The purpose of this article is to share some of my experience reading unpublished manuscripts and to provide some order to the process.
First, the terms:
A beta reader is a nonprofessional who reads the first or second draft of an unpublished manuscript.
An alpha reader does the same with an unfinished manuscript.
A proofreader is a professional who corrects syntax, spelling, and grammar.
A critique partner is a professional who assesses a manuscript’s substance and style.
For the past seven years, I’ve been reading and critiquing my friends’ unpublished, often unedited manuscripts. It’s grueling work—perusing a text for enjoyment and the author’s edification. But I do it because, well, I care about my friends. I want them to do well.