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#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop 15 Critical Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers

Happy blog hop day, everyone! I hope that your writing has been both fun and inspired. While I missed last month's hop, I have been in the thick of what will (hopefully) be my final round of revisions before querying my current novel. Hooray!

In case you missed my video recapping my first beta reader experience, my novel has undergone a couple of major changes these past few months due to the feedback I received. It was an incredible learning opportunity for me. I truly believe that, thanks to my beta readers, I was able to resolve issues that would almost certainly have come back to bite me during the querying process. Whether I was saved from agent rejections remains to be seen, however, through this process I learned things about my writing and this story specifically, that I would not have otherwise. And for this reason, I highly recommend reaching out to beta readers before considering querying agents.

That being said, I wanted to gather my thoughts into a post that could be useful to other writers in a similar position. After reviewing the feedback I received, I put together a list of questions that I feel are highly beneficial in understanding the weaknesses of your current draft. Some of them may be a bit scary and put you in a vulnerable position. It's a tough day for a writer when someone tells you, "I just didn't like it." (Not to mention that this type of feedback is also vague and unhelpful.)

The questions I've listed below are designed to get the most out of your beta reader experience, to get to the heart of the "why" so you hopefully receive constructive and enlightening feedback. It's important to keep in mind that at the end of the day, understanding the sections of your story that need improvement is going to make the difference between a good story and a great one.

Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers:

  1. Does the story grab you from the first page?
  2. Do you feel the story begins in the right place?
  3. Can you sympathize with the main character(s)? If not, why?
  4. Are the protagonist's objectives and motivations clearly defined? Do you understand why they must achieve their goal?
  5. Does the setting feel real, can you picture it?
  6. Is the conflict believable? If not, why not?
  7. Are the stakes high enough to keep you invested in what happens?
  8. Are the characters different enough with unique personalities, traits, and voices?
  9. Were you invested in the relationships between the characters?
  10. At any point, did you want to put the book down? Where exactly?
  11. Did the pacing feel too rushed or too slow in any sections? 
  12. Did the dialogue seem realistic?
  13. Who are your favorite and least favorite characters and why?
  14. Do you feel that the story ended where it needed to? Are you left with any questions or confusion or are you satisfied with the resolution?
  15. Did you enjoy this story? If not, why?

Did I miss any important questions? Have you worked with beta readers in the past and did you find the experience helpful or traumatizing? ;p Let me know in the comments!

This post is part of the June 2020 Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. Be sure to check out the rest of the awesome bloggers here!

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  1. Excellent questions! I do a lot of beta reading, and so often I'm not provided with questions for focus. I'll hang on to these for reference!

    1. Thank you! I'm so happy you found it useful. :)

  2. Congratulations on almost being ready for a round of querying! And what a great list of beta reader questions. I like how the questions don't have literary jargon that might confuse non-authors.

    1. Thank you, Raimey! I do some instructional writing for my day job, so I appreciate you saying that. :)

  3. Great list of questions! It took me a failed round with beta readers to know they need the guidance of questions like these in order to give the author the kind of feedback that is most useful. I didn't know this the first time out and my feedback was things like "this is good" and "I liked it." The next time I used a list of specific questions and I think everyone got more out of it. For writing suspense, I'm also asking at what point they felt sure they knew who the villain was and were they correct in the end.

    1. Thank you, Lori! I know exactly what you mean. While this was my first time working with betas, I previously had some family members read my work and had the same experience. That is a great question to ask for a suspense novel! I imagine it's fun to see how they answer, too. :)

  4. I like the questions, but I'd be tempted to revise some of them to be more open ended. For example, "what did you think of the dialogue" or "how did you feel about the ending?"
    These could work as follow up questions, but as "the initial questions" I just wonder if they "create too much of a premise" in the reader's mind that "there is something wrong with the ending" and "this is what it is."

    Then again, I imagine a lot depends on the reader themselves.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Ah, I see what you're saying. That's a fair point! I guess it does depend on the reader, if they're more inclined to look for issues or not. I create test case scenarios in my day job for users to follow to test software and I definitely come across both types!

  5. Great questions! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great post! The questions are spot on: I’m going to steal them!

    1. Thank you, Kerry! :) By all means! I'm thrilled you find them useful.

  7. Powerful post! I will definitely be using some of these questions when I finally finish my current draft. I am moving so slow though. I wish I could take a month off work and finish it :)

    Question 2 is my favorite.


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