Rachel Lapidow, Copy Editor

Critiquing and Beta Reading


A sampling of issues I will note while beta reading your book:
• Plot holes
• Confusing or underdeveloped character motivations
• Pacing issues
• Language that fails to evoke the intended emotion
• Character dialogue that falls flat or sounds too similar to another character’s
• Lack of descriptions (this can include the reader not knowing where characters are in a room or what a person or space looks like)
• Repeated instances of obvious spelling or grammatical errors (example, consistently using “there” when you meant to write “their”). I will only point these errors out, I will not edit them.
• Hard to understand terminology, jargon, or technical language
• Sections that may be deemed offensive by some readers

I will make your book a priority AND I won’t be giving you only a few paragraphs worth of comments on the last page. Expect to see about two comments per page. For a recent science fiction book that I read, I left 1,097 comments for 530 pages. The author wrote me this after I read the first half of her book:
“Rachel -- Wow. Scanned your 500+ comments, and they look consistently thoughtful and altogether spot-on. I'm beyond impressed. Really, truly--thank you [. . .] For now, just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the top-quality perspective you've provided. It's a commendable effort and will be invaluable in getting [my book] from passable to publishable.”

I will make myself available to you via email or text chatting during the process of beta reading. If you want me to give you each chapter as I finish it, I will do so. If you prefer for me to hand you the entire book at once, then I’ll do that. A lot of authors appreciate being able to ask me questions or ask for my opinion.

If a particular section of your book perplexes me, my comments won’t simply read “This is confusing.” Instead, I will explain why it is unclear and what you could do to fix this issue. Here I will be going beyond beta reading and do a bit of developmental editing. Developmental editing, as Jennifer Lawler, an EFA instructor, puts it, “. . . works at the big-picture level and asks the higher-level questions—not ‘Is this comma in the right place?’ but ‘Does the novel do what it’s supposed to do?’”

Please note that beta reading is not editing or proofreading. While I will point out obvious spelling and grammatical errors, I will not be reading the copy specifically to look for errors. It’s also important to know that I am an honest and frank critique. If your book has issues (and nearly all books do), I will tell you about them and offer solutions for how you can fix them. Honest, helpful feedback can be difficult to get from your friends and family.