Structure is one of the most important elements in a book. Problems in this area can cause an unstable foundation. Fixing these issues is paramount.
Some of the books I read have small issues that are easy to fix and others are more systemic. It is painful but going through a rewrite with these issues will make a much more solid book.
These questions usually spring up organically from beta-readers. Some of them I think are better for a second read through. You decide.
Disclaimer: All of the questions on this page are followed by “why”.
As a beta reader, if you have to re-read anything, point it out. Sometimes it’s a more technical problem and the awkward sentence isn’t glaring to a reader without writing experience.
Did you have to read anything a second time?
Was there anything that made you pause in the story?
Was there anything that was confusing in the writing itself?
Tense shifting is a real issue. Especially with first time writers (and long time writers like me). A reader won’t usually pick up on this unless it’s a glaring problem so it’s important that you check it yourself during a rewrite or edit.
Did you notice the tense change at all?
Were there any moments when you were confused about whether it was the past of present (for example)?
There are times reading when we aren’t sure who is talking. If a beta sees that they should definitely mention it as well.
What did you think of the dialogue?
Were there ever moments that you felt it was too long or you didn’t know what was going on in the conversation?
Does the dialogue further the story?
I call them Micro Holes because I like to make up words. You will see many made up words in my world. Micro Holes are small things like an item or element changing mid-story (this is incredibly common during the beta process).
For more information: Micro Holes in Your Book’s Universe
Did you have trouble picturing anything in the story? (Sometimes it’s a clue.)
Did anything move or change without any explanation in the story?
Was there anything in the world that felt out of place?
Another one that happens is when pronouns are left ambiguous. This isn’t usually a huge problem but worth noting. For example, “Who is he? I’m not sure which character you’re talking about.”
Did you ever feel confused about what a character is doing?
Did you ever wonder which character is being referred to in a scene?
Were there any gender changes in the story that didn’t make sense? (Sometimes people change the gender of their characters in the process)
The tone of narration is vital. This is a less technical problem but also a bigger problem. There have been times when it has been systemic and I’ve had to send the manuscript back. Usually I will request a rewrite before I give the manuscript another read.
What do you think of the narration?
Do you ever feel like the tone changes?
Were there ever moments when the narration didn’t feel quite right?
Point of View
I read a story once where it went from third person to first person mid-story and it wasn’t stylistic. The first half was third and the second half was first. Another time, POV changed frequently and sometimes within the same chapter. It was jarring and made me wonder if I was in a strange land of second person. This can be a small or a big problem.
I’m using stark examples here instead of hybrids because that gets more complicated. A reader knows it when they see this problem though. Choosing POV is vital to a story but once you choose, my advice is to stick to it. If you change your mind in the middle make sure you go back and rewrite the beginning. (This isn’t for all cases, I’m sure, but I’ve never actually seen it work in these extreme examples)
Did you notice the narration change dramatically anywhere?
Were there ever moments when you got confused about what was going on? Or who was telling the story?
Macro Holes (AKA Plot Holes, Loop Holes, and Technical Holes)
Some stories will have big holes. If a beta catches a loop hole or some issue with the magic. Or maybe a plot hole is huge like a dead character that comes back to life with no explanation. I need to write a post on this one sometime 🙂 I don’t usually have to send a manuscript back for rewrite in this instance.
Did you notice any issues with the plot? Anything that didn’t make sense?
Were there any loop holes in the story that stuck out?
Was there anytime when the magic/technology didn’t make sense?
Did anything in the world seem like a convenient turn of events?
Did you have an issue believing anything that was happening in the world?
Occasionally writers will write a scene that drags on or stops too abruptly. These issues aren’t huge but it does effect readability.
Do you like the pacing of the story?
Were there any scenes that were too short/long?
Did you find yourself skimming anything?
Recently, I wrote a flashback that seemed to come out of nowhere for my husband when he read my manuscript. This same phenomenon has happened to me when reading. Transitioning issues come in many forms. These questions are just some examples.
Were there any scenes that didn’t transition well?
Did you ever feel like there was a gap in time that didn’t make sense for you?
Was anything out of “left field”?
Did you have any moments where you didn’t know what was going on until you read further? (Was this intended for the writer?)
How did you feel about the transition from A to B?
Anything weird with the chapter breaks?
This is the fourth installment of my Questions for Beta Reading Series. If this isn’t quite what you are looking for check out my other Questions posts:
If there are any question types that you want help finding questions for, feel free to let me know!