Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers to Help Them Help You

image by PourquoiPas

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising an early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in 30 days! —Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Learn more at the end of the post.

Definition of a Beta Reader

Beta readers review completed, unreleased manuscripts and provide the author helpful feedback concerning what works and what doesn’t.

Below are several questions to choose from to ask your two to five beta readers.

What May Not Work

Character issues: 

  • Was there a main character(s) you didn’t like? Who and why?
  • Did any main character seem flat or like a cliché? Who?
  • Did two characters sound too much alike in dialogue and mannerisms? Who?
  • Could you identify character growth in the protagonists? What was the growth?
  • Were protagonists’ main goals clear? What were their main goals?

Confusion:

image by GD
  • Were there scenes, paragraphs, sentences, or words you couldn’t understand what they conveyed? Where?
  • Did scenes leave you confused because vital information was missing or came too late? Which scenes?
  • Were there instances when you didn’t know who was talking? Where?
  • Were there scenes you didn’t immediately know whose point of view was used, where the characters were, or when the events were occurring? Which scenes?

Readability

  • Where were words used incorrectly?
  • Were there sentences you had to read twice or seemed odd? Where?
  • Did some areas not flow well? Where?

Conflicting information:

  • Were character or setting elements different in later scenes? (Eye color changes. The sectional in the living room later becomes a settee.) Where?
  • Did you spot unintentional reversals in dialogue or narrative? (Chapter 1: She loved walking through forests. Chapter 10: Her terror of forests prevented her from following Paul.) Where?

Inappropriate pacing:

Image by PublicDomainPictures
  • Were tense scenes or dialogue too slow? Where?
  • Were laid-back scenes or dialogue too fast? Where?
  • Where did the story sag?

Boring Areas

  • Were there passages that included too many explanations or unnecessary details? Where? 
  • Were there scenes or areas having nothing to do with moving the story forward. Where?

Insufficient world building:

  • The world may be different than Earth, but where did the world’s life system not make sense or was inconsistent?

Insufficient research:

  • Where did facts about places, things, or people seem questionable?

Setting issues: 

  • Were there places in which the characters seemed like they were in a vacuum?
  • Were there scenes in which characters don’t react to or sense their surroundings? Which scenes? 

Optional:

  • Were there grammar problems? Where? 

What works

Characters:

  • Did you have a favorite character? Why?
  • Were there moments when a character’s actions touched you? Where and how?
  • Did a character’s growth over the story reveal or affirm satisfying truths to you? Which characters and what were the truths?

Suspense:

  • Did you have unanswered questions in which you looked forward to learning the answers? What were your questions?
  • Were the revealed answers to your questions satisfying? Why? 

Ease in reading: 

  • Were there places you got caught up in the story? Where?

Ending:

  • Whether the book is part of a series or a stand-alone novel, did you find the ending satisfying? Why or why not?

Reactions:

  • Were there parts you particularly enjoyed? Where?
  • Were there places you laughed or felt tension, sadness, or joy? Where?
  • Was there something new you learned? What?

What other question would you ask a beta reader?

Buy Page

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

12 Tips to Edit a Story Draft into an Enjoyable Read

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.

I’m close to finishing a first draft. I’ve avoided editing, except fixes that made the plot work. I’ll edit the draft using the following tips.

Editing Tips

Tip 1 Writing to a word count can help with overwriting. In writing blog posts, my word-count goal is 500 words. It’s amazing how much better the post is when I hunt down wordy or unnecessary phrases and stick close to my goal. Same for a novel.

Tip 2 Don’t allow backstory in the first chapter. Do know your protagonist’s backstory. Do feed what’s necessary into other chapters. Do use backstory in how your character acts and reacts.

Tip 3 Get rid of repetition and explaining. Sometimes repetition comes in a different form but says the same thing. He shoveled in food, bite after bite. Explaining suggests readers aren’t smart enough to get it. He shoveled in food. He was hungry.

image by stevepb

Tip 4 Kill your darlings. You have a paragraph you think is clever. If you’re unsure it’s funny, something the character would say, or whether it’s melodramatic, cut your darling.

Tip 5  “Overwriting is a natural result of our own effort to figure out what’s happening in any given scene. Only after we have discovered the core truth can we know what truly belongs and what doesn’t, based on a clearer knowledge of what we’re trying to say and what the scene requires.” “The Too Long and Short of It” by David Corbett (Writer’s Digest September 2019)

Tip 6 Similar to Tip 5 but for the entire book. Understand your character’s past wounds, struggles, and values so you know how he’d react to events, people, and dialogue. Understand what you’re trying to say in your novel. With this knowledge, write a one-sentence theme for your story. Let this guide you so you don’t ramble.

Tip 7 Make sure every scene has purpose to the plot, characterization or the character’s growth arc. Otherwise, cut or change it.

image by KeithJJ

Tip 8 If you describe many body-part movements in a character’s actions, look for a single word. He tightened his fingers on the ball, pulled his arm back, and then threw the ball. Instead, He pitched the ball.

Tip 9 For all genres, add suspense to your scenes, i.e. create and hold back information the reader wants to know. End chapters with a hook or “cliff hanger” to draw readers to the next chapter.

Tip 10 Don’t explain dialogue. Dialogue itself should do the work. Write dialogue that‘s: necessary, unique to the character speaking, shows his emotion, and interesting. 

Tip 11 Don’t over describe characters or settings. Allow the reader to visualize with a few key “traits.”

Tip 12 Make sure your ending is satisfying to the reader. Wrap up all the subplots, except maybe one for the next book in a series. Don’t rush the ending. Make sure it’s plausible. Include a surprise or a reward the character receives, such as an understanding or something that relates to an item in the story. 

What in a novel do you dislike reading or skip over? 


Buy Link

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is TYFMI30D-Print-5.75x8.89.jpeg

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/


A Help to Write or Tailor the Manuscript on Your Heart

Today, I publish my 300th blog post. To celebrate, I share with you the major project I undertook to use many of my 300 blog posts. The project produced a resource soon to release that will help you write or get your manuscript in shape to publish. Below is the story about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days from the book’s back pages and what professionals in the publishing industry are saying about the book.

Story of the Project

Zoe M. McCarthy was an actuary in her first career, but she always held a passion to create stories. Determined to learn the route to publication, she attended writers’ conferences, joined a critique group, studied books and blogs on writing and the publishing world, and analyzed novels to find out what worked in them.

image by stevepb

When Zoe’s first contemporary romance contracted, her further research on publishing and marketing convinced her she needed to start a blog and post regularly. Because her analytical side gives Zoe a keen interest in the mechanics and methodologies of good writing, a how-to blog on writing appealed to her. In 2012 she began her blog.

After Zoe had published over one-hundred posts, an agent and a publishing house editor, suggested she write a book based on her blog. The idea interested Zoe, and she attended a workshop on the dos and don’ts for turning blog posts into a book. She wanted to share more than the information she’d accumulated. She desired to help writers with manuscripts who didn’t know how to get them ready for publication, writers whose manuscripts received rejections, writers whose self-published novels received poor reviews, and writers who wanted to write the stories on their hearts but needed help to put them to paper. Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30Days was born.

Endorsements for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days

image by geralt

Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

—Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising the early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly, writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in only 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightingeditingservices.com

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers.

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Celebrate my 300thblog with me and read how Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Dayswas born from my writing posts. Click to tweet.

Would you tell us about where the book laid on your heart stands in the publishing process—in your mind, in a draft under your bed, in search of a publisher, or in the world of published books?

Buy Link 

Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?