A big part of editing for a lot of authors especially those who are self-publishing is Beta Reading. The act of giving your manuscript to readers to gain their opinions and ensure the story is the best it can be. This can be a good idea but it can also lead to terrible outcomes. Imagine having six beta readers working on your story without direction. They each read it and supply you with sheets of corrections they think you should make. In some cases, you'll find two or three readers want you to change the same aspect into three different ways. I've been in this position. There's nothing worse than realizing the only way you can make those beta readers happy is by having six different versions of the same story. The solution is simple, you must keep your beta readers confined to certain questions. In that way, it becomes much easier to utilize what they have to say about your story. And doesn't leave you feeling like you're facing up to six different editors. Below is a basic questionnaire you can copy to help you get started. Feel free to add specific questions relating to your story as well. Beta Questionnaire Opening: 1. Were the first paragraphs and first page compelling? Did they make you want to keep reading? If not, what was the problem? 2. Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, what’s going on, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, what were you confused about at the beginning? 3. Did the story continue to hold your interest through the first few chapters? Or is there a point where your interest started to lag? Characters: 1. Were there characters that needed development or focus? 2. Could you relate to the main character? Did you feel her/his pain, joy, fears, worry, excitement? 3. Which characters did you connect to and like? (Or love to hate?) 4. Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likable? 5. Could the bad guy(s) be nastier or more interesting? How? 6. Did you get confused about who’s who in the characters? Are there too many characters to keep track of? Are any of the names or characters too similar? 7. Did the main characters have chemistry and did their relationship make sense? 8. Which side characters are you curious to know more about after reading this installment? Dialogue: Did the dialogue sound natural to you? If not, whose dialogue did you think sounded artificial and why? Setting: 1. Were you able to visualize where and when the story is taking place? 2. Did the setting pull you in, and did the descriptions seem vivid and real to you? Plot, Pacing, Scenes: 1. Was the story interesting to you? Did it drag in parts? Where? 2. Which scenes/paragraphs/lines did you really like? 3. Which parts were exciting and should be elaborated on, with more details? 4. Which parts bored you and should be compressed or even deleted? 5. What parts did you dislike or not like as much? 6. Was there anything that confused, frustrated, or annoyed you? 7. What parts resonated with you and/or moved you emotionally? 8. Did you understand every phrase/term I used? If not, which ones? 9. Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, plot, etc.? Visual: 1. Can you SEE every action clearly? 2. If you went there in real life, would you recognize the places? If not, elaborate. 3. Did you have to reread any part of the ACTION SEQUENCES to understand who was doing what? List any issues lines/paragraphs that didn’t make sense and required a re-read. 4. Could you SEE what the characters looked like clearly? If not, who? Writing Style/Tone/Voice: Do you think the writing style fits the story and genre? If not, why not? Ending: 1. Was the ending satisfying? 2. Was the ending believable? Grammar, spelling, punctuation: While you were reading, did you notice any obvious, repeating grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or capitalization errors? Notes: In your opinion, what are the main strengths of the story? The main weaknesses of the story? Anything additional you want to add? Happy Editing!