The life of a writer is pretty solitary, both by design and necessity. While you may find yourself in the neighborhood coffee shop a few days a week just for a change of pace, being a writer can be lonely and quiet.
Well-meaning as they are, your friends and family don’t understand the nuance between conflict and crisis. Try as they might, they can’t relate to the complexity of creating a consistent voice. And, heaven help them, they’ll never get the agony of choosing between traditional and self-publishing.
Have you ever gotten to a point in your story where something just doesn’t sound right, but you can’t figure it out? You don’t want to ask your friends and family for their opinion because, let’s be honest, they’ll just say it sounds great to avoid hurting your feelings (even when you know it doesn’t).
Writers understand other writers. They understand what it’s like to fall in love with a character, to struggle with dialogue, and to build entire worlds from scratch. These are your people. You need an environment where you can talk to fellow writers who struggle in the same areas you do. Those people can also help pull you from the mire of despair when the going gets tough, and they’ll motivate you to write those last thousand words.
So, what is a beta reader? Beta readers can help catch common, easy to fix mistakes such as detail inconsistencies, that you’ll most likely miss after having read over the manuscript 300 times. Often the most important thing beta readers can offer is the indication that something is wrong. They may not know how to fix it or may not offer the right suggestion, but they’ll alert you to the fact that X isn’t working.