So, I’ve been doing the writing thing for a good few years now and I’ve become pretty agnostic on the topic of beta readers for checking structure and character arcs, etc.
Beta readers were immensely helpful when I first started writing, but on the last couple of projects, I’ve been able to predict what they would say before they said it. I’ve mostly been using them to test if problems really are problems, or if I’m just overthinking it.
I’ve learned that I’m never overthinking it. And when I trust that instinct, there’s little left to correct.
But there is another reason, beyond structure and characterisation, why I use beta readers for my writing.
When I’m writing a character who belongs to a minority group that I am not a part of, I have someone from that group beta.
My most recent novel, Love/Hate, has an ensemble cast mostly made up of PoC and LGBTQ+ folks. And the beta process has been long and lengthy to make sure that my trans, aromantic, ADHD, mixed race, etc. characters were accurately portrayed.
For the second Freya Snow book, I will probably run it by a wheelchair user, because I introduce one in the book.
Even when it comes to writing autistic characters, I can speak to my own experience of autism, but when I write beyond that (like in Love/Hate), I like to have a couple of other autistic people look at it to make sure that my internalised ableism didn’t get the best of me.
So, allistic writer, even if you read every one of my blog posts, and ask me and other autism blogs specific questions about your characters, and you know autistic people irl, chances are that you will still slip-up.
Editors probably won’t catch these slip-ups if they’re also allistic. Your book could end up praised by critics and selling well in book shops and still be offensive.
Have an autistic person (or, better yet, a couple of us!) look through your work and mnake sure it’s okay. It’s the best way to avoid messing up.
L.C. Mawson’s novel Hunt is available now.
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