ending leave you feeling satisfied or do you feel like the story is incomplete?

Style

Are there any blaring, repeated issues with the language, like repeated words or phrases? Words that I keep mixing up or misspelling? Please don’t point out specific occurrences. Simply let me know if you noticed such issues and summarize what they tend to be.

Are there any moments in which you feel like the way I’m writing takes you out of the story? Which?

Photo from
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/dec/31/free-books-secondary-schools

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