Thursday, May 28, 2020

A New Pair Of Eyes by Connie Berry

Fortunately, I've always had good eyesight. Now I use readers for anything less than about four feet from my face. But that's not what I'm talking about right now. What I'm talking about is the ability to see my own work objectively. That's where I need a new pair of eyes.

With the manuscript on my third Kate Hamilton mystery due to the publisher on July first, I'm deep into the revision and editing process. The problem is, I'm so familiar with the characters and the plot—even the words on the page—that I can't always see what needs to be fixed. Did I introduce a character without any context for those who haven't read previous books? Is there a plot hole I haven't plugged? Is my timeline off? Where am I missing punctuation or quotation marks? Where are the typos? If I could put my manuscript away for three months and then read it afresh, I'd probably catch some of the errors. Unfortunately I don't have three months.

Our brains are wonderfully complex processors of information. Two tasks they do very efficiently are filling in the blanks and correcting errors. Knowing what we intended, our brains auto-correct the mistakes our eyes see. Here's an example:

Ot deson’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod aepapr.

The reason you can read that sentence pretty easily is because our brains are code-cracking experts. Context is important—as well as the fact that we don't read letter by letter. Most people see whole words, and as long as the first and last letters are there, our brains figure it out. That's also why we may not catch our own errors. Our brains correct them automatically.

Thankfully, there are beta readers!

Beta readers are people who read manuscripts before they are published, pointing out errors and
suggesting improvements. I have three beta readers. Two are members of a critique group formed years ago. One is my dear friend and fellow WWK writer Grace Topping. I'm so grateful for the wise counsel and pertinent comments they give me. They see my work with fresh eyes.

If you're a beta reader, what are some of the things you look for in a manuscript?

If you're a writer, how have beta readers helped you?


  1. I beta read once in a while. Other than the obvious typos, I ask what the author is concerned about.

    I'm preoccupied with deep POV. I have two partials out for critiques and asked for help.

  2. Thank you, Connie, for your kind comments. It is always a pleasure getting to read your latest work--long before it goes to print. You always give me excellent feedback on my manuscripts.

  3. Beta readers and critique groups are essential! When I edit my own work, I always see what I intended to write, not what's actually there. And I'm always astounded at the awkwardness and errors other people find. It's much easier to find problems in someone else's work than it is in your own.

    It's also important to keep in mind that, while others are great at pointing out content areas where the story doesn't work, they are seldom good at actually fixing them. The author has to handle that part!

  4. Very important stuff here. One thing I do is have the computer or my Kindle read the manuscript aloud to me. That helps me catch some of my MANY errors.