Wednesday 30 March 2016

(vol 3) CHAPTER 06 – “Beta Reading – What Is It Good For”


Working on a book, pouring your sweat and tears into every page, can be an epic story in its own right. And while I prattle on regularly throughout this blog with my ups (a few) and downs (a lot), I have recently had the privilege to cross paths with another author’s story.

Actually, there were three authors.


At the tail end of last year I was approached by Craig Anderson, author of the novella GETTING LUCKY, who asked if I would be interested in beta reading the follow up, LUCKY SHOT. Because I enjoyed the first of the ‘Lucky Beggar Trilogy’ so much (and because I couldn’t turn down early access!) I leapt at the chance to assist a fellow writer, especially one who has supported me since I stumbled into the world of Flash Fiction a couple of years ago.

Then, just as 2016 dawned, I received a similar message from Liz Hedgecock asking if I’d be interested in beta reading her collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, THE SECRET NOTEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Although I didn’t have any experience with Mr Holmes, literary or otherwise, I’d enjoyed helping Craig so much, and didn’t hesitate to lend Liz a hand.

And as if that wasn’t enough to be getting stuck into, a quick response to a twitter request meant that next on my list was ROKO’S  BASILISK, an intelligent sci-fi short story by Michael Blackbourn, author of the children’s book CINDERCAST.


And so it was. Spread out over those three months I spent several lunch breaks reading three great works of art, so different from one another, and yet each filled with a clear passion by their individual creators. And while I enjoyed reading them, I couldn’t forget that I had a job to do.

Now, I struggle with giving constructive feedback. On the occasions I’ve judged Flash Fiction contests, the part I find hardest is putting into words what it is I liked about each piece I choose as the winner. I know the one I like most, but it’s a gut feeling. Telling people why is tough. So putting into words the things I felt weren’t working, or what parts just needed slightly altering, was nothing short of daunting. As a writer I know how much effort goes into creating a story, and how difficult it can be to build up the courage and show your work to another pair of eyes.

It’s because of this that I knew I had to be respectful to the authors, three people whose writing and ideas I really enjoy.


I’m extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity by Craig, Liz, and Michael to assist them, to have early eyes on their precious commodities, and to be respected enough by each that my help was useful to them.

I hope I did a good job. I hope I didn’t offend. I hope that they’re proud of the work they produced.

Below are the links to each of the stories, as well as related works you might be interested in. I can attest that each project, from the Lucky beggar sequel, to the historical collection of short stories, to the brain bending sci-fi tour-de-force, is well worth your time. If you're stuck at a crossroads, undecided about what to read next, if you’re willing to try new things, and if you like the idea of supporting up and coming authors, then look no further than what is laid out below.

Also available: GETTING LUCKY

Also available: CINDERCAST


  1. It's worth noting that Brian was an excellent Beta reader! He provided really great feedback, both typos and errors but also regarding the plot and structure. His comments definately helped to shape Lucky Shot into a better story :)

    Thanks again for all your help Brian!