Several months ago, I ran a post about what to look for in a critique partner. One of the points I’d made was to evaluate whether a potential critique partner was familiar with our genre. Only someone knowledgeable about our genre would know the expectations for pacing, character development, etc.
However, I recently had cause to wonder if the same held true for beta readers. Should we consider only beta readers who are familiar with our genre? Or should we include one or two non-genre readers in our beta pool?
Beta readers who don’t read our genre might not enjoy the story as much, which might taint their feedback. And they wouldn’t be able to give genre-specific feedback. But could they provide other things?
No matter what genre they read, a beta reader should be able to provide some valuable feedback:
- identify confusing sections;
- evaluate the pacing from a big picture perspective;
- look for too much telling versus showing;
- and find weak/missing character motivations, etc.
Most importantly, a beta reader who doesn’t love your genre can tell you what you definitely don’t need to worry about:
- maybe they hated the main character, but loved the voice;
- maybe the pacing and story kept them reading despite their “meh” feeling to the genre;
- maybe they liked some of the characters, but not others;
- maybe they connected to the main character so much they plowed through a plot they didn’t like;
- or maybe they liked the premise or overall plot.
Even if someone hates most of the story, they can tell us which parts did work for them. A beta reader outside our market who’s willing to figure out what parts they did enjoy could give us insight into what our strengths are.
And for the aspects that didn’t work for them, they might have ideas to help us. Yes, they might be way off the mark, just because they don’t understand the genre or the market. Or maybe the suggestions would work great because they are so far out of the box. Or maybe their ideas will spark other thoughts we can use.
Sometimes our harshest (i.e.: best) critics are going to be those who aren’t predisposed to love our story. They wouldn’t gloss over issues just because “that’s how it’s always done.” They could push us to go deeper with our story, adding more layers.
We know that not everyone is going to love our work. And yes, it’s more fun to get feedback from readers who love our stories. But we might learn even more about how to improve things by opening ourselves to feedback from those who don’t love it.
This process wouldn’t be about trying to change our story to make them like it. If we won a convert to the genre, that would be a bonus, but that shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, if we go in assuming that they’d dislike our story no matter what we do, we can listen for their completely blank-slate impression of our work.
We’re always trying to get distance from our work to be able to edit it properly. What better way to gain that distance than by finding a reader who won’t have any predispositions to anything we write. So while we would probably want most of our beta readers to read our genre, mixing in one or two who don’t might provide us a much broader view than we ever expected.
What do you think? Have you had betas from outside your genre read your work? Did you get any benefit from it? Are you willing to get feedback from someone who might hate your story? Would you be able to resist wanting to warp your story to make them like it?Pin It