Since I'm here, I decided I might as well write a post about the fantabulous thing that is Beta Readers, and why I attach so many positive adjectives to them...
1. Obviously: They are fresh eyes when you can't see straight anymore. When your novel becomes like staring in the mirror for too long--more and more tiny flaws emerging every second and swelling to unreal proportions in your sight--they are clear, readerly heads. They find mistakes you failed to catch, they tell you about problems you weren't quite able/ready to see on your own, and they reassure you that, yes, this IS a story, not just an overgrown blob of word-mush. (Because honestly, you couldn't tell anymore.)
2. They make you accountable to people. Suddenly deadlines become real. <--click for cheesier version of that statement
3. They make you accountable to READERS. After finding beta readers, part of me has written for them. I want them to enjoy it. I want them to be entertained--even if they are being saintly and reading a new draft of the same old book. It makes the fact that writing is created for an audience oh-so-deliciously-real.
4. They simulate, in a gentle practice-environment, the suspense of querying: the agonizing silence, the rejection, and the ego boosts. And, let's face it, the aspiring writer lives for the occasional ego boost that is dropped from the sky.
5. They force you to come out of that shell. No more hiding from the fact that you're an aspiring author. Because you told people, and you even let them see your book. They KNOW.
6. They help you practice interacting professionally as a writer. I think hard about how I compose emails to my betas. I aim for informative, organized, friendly, and gracious--humorous if at all possible--but not annoying, controlling, or overbearing. It's a tricky balance. You also learn what to do when people don't respond.
7. They help you learn to weigh feedback. If you found good beta readers, all of them will have opinions, and some of them will have strong opinions. What's more, some of these opinions will perfectly contradict each other! You have to discern which feedback you should take to heart, and which you should respectfully leave on the response sheet. Some will teach you things indirectly: "The solution Beta3 proposes is inconsistent with my intentions for the story, but the fact that she's trying to provide a solution here points to a larger problem." From what I understand, learning to use feedback is a valuable skill--from working with an editor to surviving those inevitable nasty reviews.
8. They're also great practice in showing appreciation without being creepy.
Have you experienced the benefits of beta readers? Did I forget anything?