The New Writer's Guide to Working With Beta Readers


Nothing improves the quality of your writing like a little objective feedback.

Sure, a few well-honed self-editing skills can go a long way toward helping you craft incredible stories. But at the end of the day, you’re simply too close to your work to truly revise and refine it to be the best that it can be. This is where a second pair of eyes (or many seconds) can come in handy, specifically in the form of beta readers.

I recently worked with beta readers for the first time to seek feedback on my upcoming book Build Your Best Writing Life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I’m now excited to share what I learned from that experience in a new two-part series here on the blog, beginning with today’s post answering the most common questions about working with beta readers:

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How Introverts Can Thrive in The Online Writing Community

The online writing community can provide a world of support and encouragement in your writing journey.

But socializing and networking with fellow writers can be a daunting task, even for chatty extroverts. As a writer who leans more toward introversion, I’ve had to learn how to engage in the online writing community in a way that is comfortable to me — but that also but pushes me out of my comfort zone in a healthy way.

Today, I’d love to share with you, my fellow introverted writers, how I’ve made the most of engaging online…

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Are You At The Helm Of Your Writing Success?


When you decide to be an author, you will encounter strangers, people you consider friends, and even family who will — with the best intentions — gasp, “you should focus on your kids” or “that ship has sailed.” I’m here to tell you that ship, your ship, is docked in the harbor. It only needs three things to get you to the write destination: a captain, a fierce wind, and a push.

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Five Tips for Landing Your First Short Story Publication

One thing I love about being an online creator is connecting with fellow writers producing incredible work.

One such writer is Mandy Wallace, a blogger and writing mentor whose resources at Write or Die never fail to leave me feeling encouraged and inspired. Earlier this week, Mandy published Landing Your First Publication, a short story writing prompt and publication strategy guide for writers who refuse to rely on luck.

When Mandy offered to send me an advanced reader copy of the book to review, I jumped at the opportunity — and I’m so glad I did. Landing Your First Publication is a beautiful and insightful resource for any writer looking to stop wishing and start making their publication dreams come true.

Today, I’d love to share five key submission tips I gleaned from this incredible resource:

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Seven Tips for Writers Living With Depression

There are so many things in a writer’s life that can make finishing a novel difficult. For writers living with depression, this is especially true.

Depression can make your focus cloudy, make you feel apathetic toward things you care about, make it feel impossible to get out of bed, and altogether make your writing aspirations seem like pipe dreams. Even if writing is something you enjoy, depression can make it a miserable task, which can whittle away at your desire to do it at all. I should know. I’ve lived with depression since I was eight years old and was eventually diagnosed at fourteen.

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How to Craft Compelling Character Backstories

Part of crafting characters involves exploring their history. 

Just as your lived experiences have shaped the person you are today, a character’s backstory has the power to provide depth and understanding to their characterization. It can even lend context to the conflicts taking place in your present story. Without that history, your character’s attitudes and actions have little foundation on which to stand.

But crafting a rich and compelling character backstory is far from simple. What elements should you consider when weaving your character’s history? Better yet, how do you translate that history onto the page without bogging down your story? Let’s answer both of these questions and more in today’s article…

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How New Writers Can Conquer Six Common Creative Struggles

Beginning your journey as a writer is challenging.

We’ve all faced obstacles in our writing lives — whether it’s rejection, self-doubt, criticism, or something else. We’ve all thought, “What if my novel just isn’t good enough?”. When we read great books with complex characters and fantastic plot arcs — books so engrossing we can’t put them down — we compare our novels to those amazing books. “Why would someone read my story when that author’s book is so much better?”

But that’s the thing. If you look at those authors, they’ve been writing for what — ten years? Now they have a publishing contract, an editor, beta readers, and others to support them in their work. But when they first started writing, they had the same doubts and fears. They all faced struggle. Today, let’s tackle those doubts, fears and struggles head on.

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How to Write Effective Flashback Scenes

Flashbacks are some of the most difficult scenes to write.

When effective, flashback scenes relay vital backstory that cuts straight to the emotional core of a narrative. They exist because they must, because there is no better way to reveal the information on which the story hinges. But like the infamous prologue, flashback scenes are all too easy to get wrong. 

An ineffective flashback will jar readers out of a story as quickly as a successful one will grip them by the heartstrings. How can you ensure your own flashbacks serve a powerful purpose within your stories? Let’s discuss…

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How To Write Flash Fiction (and why you should!)

What is flash fiction, and why should you write it? I’ll tell you. But first, can I ask a question?

Are you reading this blog post on your phone? I’d bet money your answer is yes. Most of us spend more time pointing our noses at screens than buried in books or magazines. Rather than fight this, the modern writer should ask, “How do I best take advantage of this medium?” (A question that would likely horrify Ray Bradbury, God rest his soul.)

Content abounds on the internet, and when readers’ options are limitless, it stands to reason that shorter content has a better chance of being read. As fledgling writers, we want to get our names out there, right? That’s why the short, impactful form of flash fiction is an optimal way to showcase our writing chops to casual readers.

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Eight Things to Cut or Reconsider When Editing Fiction

I often say the magic of writing happens in revision. 

When you revise, you transform a lumpy first draft into a powerful and cohesive story, cutting filler, strengthening the narrative, and shoring up your story’s foundations. As you edit, that same magic manifests in your prose, helping you transform weak and clumsy writing into an irresistible read.

In last week’s article, I shared an overview of how you can strengthen your prose at every step in the writing process, from drafting to revising and editing. Today, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. As you work to tighten your prose during edits, here are eight things in your manuscript to cut or reconsider…

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Five Tips For Finding Writing Motivation

You can only call yourself a writer if you actually write, right?

Often, we writers have the best intentions to make time for our practices, but those plans fall through. Day jobs, family, social lives, and making dinner have all been known to make us go from thinking “I’m going to write today!” to “Maybe tomorrow…”

So, how do you make sure you actually sit down to write instead of continually postponing it?

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How Fiction Writers Can Improve The Quality of Their Prose

Most fiction writers come to the page with a passion for either language or storytelling.

My own strengths lie in the latter. I love mapping plots arcs, developing characters, and crafting fictional worlds. Yet for me, translating those story elements onto the page has always felt like pulling teeth. I simply don’t have a natural knack for prose, which is why I’ve spent the past several years working hard to improve the quality of my writing.

If you’d like to do the same, today’s article is for you. In this mega-guide, I’m sharing each specific element of prose you should consider at every step in the writing process, breaking down the overwhelm of learning to write wonderfully readable prose so you can work to level up your writing skills with confidence. Shall we begin?

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How to Overcome The Fear of Submitting Your Fiction

So, you’re fearful of putting your writing out there into the world…

Well, you’re not alone. Every writer experiences anxiety about letting other people read their work. Every writer fears rejection and criticism. Today, I’d like to help you overcome these fears by sharing insights gained from my own submission experience.

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How to Find Your Writing Rhythm Using The Snowball Effect

So there you sit. Again. Be it electronic or physical paper, the anxiety-inducing blank page stares back at you for the umpteenth time.

You’ve read plenty of articles explaining that most writers deal with this same situation all the time. All you need to do is push through the writer’s block, right? So you sit and sit and sit, waiting for inspiration to strike. Only it doesn’t. The longer you wait, the more frustrated you become. Finally you walk away, vowing to “try again tomorrow with a clear head.”

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Why I Set & Quit a Hundred-Book Reading Challenge


“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” — Stephen King

I’ve always been a reader, but in my early adulthood, my reading habit waned. Between demanding coursework and a struggle against depression, I rarely reached for the hobby that had entertained, encouraged, and inspired me throughout my youth. This all changed several years after I began writing.

I was disappointed in my progress and the quality of my skills when I stumbled upon this quote from Stephen King. Like a lightning bolt, realization struck. How could write phenomenal novels if I wasn’t reading them? 

In the months to come, I challenged myself to cull my mindless television consumption, a habit I’d picked up to distract me from the darkest days of my depression, and to replace those hours with reading. In the first year, I read 24 books. In the second, 35. That number continued to increase until my reading habit plateaued around 80 books a year. 

That’s no stack to scoff at, certainly. But I’ve always been one to strive for grander heights, which is why I challenged myself to read one hundred books in 2019. Now, five months and 35 books later, I’m calling it quits. Why? Well, that’s a complex question to answer, one that’s steeped in reflecting upon how I define my self-worth as a creative…

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Five Simple Tips for Conquering Creative Burnout

You’re excited about your novel idea. You want to write it, and you know you should be working on it, but life keeps getting in the way. When you do have time to write, you find yourself too physically and mentally exhausted. Burnt out to a crisp.

No matter where you are in life, you likely balance so many commitments that coming home to stare at a computer screen after a long day of school or work can seem like just another chore. Taking a break feels counterintuitive. Doesn’t that make the problem worse? How can taking a break from your passion prove refreshing?

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How To Structure Compelling Scenes

Every phenomenal story unfolds in a series of scenes. 

If each scene in a book is a link in a chain, one weak link can threaten the overall power of a story. By learning how to craft better, more compelling scenes — scenes that are irresistible in their interest and emotional pull — we learn how to craft better, more compelling stories. But what exactly makes for a spellbinding, well-structured scene?

To answer that question, we must first ask another...

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Seven Tips for Submitting Your Fiction For Publication

Over the past two years, I’ve been working towards turning my obsession with writing into a serious business.

During that time, I’ve developed several strategies and techniques that may benefit other writers, particularly new or emerging writers who haven’t yet developed writing systems of their own. Are you eager to get serious about your writing business as well? You can use the following strategies together or separately to increase both your confidence and word count:

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Feel like you're falling behind in your writing life?


As someone who blogs about writing fiction, I’m often asked about the fiction I write. 
How are your projects coming along? What kind of stories do you write? Are you published yet? Where can I find your books online? 

I’m always honored and encouraged when someone expresses interest in my work, but I’ll be honest: as a sort of public writing figure, I often feel a lot of pressure to excel in my personal storytelling, and that pressure can weigh heavy. When confronted with the fact that I haven’t yet published my work, that pressure compounds until I fear that I’m falling behind in my writing life.

This is a reality that I’ve dealt with for years, but now I’m gratified to realize that all the hard work I’ve put into owning my slow and steady approach to the craft has helped me build confidence in my creative journey. If, for any reason, you’ve also wondered whether you’re failing to live up to your creative potential, I’d like to share some of the hard truths I’ve learned with you today.

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