Inspired by a recent post by someone who is an editorial reader. I'm a paid beta reader or content editor. Self published works are extremely eclectic, and I find it very challenging. I can't tell somebody that the book they spent a year of their life on is not fixable. My criticisms have to be constructive, honest, and gentle all at the same time. It's hard! Twice, I've told the writer that I couldn't finish the job because it needed too much work and I found it impossible or severely unpleasant to read. I hate having to do that. I see myself as a teacher, and I want to help people do what they love.

All that said, here are the top three problems I see the most, and sadly, they're also the most egregious errors.

  1. Bad pacing: At the extreme end, some people will write an action scene that only lasts for one paragraph, then describe a giant space ship in minute detail. Other people do it the other way around. Make sure your pacing has balance.
  2. Your characters are sociopaths: If you don't think through each character's emotions, just one scene can make them look like sociopaths. In one novel I read, a girl responds to someone being beaten and burned alive by turning to her friend and inquiring about their upcoming adventure. Others turn to the dark side, and that's part of the plot, but if they do it without enough struggle, they look like they always wanted to be evil anyway. It renders the story lifeless. Evil characters are only fun to read about if they are humanized. There's very little exception to this rule. Even Patrick Bateman was humanized by his materialism.
  3. No setting: Setting is different from just describing the room/place. It's hard to care about the amazing spaceship if the imagery doesn't have anything to do with the characters and vice versa.
Read:  Taking inspiration for story structure?

Hope this is helpful. Ask me anything.

PS I'm aware that the terms "beta reader" and "content editor" are not usually synonymous. I use the two terms as needed to help people understand why I get paid, unlike a lot of beta readers. I really do approach it as an editing job, but some people aren't clear on what content editing means, and they see it as something they probably can't afford.

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