Kaaron Warren and I go way back. Kaaron has published over 70 short stories in about 20 years, has had three novels and three short story collections published. She is renowned for her horror writing, but if you read all of her work you will realise that she is a versatile writer able to write across many genres. Personally, I’m in awe of her ability to think and write outside the square and placing a very unique stamp on her work. You can find out more about Kaaron here.
1. How many beta readers do you have and how long have you used beta readers in your writing process?
I’ve used beta readers for as long as I’ve been writing stories. I wrote a novel at 14 and handed it out to trusted friends for feedback! These days, I have three or four readers for longer pieces, and often only one for a shorter piece.
2. In what ways do beta readers assist you in developing your novel for publication?
They identify plot flaws. Let you know if characters resonate with them. Tell you the logic flaws and the gaps in your research. Make suggestions for improvements in plot, naming and pacing.
3. Do all your beta readers pick up the same points?
Sometimes they do, and if so you know you probably should listen to them. Other times, they pick up small things, and rarely replicate these. I think this is because we all have different experiences in life, and we have different levels of knowledge as well.
4. Do you sometimes target your beta readers to particular areas based on the experience you had with them in the past? For example, one reader is good at plot holes, another reader is good at grammatical issues and another might be good at style. Or do you take what comes?
I take what comes. My three main readers are honest and direct, and none of them are writers. I look to them purely for the readers’ opinion and I think this works very well for me. They are all three instinctive story-tellers, though, because they will identify issues any long-term writer would pick up.
5. Do you always want the same thing from the beta reader for each novel? For example, when you have deadlines and only have time for high-level feedback?
Often they’ll see a very early draft, before deadlines are looming too hard. This helps me identify issues early in the piece, rather than later when the panic starts to hit
6. How hard is it to find a good beta reader?
It’s tricky. You have to respect the person’s opinion, and they have to have the time to give it to you! Not everyone agrees on what makes a good story, so you need to keep trying until you find someone who will give their opinion without trying to change what you’re doing.
7. Do you have any advice for readers who want to be beta readers or even editors in the long run? For example, what type of commentary to you prefer?
Be honest and direct, but not cruel. I hate sarcastic comments in the margins!
If it occurs to you, note it down, but with a question mark if you’re not sure.
Don’t try to take over the story, or change it to the way you would have written it, unless the story falls very badly and you can clearly see where it should feel. Keep yourself out of it.
If you really love something, make a note. There have been times these little notes have sustained me through the next draft, and they are an indicator of what works.
Thank you Kaaron for responding to the questions.