For the longest time, I had no idea there was a difference between a critique partner (CP) and beta reader (BR) in the writing field. I figured it was all the same: someone who reads your story and gives feedback. But it turns out these two groups have a different way of approaching the story and giving feedback – and both are critical to the process of polishing your manuscript.
This week I want to look at those differences and why both kinds of readers are important.
First of all, the differences:
CPs are often writers themselves. They approach your manuscript from a technical standpoint and review it for things like plot inconsistencies, character development flaws, grammatical missteps, etc. This person is your partner in the craft and their role is to both encourage and guide you toward a better execution of the writing process.
BRs approach your story first and foremost as readers. They’re there to tell you if the story lags or loses their interest at some point, to tell you if they found the story enjoyable or not, easy or confusing, etc. Their purpose is not to tell you the technicalities of what’s wrong or to tell you how to fix it. They’re your “test group” of what broader publication might look like. Many people choose friends or family as beta readers because of this.
Why They’re Both Important
The balance between these two groups lies in the fact that you can have one OR the other and run the risk of having a story that falls flat in one area. You can have a story that’s technically well done in terms of structure, but lags and bores the reader. You can also have a story that’s pleasing in pace and tone but with plot holes galore (back before I had a CP, and only BRs, I was terrible in the latter!).
When you work with both CPs and BRs, it allows you the best chance to grow as a writer and provides your story the greatest opportunity to be its best self. Compiling feedback from the field and from those who share in your craft, you’re much more likely to catch flaws both large and small. This broad expanse of feedback is necessary to the technical and expansive success of your manuscript.
How to find CPs and BRs
As mentioned above, some people go to family and friends for beta reading. CPs are sometimes harder to come by, especially if you’re a solitary writer. I highly encourage you to join any number of social media networks including Twitter and Instagram and start growing your author platform. This will allow you to meet fellow writers and eventually, perhaps, someone with whom you can do a manuscript swap and become CPs.
Got a CP or BR already? Give a shout out in the comments below!
(This posted is dedicated to Atty and Chief, my amazing CPs, and my brother, my longest and best BR <3)