Sample Beta Reading Report
The Story of John and Carol
By First Time Author
(Note: This sample report provides a conceptual view of what I provide as a beta reader. It is shorter than most and only covers a few possible points.)
Every beta reading report begins with the following paragraphs.
My report offers a blunt perspective as someone who loves to read almost as much as he loves to write. I read about 150 full-length novels a year, beta read about 25, and work on three to four books at a time while freelance writing for a living. I’ve been writing since third grade. In the forty years since high school, I have read at least three books a week. Sometimes as many as eight or nine.
Never would I deliberately insult another writer. To provide feedback that didn’t fully describe what I found or only stated what I liked would indeed be an insult and a waste of your time and money. Please accept both praise and constructive criticism as a chance to further improve your manuscript for a professional editor prior to publishing or submitting to agents or publishers.
If you have any questions, please ask within a day or two. Tonight, I will start another book and finish it before bed or perhaps tomorrow. A constant stream of new material results in a fleeting memory.
This Beta Reader Report includes, to borrow a phrase, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. A sugar-coated report won’t do you any good at all. I’ve included all these items for the express purpose of helping you polish your manuscript before publication.
Immediate Reaction (The Story of John and Carol)
In spite of the female protagonist’s one dimensional and rug-like character in the beginning, the story grabbed my interest and held it with an original and compelling story line: evil antagonists, good protagonists. The story kept me turning pages. It took me four hours and twenty minutes to read your 92,000 + word manuscript.
Boy meets girl. She hates him at first, but his winning smile and charming personality gradually win her over while they face adversity and danger.
Point of View
First person point of view from the perspective of a single character, the male protagonist. No obvious instances of God-like omniscience or hopping into another character’s head. The point of view was well done and didn’t rely on “I” more than it should.
Early on, the female protagonist appears more wooden than real. She needs more personality of her own and less of the guy who wants to win her heart. Let her speak up when something doesn’t make her happy. Obviously, she is not a rug to walk over, yet sometimes the lead character does exactly that.
For example, in Chapter 3, John decides to drive Carol home, but she is furious with him for kissing her in front of her best friend’s mother at the church ice-cream social, moments after she told him not to kiss her at church. John sees the anger on her face and in her body language as she pushes him away, but Carol makes no argument and already had a ride home with Alexia. In the car, she makes amicable conversation when she’d like to haul off and kick him where it counts two or three times. At least, that is what her best friend told him.
Even though she stays angry, she goes along with everything he says or wants to do. This flaw continues for too long.
Overall, a good pace. It keeps the reader interested without leading them to skim through boring info dumps or repeated flashbacks. The story develops over a steady arc. The tension reaches a peak at the right time, then resolves at the end.
Sometimes, the dialog is too much like conversation. Bring characters together in the narrative. They will greet each other. The reader knows this. No need for hello, how are you, I’m fine. Put that in the narrative if it’s really necessary. Save the good to see you, see you soon, until next time for the narrative that follows dialog. Dialog. Not conversation.
Overall, disregarding the excess that is conversation and not dialog, there is a good mix of dialog and narrative. It felt right and read easy.
I had no trouble falling into the suspension of reality that captivates readers. Everything felt like it could have happened. Only one part didn’t fit—Carol's lack of personality, in the beginning, doesn’t coalesce with the feisty and passionate character who stands alongside her partner and falls in love with him in the process.
Plot Holes and Inconsistencies
Remember in Chapter 7 when Carol told John that her friend Alexia had gotten pregnant by Tony and was expecting a boy? Why then was she so surprised in Chapter 12 when Alexia gave birth to a boy and not a girl?
As for the plot itself, it followed very well. Just that one minor issue with Alexia and her baby. Carol’s lack of personality in the beginning could be considered inconsistent, but you can address her character development and resolve that issue.
‘Because’ and ‘since’ have two different meanings. In dialog, it’s okay to mix them up because that is how people talk. In narrative, keep them separate.
- Since refers to a previous time. “Ever since she kissed John, no one else would kiss her.” From this, we know that no other guy would kiss Carol starting on the day he kissed her in the church basement at the ice cream social.
- Because gives a reason. When Alexia asked Carol why Steve would not kiss her, Carol replied that it was because John had kissed her.
As mentioned previously, you have a good hook that pulled me in and kept me reading. I did enjoy reading and stayed with it from start to finish in a single sitting. The manuscript read easily, at least for me, and I found it interesting. The lack of long pages of drudgery added to my enjoyment. One of those 'less is more' things. I liked the style, especially because you did not overuse I as so many first person writers do. They popped just often enough to keep me looking through John’s eyes.
I disliked Carol’s wooden character at the beginning. She needs more personality.
John is without a doubt, both a rogue and a knight in shining armor. Easy to see both sides of him, I just wish we could see the real Carol before we get to the middle.
The romantic scene at the end where Carol turns around and there is John on one knee with a diamond glittering in the moonlight came off perfectly. I loved it. Thanks for closing the bedroom door before it got steamy. Just wasn’t needed and I didn’t miss it. Others may disagree.
Most memorable moment—Warren has John by the throat and is literally squeezing the life out of him. In the last moment before John loses consciousness, Warren’s eyes bug out and then he crumples to the floor gasping in pain.
From the text: “Everything went black, but I heard Carol say, ‘Go ahead, laugh at my boots.’ Who knows how long I blacked out... Then Carol’s concerned voice demanding I wake up as her face swam into focus. A guy in a uniform taking my pulse. EMTs putting Warren on a gurney. I was alive. And of course, she was mad at me.”
So perfect because no one wears work boots with her sundress and many would have laughed at her. She did use them to good effect, however, and Warren will probably never procreate, which is also good. (This is the Carol readers will love. We need her sooner.)
Author’s Requested Focus
Q: How did you feel about the lack of any love scenes, especially at the end?
A: It wasn’t necessary at all and would not have contributed to the story. You did allude to one at the end where it fits. By then, I wanted them in love, together forever and making love for all the right reasons. A perfect end.
Very good for a near-final draft.
Fix the minor stuff. It isn’t that much. The dialog needs minimal work to cut out the ‘conversational fluff’ and a few instances where ‘because’ and ‘since’ could be fixed. That and give Carol more personality up front. It shouldn’t take much work. Send it to a pro editor and then start pitching.
On my five-point scale, I gave this story a 4.7.