It Takes a Village of Writers

Group of Multiethnic People Around the World. Image from

… to create a book.

This week, I asked my fellow bloggers, “How many people read your books before you submit them? What kind of feedback do you ask for?”

Normally, I ask at least two other people to “beta read” my stories. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a person who takes your book for a “test read” is often referred to as a beta reader. This is similar to a critique partner, but the purpose is slightly different. While a critique partner usually reads small chunks of your manuscript as it’s being written and looks for technical issues like spelling, grammar, and punctuation as well as inconsistencies (especially if he or she has read previous segments of the work), a beta reader’s purpose is to provide an overall reaction. They might answer basic questions such as, “Does the story work for you?” “Are the characters likable?” “What kind of vibe do you get from this?” “What parts of the story need more emphasis or explanation?”

I’m very fortunate to belong to a couple of very active writing groups. One is specifically for romance authors, and the members are spread out across lower Michigan. The other is a local group, and our members write in several different genres. I’m also a member of several online writer groups: one for authors of historical romance, one for seasoned romance (in which the protagonists are at least what we used to call “middle aged”), and a few for author promo support. Thanks to this large pool of authors, I’m never at a loss for people to ask when I need help brainstorming, or want someone to read a chapter or two. I feel that I’m part of a wonderful “village” of writers. But there are very few I would entrust with my entire manuscript before submitting to a publisher. 

Until a few years ago, my youngest daughter read every one of my manuscripts before I submitted. Since her degree is in technical writing, I knew I could count on her to spot errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but since she’s well-read in fiction, she was also good at pointing out plot holes, inconsistencies, and giving me an honest critique. However, since she graduated from college and started her career, she has less time for this and I’ve had to rely on friends and online acquaintances. I try to engage the assistance of people who are knowledgeable about the geographical area and/or historical time period of the story. For my regency historical romances, I usually ask one of my British author friends for help.

For Whittled Promises, my most recent short story, I sent the story to two authors who were both members of my regional romance group. The story I was ready to submit was a traditional historical romance, and both of these authors were quite familiar with the genre. In addition, both were somewhat familiar with the story, because they’d helped me brainstorm certain plot points when we’d met (virtually) for write-ins. So they basically acted as both critiquers as well as beta readers. Both of these ladies provided thoughtful feedback, and the story was much stronger when I submitted it.

Right now, I’m frantically trying to complete a novella that should have been completed in early July, read by beta readers and submitted in August. But life got in the way, between having to arrange our move by myself and caring for my husband. I’m hoping to finish it in the next few days, and then I’ll probably send it in and hope for the best. I’ve had my write-in friends go over the synopsis and approve it, so I’m pretty sure the story line will pass muster. But I have the sinking feeling that there will be other parts of the story that will need work, because I didn’t take the time to share it with others in my village. 

Do you share your manuscript with others before submitting? If so, how many pairs of eyes read it?

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
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5 Responses to It Takes a Village of Writers

  1. You are doing well, Patty. Really, you are. Life has its challenges and throws you curve balls.Falling behind a bit is not a big deal.You have already accomplished a lot and you will do more.You can’t stress. (Been there, done that.)
    You are very fortunate to have people who know what they are doing and will give you serious and supportive help. They will still be there. Do what you need to do and don’t wear yourself out; they will still be there.


  2. Jeff Salter says:

    Sounds like you have an excellent network of potential beta readers… and enough flexibility to shift to Beta “C” and Beta “D” if Betas “A” & “B” are busy at that point.
    Wonderful that you had the daughter who was able and willing to read your work (and had expertise in the technical aspects as well as being a reader in those genres). Sorry that her current season no longer had time to carve out for that assistance.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Yes, I really enjoy having a large network. I try to reciprocate when I can. My daughter is still helpful in that she helps me word things so that my characters don’t all sound like Midwestern Grandmas. But I do miss her input on the final product.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elaine Cantrell says:

    You’re lucky to have those groups to turn to. That’s a valuable resource.


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