That's what beta readers are for. They pat you on the back, tell you what a good job you did, and start pointing out all the places you really need to clean up before you offer your latest accomplishment for a "best baby of the year" competition. In short it's their job to make sure that you don't get so stuck on how perfect your child is that you overlook its hanging indents, weeping plot holes, and bastardized concept.
Here is a picture of your ideal beta reading team, though you can add more if you need to. Your team consists of:
The English Teacher
|"There were ducks," not "Their were ducks." How many times do I have to tell you?|
|Dude, you can't call it a Hitler-stache. Why? Your story's set in 1879, for starters...|
The Genre Lover
|A dismembered body under the bridge? Oh, Horror, you shouldn't have!|
The Non-Genre Reader
|Ugh, the leads are kissing? If I wanted to read a smut book that's what I would have bought.|
There are still people who will turn up their noses at a book that has even the barest whiff of a certain genre about it. If there's a mention of magic, a suggestion of romantic undertones, or if a murder scene is presented in a way that's a little too heavy on squick, these are the readers who will shut the cover and walk away. Not to be confused with the Literary Reader (a pretentious and dismissive breed in its own right), the Non-Genre Reader is your toughest competition. If you can make a Non-Genre Reader care about your story, then you've got something powerful.
|Yeah, but wouldn't it be cool if...|
Different Stories, Different Betas
It should be noted that some beta readers can fulfill multiple roles at once. Some Genre Lovers also possess the encyclopedic knowledge of Librarians, and some English Teachers may be Non-Genre Readers as well. Sometimes you'll need multiple betas in the same role, particularly if you need to call on the expertise of half a dozen different kinds of Librarian to get your facts straight. Generally speaking the more eyes that crawl over your story before you submit it, the cleaner and smoother it will be when you hand it to a publisher. Or try to sell it to the masses, whatever your preference happens to be.
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