This past week, one of my beta readers finished reading my manuscript. She gave me a lot of great feedback, but once she had finished, I found there were still many aspects of the work that I wanted to ask her about. The more questions I asked, the more valuable feedback I received; the more we discussed it, the more I uncovered problems with the MS that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
This is why I think it’s important to have a few questions prepared to guide your readers when they give feedback. If they give generic, vague responses like “It was good” or “I liked it,” that’s not going to be very useful to you. By asking questions, you can dig a little deeper and uncover the real issues with your MS that need to be addressed.
Of course, it’s important not to overwhelm the reader with too many questions. Remember that your beta reader is doing you a favor, and providing quality feedback takes time. If you’re afraid you’re asking too much, let them know that they can pick and choose which questions to answer and ignore the rest. Have them select the questions that are most relevant. Alternatively, if you’re working with a larger number of beta readers, split your questions up and send a few to each beta.
The following is a list of questions I’ve compiled based on my own experience working with beta readers and critique partners. Not all of these questions may be relevant for every project, but I hope they get you thinking about what you might want to ask your own readers. This list is mostly geared toward beta readers, but some of these questions may also be useful for anyone who’s providing feedback.
So, without further ado, here is the list:
- Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning?
- Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?
- Was there ever a chapter/scene/moment when you wanted to stop reading? At what point did you first stop reading?
- Was there a point where you felt less excited about finding out what would happen next?
- Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep your interest?
- Was there any plot point or development that you found too predictable? Did you predict the ending?
- Did you find the main character compelling?
- Which characters did you connect to most? Which did you connect to least?
- Could you feel the main character’s emotions? What resonated most with you?
- Did you understand all of the character’s motivations? Were their actions and thoughts understandable?
- Which characters need more development or focus?
- Did you ever get confused about which character was which? Are any names or characters too similar? Were there ever too many characters to keep track of?
- Did the setting pull you in, and/or seem vivid and real to you?
- Did you ever need more detail to picture a scene? Did any scenes feel too bogged down in detail or description?
- Did you find the story believable? Were there holes in the story?
- Did anything feel clichéd?
- Was there anything that confused or frustrated you?
- Did the dialogue sound natural to you? Was there any particular character whose dialogue sounded artificial?
- Was the ending satisfying? Is there anything you’re still wondering about? Is there anything you wished would happen that didn’t?
- What scenes/paragraphs/lines did you really like? What scenes/paragraphs/lines didn’t you like?
- What made you laugh or cry?
- Did you notice any inconsistencies in characters, setting, plot details, timelines, etc.?
- Did you notice any repetitive words or phrases? How about repetitive grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors?
- What category and genre do you think this is?
- If you picked this book up at a bookstore, would you read the next book in this series? Would you read more from this author? If you were reviewing this book, what rating would you give it and why?
What do you think? What kinds of questions do you ask your beta readers? What else should be on the list? Let me know in the comments!
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