Questions for beta readers and critiquers

Old writing tools, old books and a tableHave you ever given your stories to critiquers or beta readers in the hopes of getting some good feedback?

If you’re like me, you’ll find that sometimes the feedback’s great – very specific, very detailed, and very useful.

Other times you’re lucky if you get anything useful at all.

Giving critiquers a specific set of questions will help you get better feedback.

Here’s a list you might want to use.

Overall

  • What do you think works well?
  • What do you think could be done better?
  • Am I providing enough information/backstory in this book?
  • Am I giving away too much information?
  • Does the it fit the ABCXYZ genre?
  • What would you say are the story’s main strengths?
  • Did it leave you thinking about:
    • The characters
    • The Story
    • The World
    • What might happen next?
  • Anything else?

Characters

  • Did you care enough about the characters to want to know what happens to them?
  • Who was your favourite character?
    • Why?
  • Who was your least favourite character?
    • Why?
  • Are there any characters you didn’t care about enough to be interested in what happens to them?
    • Why?
  • Could any of the characters be developed better?
    • How?
  • Did the characters’ motivations work for the story?
  • Are the characters distinct enough from each other?
  • Were the characters three dimensional?
  • Were the characters’ relationships clear?
    • Were they convincing?
    • Were they satisfying?
    • Were they believable?
  • Anything else?

Story and Structure

  • Was the story structure about right?
  • What could be done to improve the story’s structure, if anything?
  • Did anything stand out as being ‘out of place’?
  • Was anything confusing?
  • Was the beginning intriguing enough to keep you reading?
  • Was the ending satisfying enough?
  • Did the overall plot work?
  • Anything else?

Worldbuilding

  • Does anything about the world feel ‘out of place’?
  • Is anything missing?
  • Did you get drawn into this world?
  • Was anything about the world unclear?
  • Anything else?

Conflict and Threat

  • Is there enough conflict between the characters?
  • Is there enough conflict external to the characters?
  • Is there enough internal conflict (doubts, fears etc)?
  • Is the overall threat to the characters/world/character goals strong enough?
  • Does the conflict create enough tension?
  • Anything else?

Theme

  • What would you say the main theme is?
  • What other themes stood out?
  • What other theme(s) could be worked in or better developed?
    • Why?
  • What theme(s) failed to hit the mark?
    • Why?

Style

  • Is there too much exposition? Not enough?
  • Is there too much description? Not enough?
  • Did you want to skip over any sections?
  • Is the pacing about right?
    • Too fast?
    • Too slow?
  • Do the various story threads connect well enough?
  • Anything else?

Technique

  • Are there any consistent grammar or punctuation problems?
  • Are there any repetitive phrases or words that stand out in a bad way?
  • Any other bad habits?
  • Were there enough highs and lows in the story?
  • Was the action balanced with enough calm moments?

What other questions do you like to ask you beta readers and critique group?

You can find more posts on writing in the The Craft.

5 thoughts on “Questions for beta readers and critiquers

  1. Chris…A very thorough list and important points all reviewers should consider when commenting on another writer’s work. It is intimidating, however, to think all points should be remembered as a strict outline around which a review should be formulated. If one was to just be starting to comment on another writer’s work, it would be good to have a copy of this list front and center. But as more experience is gained and a feel for your own style of writing begins to develop, these points will come naturally and your review will be more spontaneous and will naturally include these items. The reviewers of the reviewer will be the sounding board to know if all is well with the review,. if you know what I mean. And cut down on the wordiness, something I should have done here..

    • I totally agree Schuyler. I’ve put novels through critique groups before, but haven’t asked the right questions and therefore haven’t gotten quite the level of feedback I was hoping for. This was my answer to that, although it’s a slightly modified list as some of the actual questions I were specific to the book. Either way, its only intended as a guide/help for critiquers. I’ll probably use them when I’m reviewing theirs unless they have other questions they’d rather have answered.

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: