Tuesday, July 20, 2021

WHO LOVES TO READ? Seeking Your Beta Readers

For most of 2021, I've written a series on different types of writing support. I've shared about mentors, critique formats, and now for the fun part. Or the most excruciating.

Beta Readers

Just like with critiques, a beta reader can't be your best friend or a family member. Sure, let those people read your book, but don't call them beta readers. No, you're looking for people who love to read.

Beta readers have a discriminating eye. they'll see gaps in story, typos, and awkward sentence structures that were missed in all the critiques. They will tell you what you still need to do to garner an enthusiastic audience.

How do you find your beta readers?

Think about your wide circle of acquaintances. Who do you respect? Who likes to read? Who has a grasp of written language? Who won't worry about hurting your feelings? These are the people who will be honest about what works well in your story. And what doesn't.

Or you can pay a professional service. Fiverr.com comes to mind. They have beta reading services ranging from $300 to $8oo for a starting price. If you're an indie writer, I believe they're worth it. I am blessed that my agent does a developmental edit on my books. Not all of them do.

If you ask an acquaintance to be a beta reader, Jessica Conoley recommends that you offer the first ten pages to start. Let the person try it out. If their reaction is neutral to negative, it's your call if you want to ask them to continue. Be prepared for them to say no. Reading a whole book as a kindness to you is a sacrificial use of their time. But if they love those first ten pages, you can feel comfortable asking them to read the rest of the book.

I've sweetened the pot with my readers by letting them know they will be included in acknowledgments when my book is published. Amazing how everyone loves to see their name in lights! Or in this case, in print.

How can you guide your beta readers?

The best advice I received when handing my manuscript to a beta reader was to send along a questionnaire asking specific questions about the book. Keep in mind that the questions I asked were to middle grade students.Yours could be a little more refined.

  •     Did the story hold your attention? Why or why not?
  •     Which parts were most interesting? Which were not?
  •     Could you understand why the characters did the things they did ?
  •     Could you picture the setting in each scene?
  •     Were there moments when you didn't understand what was going on?
  •      Did you feel like anything was left out of the story? A question you had that never got answered?

Beta reading is a macro critique, so understand that some of your reader comments are personal opinions and may have nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Feel free to toss those kinds of comments out the window.

Most beta readers are eager to encourage you and will offer constructive comments. Delight in those individuals willing to read your whole book and offer an honest opinion.


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:






Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Late Night Inspiration

Many a late night finds me tuned into reruns of the television series “The Waltons,” after my husband retires for the day. As I settle in to finish—or begin—some household chore, writing assignment, or other task on my uncompleted to-do list, I automatically click 186 on the TV remote. As the depression-era family drama plays in the background, I listen with one ear to the saga of lives unfolding in simpler times. Within moments of the beginning of each episode, I can identify the story line and most often remember the conclusion because I’ve watched each episode countless times. When a network airs five episodes each night, seven days a week, and a person (me) has acquired the habit of staying up very late, you can imagine how quickly said person will cycle through the entirety of a series—even a long-running one such as “The Waltons.”

Photo courtesy of the Walton's Mountain Museum Facebook page 

What draws me to this particular television drama, apart from my night-owl tendencies? Very high on the list is that eldest son, John-Boy, is a writer. I admire his dedication to penning thoughts and happenings and feelings nightly in his journal. And in longhand on loose sheets of paper no less. In spite of his intense longing to write being misunderstood and even dismissed, he forges on with incredible determination. Way to go, John-Boy!

And of course, the fact that the series is based on a real family, on folks who actually lived in the place and time of the story’s setting, holds great appeal. I love, love, love true stories. I do cringe a bit when reminded that their name wasn’t actually Walton (rather Hamner), and they did not actually live in Walton’s Mountain, Virginia (rather Schulyer, Virginia). Those bits of information do attempt to interfere with my total immersion into the family saga. But I’ve powered through the sting enough to allow myself to dig into the real lives of the family who inspired the series. I may or may not mentally substitute the name Walton for Hamner when researching this Virginia family.

All of this talk about John-Boy and his family has renewed my interest in visiting the Walton’s Mountain Museum and other attractions dedicated to this beloved family. I wonder if John-Boy’s commitment to writing can be caught by those who glimpse his oh-so-familiar bedroom and the desk where he faithfully put to paper the family’s adventures? Anyone want to join me on a road trip??  

What about you? What writerly TV show character inspired you and why?

P.S. Can you spot who is missing from the family photo above? BONUS points if you know WHY this person is missing. Comment below!


Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.

 As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com.          


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Visit Hoosier Authors' Sites

As pandemic travel limitations are relaxed, many of us want to visit destinations that are close to home yet rich with opportunities to learn. We Hoosiers can see the homes and other historical sites of several Indiana authors who wrote Christian novels and “clean reads” that epitomize Christian ethical values. Here are three examples:

General Lew Wallace (1827-1905) was a son of David Wallace, the sixth governor of Indiana, and later served as a senator in the state legislature. Wallace distinguished himself as a Union officer in the Civil War, eventually rising to the rank of Adjutant General. 

President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him Governor of the New Mexico Territory in 1878 and President James Garfield appointed him ambassador to Turkey in 1881. He began writing as a diversion from his legal studies, and his best-known titles included Ben-Hur (1880) and The Prince of India (1893).   

The Lew Wallace Study and Museum is located at 200 Wallace Avenue in Crawfordsville and is open Tuesday through Saturday throughout the summer.

Gene Stratton Porter (1863-1924) was an early environmental activist whose books made people aware of the disappearing tracts of undeveloped land that were essentially the same as when Native Americans settled here two thousand years ago. Her best-selling title was A Girl of the Limberlost, set in the wetlands of north central Indiana. Eight of her books were made into motion pictures, so Porter began her own movie production company in Los Angeles. 

She used her royalties to purchase undeveloped tracts of land in Indiana, and she bequeathed two estates to the State of Indiana: A two-story, fourteen-room log home known as the Limberlost State Historical Site near Geneva and another large log home known as the Gene Stratton Porter State Historical Site on Sylvan Lake near Rome City. Both are open for public tours throughout the summer. Click on the links here for further information.

Lloyd C. Douglas (1877-1951) was a Lutheran minister born in Columbia City who wrote his first novel, Magnificent Obsession, at the age of fifty. His subsequent novels included The Robe (1942) and The Big Fisherman (1948), both of which became major motion pictures. 

As far as I can tell, none of his Indiana homes remain standing, but you will find a historical marker for Douglas’s birth at the corner of Main Street and North Street in Columbia City. His first pastorate (1903-1905) was at Zion Lutheran Church, 113 W. Main Street, North Manchester. Visit his online archive for samples of the articles he wrote while a pastor. Douglas began his fiction writing career two decades later.