Awhile back a friend asked me if I would be a beta reader for his fantasy novel. He had started it during NaNoWriMo and now wanted to revise it, just for himself, he said. I had never been a bata reader and was delighted to give it a go. He sent it electronically and I was able to put it on my Kindle.
He didn't really want editing kind of comments, like here's typo/missing word, etc. That was good because reading on the kindle, there's nowhere to write margin notes. Anyway, I decided I would read just like I read any book and see what happens.
The most amazing thing about his novel was that after a sort of poky start with the characters seemingly trying to find who they were and the story staying firmly on the page, the story suddenly leaped to life about a quarter of the way through. The characters were alive, the scene was three-dimensional, the action lively. The rest of the book was like this -- alive, pulling me into the world of these characters full of flaws, goals, and personality. So that was the main piece of feedback I gave him. I believe he got the same feedback from other readers because he began a rewrite immediately. He also told me that the rewrite will contain a character who is me! The character won't have my name, he said, buy I will know. I'm looking forward to reading the finished book, which he is now thinking of publishing. Writing takes up on a journey, and we end up in interesting places we didn't expect.
Now another acquaintance has asked me to be a beta reader! This time it's a mystery. This author's main question is "is my main character (the detective) likable?" I'm about to start reading his book.
Since I've been reading for friends a concern I have is, what if the book is awful? I don't want to crush the writer, but he is asking for honest feedback. The plan is the same plan I use with students, find something positive to discuss first, then put the problems areas in a growth mindset way. Obviously, they want to improve their writing or they wouldn't have asked.
Someday I hope it will be my turn to ask them to be a beta reader for me!