A lot of people will tell you not to listen to your friends and family when it comes to editing your fiction. The concern is that they don’t offer critical enough feedback.
There is a great episode of that show Shark Tank where a woman is pitching for capital for a product that is basically a clip-on strip of plastic that will hold post-it notes to a laptop. I think she plans on selling it for $10 a pop. All the investors think it’s a terrible idea. One of them says something along the lines of: “it’s really unfortunate no one in this woman’s family had the courage to stand up and tell her this product is total shit.” (You can watch the full clip here)
Fortunately my mother was blessed with great editorial instincts.
She’s not a writer, but she is a prolific reader. As such, she’s got a finely-honed gut instinct when it comes to what works and what doesn’t work in fiction. If she says it doesn’t work, she’s generally right about it. And what’s more she’s very honest with her opinions. As far as I’m concerned these are far more important qualities for a beta reader than writing experience.
It’s supremely important to have non-writers read your work. After all, most of the people who read your work are not going to be writers. If it doesn’t work for them it won’t work with any audience. Period. Even if you can somehow rationalize your manuscript’s shortcomings to your writing group. Let’s face it, most people in your writing group are probably hacks to begin with.
Whether it’s my mom or someone else, you need a beta reader (or beta readers) willing to give you the straight dope on your writing. The less these people have to do with writing themselves, either as professionals or hobbyists, the better.
The last thing you want is to end up as the post-it lady.