I just finished up beta reading a new steampunk book for a friend/fellow writer (things get muddled with writers, are other writers friends, co-workers, etc? How do you classify other writers?)
Anyway, it was a great experience for both of us, well at least it was for me, and I wanted to share some thoughts on the matter.
I’ve beta read a handful of books by now, and each one I’ve done has helped me understand the craft of writing better.
The first one I did was for an epic fantasy book; I believe the book itself was around 100K words. My critique ended up being around 16k words! I wasn’t very smart back then. I was basically doing a deep-dive edit into a full book. The type you would pay a content editor for, only I wasn’t a content editor.
I was relatively new to the critiquing scene, and I pretty much gave opinions on what I liked and didn’t like. The mushy romance stuff bothered me because I
didn’t understand the tropes, so I dinged it even though I really wasn’t qualified to do that.
Another one I beta read was another romance. It’s probably the New Adult market that I keep hearing about, in that the romance was mixed in with a lot of action. The action I got, the romance, yet again, I didn’t. In fact, I learned a lot from that book specifically because I think that book finally “clicked” with me as far as the fantasies of romance readers/writers. I’ve been a long-standing fantasy reader, plus I’m male, so I tend to be drawn to reading/writing action and adventure, where the hero not only saves the day but also gets the girl.
Female power fantasy archetypes are very different. For one the relationship tends to be the most important decision in the book. The world can crumble and fall around you, but as long as true love prevails, it’s all good. (Of course, I’m over-simplifying here, but hopefully you get my point—there are gender differences between genres.) Boy did I have a wake-up call with that book, but I learned a lot.
That one was well over 10K words for my critique if I remember correctly. I’m far too wordy.
I’ve also read a few others, but I got to this one with a far better understanding of genre tropes, story structure, and pacing. This one came in under 5K words. I was much more concise with my feedback, and I didn’t harp on the same thing over and over like I did in the previous critiques (I’m trying to get better).
Critiquing is a skill. You won’t be perfect at it right from the start. Keep practicing, and you’ll improve.