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Thread: What do writers want from beta-readers?

  1. #26
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Big Boomer's Avatar
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    I have done beta-reading for folks and end up doing a mix of critiquing and editing etc. Some appreciate it, some don't. But I have a life outside my computer and some people want their work looked at like yesterday!!!!! Patience is the name of the game.

    And as for comments on another's work, it's not WHAT you say but HOW you say it!

  2. #27
    ******************** StandJustSo's Avatar
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    I sent a complete manuscript to someone who beta reads novels... she did a very good job, editing ruthlessly when she felt the work needed it. I didn't need grammar or spelling, or line by line editing; what I wanted overall was a frank assessment about the storyline and how it was presented.

    These are the things I asker her to look for and comment on:

    Were the characters believable and likable? Did she get caught up in the story and want to keep reading to see what happened next? Was she 'watching' the story or 'in' the story? Did the sequence of events make sense? Was there anything that jarred her eye when she was reading? And so on...

    I am now on the final draft of the novel, the one I intend to submit to publishers, and I have to say that the novel is much improved in a large part because of the beta reader I used. I don't plan to have her look it over a second time; I want her to be surprised when she finally has a copy of the book in her hands.

    If I were to beta read for someone, I would want to do it the way MY beta reader did for me; in fact, if I could establish a mutual Beta relationship with someone, that would be ideal.
    -SAN.

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  3. #28
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Yes, I quite agree with you, I wouldn't take on something that I didn't think would interest me, just the same as I wouldn't buy a book that didn't. I have most probably said this further up in the posting. I am the superbitch of crits. I've earned that reputation because I won't take any prisoners, not even for good friends on here. I'm honest about my tactlessness too, which means I get a huge amount of requests, so many that I had to take my beta-reading rules out of my signature. I now just offer my services to something I think would interest me when I see it on here.

    These were my golden rules for beta reading:

    1. I do not do fantasy, sci-fi, gay romances or gay erotica - ever.
    2. The writer has to think that the work is nearly ready to start querying agents before they ask me to beta read it. When I do this, I am looking for plot holes, story arcs, whether the characters are believable or not etc. I do not do this to do half of the work you should have already done - spelling and punctuation etc.
    3. I will only take on full manuscripts, no itsy bitsy parts and the odd chapter here and there, it's all or nothing.

    I consider myself lucky, I get to read some prime stuff; novels that I would actually go out and buy if they got published.

    Quote Originally Posted by dlparker View Post
    Re I beta-read an excellent crime story

    And you obviously enjoyed reading it. That's important.

    I think it's critical to match a beta reader's taste in reading with the author's work. And the level of reading they enjoy: simple, challenging, whatever.

    It's fine if folks want to read, say, Tolkien-inspired elvish fantasies. Or R. A. Salvatore style slash-and-bash sword-and-sorcery.

    But if that's what they like, they wouldn't be a good reader, for, say, something wildly different or much more difficult. Could I, for example, beta read James Joyce or Rushdie? No. Could I beta read erotica? I could, but I wouldn't want to, because it's not my thing in reading.

    So when I look for a suitable beta reader, I want to know what THEY read, and what they like. You can tell if you're a good fit there.







  4. #29
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Never mind.
    Last edited by Aeroud; 06-24-2009 at 08:18 PM. Reason: no time
    • "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." Gene Fowler

  5. #30
    Poet. Veteran. Comic Book Maker jst5150's Avatar
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    Teamwork mentality. Like it or not, the BR and the writer form a relationship. There's a generous amount of effort on the BR's end that compliments the generous effort that went into writing the manuscript. When the BR commits, then the writer must commit to that relationship and foster it. It's not two people bumping into each other randomly in an alley or aboard a cruise ship.

    Candor. If the words matter in the book, then they matter coming from the BR. They'd better be direct and have meaning.

    Maturity. There's a difference between a "focus group" and a beta read. In the focus group, I want to assess reactions from a specific demographic. In a beta read, I'm asking the BR to run a professional review of certain aspects of the manuscript. So, in short, someone with experience, savvy and guts is preferred.

    Knowledge. Opinions are one thing. Facts are another. If the BR is vehement about something, it better come with a reference or a footnote. It's not to say the BR should be a fount of knowledge. Rather, have the ability to acquire the knowledge and then tell me where to find it.

    Detailed feedback. "I don't know how you'd fix this" or "I don't like this" are OK, but I'd like more if I can get it. If those statements were followed with "but I might suggest this ..." and "but you might try this and this because of these reasons" then that's someone who I want as a BR. As a client, I'm seeking complete objective feedback. problems without solutions are not helpful to the process. Put more succinctly, "mo' thorough is mo' better."

    All that said, I'm seeking a beta reader. My post is in this forum.
    Last edited by jst5150; 06-23-2009 at 11:35 PM. Reason: Clarifying and agreeing
    “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -- Maxwell

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  6. #31
    is way off topic Dale Emery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jst5150 View Post
    Problem-solution mentality. "I don't know how you'd fix this" or "I don't like this" just aren't valid responses. If those statements were followed with "but I might suggest this ..." and "but you might try this and this because of these reasons" then that's someone who I want as a BR.
    I'm okay with "I don't know how you'd fix this." When I'm the writer, solving problems is my job. The reader's job is to identify them.

    My problem with "I don't like this" is not that it lacks a solution, but that it's vague and unactionable. I want beta readers to be as specific as they can about what they're responding to in the text, about how they are responding, and about how the text contributes to their response.

    If the reader is vague about those things, I don't know enough about the problem (if there is one) to fix it. In those cases, a proposed solution might help me to understand the problem they're raising.

    As a client, I'm seeking complete objective feedback.
    I don't believe there is such a thing as objective feedback. I treat all feedback as subjective. What I want is for the feedback to be specific and articulate. Point to an example of the problem on the page. Describe how you responded--what you were thinking or feeling. Describe (if you know) how what was on the page contributed to that thought or feeling.

    problems without solutions are not helpful to the process.
    If you insist that statements come with solutions, then you'll hear only about problems that the reader knows how to solve.

    Put more succinctly, "mo' thorough is mo' better."
    I agree, though I want thoroughness in describing the problem, not necessarily in offering solutions. If I understand the problem well enough, I can probably fix it. And if I can't fix it, I may welcome suggestions, but I don't want to make that the reader's job. A problem is a problem whether the reader knows how to fix it or not.

    Dale

  7. #32
    Poet. Veteran. Comic Book Maker jst5150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Emery View Post
    I'm okay with "I don't know how you'd fix this." When I'm the writer, solving problems is my job. The reader's job is to identify them.
    A reader, yes. A beta reader is on my staff, so to speak. They offer me their time and a report when concluded. I offer my manuscript and usually some compensation. So, my expectations rise. A "reader" is someone more from a focus group. From that, I want "I don't get this" or "WOW" From a beta reader, I just have a greater expectation of collaboration. So, a beta, to me, has a more hands on collaboration in the process, esp. if they're going to suggest changes to theme, character, pacing, plot or story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Emery View Post
    My problem with "I don't like this" is not that it lacks a solution, but that it's vague and unactionable. I want beta readers to be as specific as they can about what they're responding to in the text, about how they are responding, and about how the text contributes to their response.
    Should the BR be that specific and articulate, then the BR will probably end up assisting with the solution in the process. So, win-win.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Emery View Post
    If the reader is vague about those things, I don't know enough about the problem (if there is one) to fix it. In those cases, a proposed solution might help me to understand the problem they're raising.
    Agreed. I have one specific area right now that haunts me with this right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Emery View Post
    I don't believe there is such a thing as objective feedback. I treat all feedback as subjective. What I want is for the feedback to be specific and articulate. Point to an example of the problem on the page. Describe how you responded--what you were thinking or feeling. Describe (if you know) how what was on the page contributed to that thought or feeling.
    I believe I used 'objective' instead of 'subjective.' My bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Emery View Post
    If you insist that statements come with solutions, then you'll hear only about problems that the reader knows how to solve.
    To be clear, what I want to avoid are vagueries, so it is more of an insistance on clarity and function vs. Problem and solution. Notions just tossed out without construct. Not just "this is too long," but "This is too long and here's why." And you mentioned the same thing. So, something in the ballpark of problem-solution is fine. A thorough response might just be that.
    Last edited by jst5150; 06-23-2009 at 11:00 PM.
    “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -- Maxwell

    I write and draw a printed space opera/scifi comic book, "Vorpal": http://headshrinkerspress.com/vorpal

  8. #33
    is way off topic Dale Emery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jst5150 View Post
    A reader, yes. A beta reader is on my staff, so to speak. They offer me their time and a report when concluded. I offer my manuscript and usually some compensation. So, my expectations rise. A "reader" is someone more from a focus group. From that, I want "I don't get this" or "WOW" From a beta reader, I just have a greater expectation of collaboration. So, a beta, to me, has a more hands on collaboration in the process, esp. if they're going to suggest changes to theme, character, pacing, plot or story.
    Ah, I see that your idea of a beta reader differs from mine. Your view of a beta reader seems akin to an editor. I see beta readers as sophisticated and articulate readers. I think that explains the difference in what we want from them.

    Dale

  9. #34
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    I hate being told "Here's the problem. I'd fix it like this..."

    I'm the writer. You're the reader. If you tell me how to fix it and I follow along, it's your book, not mine.

    From a beta reader I want, "I didn't understand this part," or "Why does character X do this?" or "There's a continuity error here."

    You point out the problems, I fix 'em. That's my job.

  10. #35
    Poet. Veteran. Comic Book Maker jst5150's Avatar
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    A BR provides "a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public," based on the definition I just read. So, it's much like a software beta tester. Take it out, run the software through its paces and then come back with feedback. But an editor does that, too.

    I think we have the same idea, just different views on how to approach it, Dale.
    “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -- Maxwell

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  11. #36
    Poet. Veteran. Comic Book Maker jst5150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scarletpeaches View Post
    I hate being told "Here's the problem. I'd fix it like this..."

    I'm the writer. You're the reader. If you tell me how to fix it and I follow along, it's your book, not mine.

    From a beta reader I want, "I didn't understand this part," or "Why does character X do this?" or "There's a continuity error here."

    You point out the problems, I fix 'em. That's my job.
    So you don't like editors?

    Detailed feedback. That's all I'm asking. "This is great" or "This is awful" are fantastic generalizations. Specifics help me solve the problems. That's all I'm shooting for from a BR.
    “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -- Maxwell

    I write and draw a printed space opera/scifi comic book, "Vorpal": http://headshrinkerspress.com/vorpal

  12. #37
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    I never said I don't like editors.

    I don't like readers telling me how to write my book.

    What I want to hear is something like, "Why does Character X do such-and-such?"

    That tells me his motivations aren't clear. It's up to me how I clarify their motivations but at least now I know what the problem is. I know there's a difference between what's in my head and what's in the reader's.

  13. #38
    Poet. Veteran. Comic Book Maker jst5150's Avatar
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    All that said, when a beta takes the time to read and provide feedback, whatever is provided as the end game iss appreciated and well received my me.
    “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” -- Maxwell

    I write and draw a printed space opera/scifi comic book, "Vorpal": http://headshrinkerspress.com/vorpal

  14. #39
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    Which shows the need to set out what you want before the beta reader reads.

    For instance, when I send something to Lori, she asks, "What am I looking for?" Nine times out of ten I'll say, "Character motivation," or "What sort of mood is Character X in, in this scene?"

    I don't tell her what I'm aiming for; first, I want to know what effect my writing has on her. If I haven't conveyed my thoughts or ideas correctly, I make a note of that and sort it on the edits.

    There were a few chapters I sent to a man a while back with the question, "Does this work for you?" I know every man's different but I was writing from a male POV for the first time and wanted to know if my character's reactions could be true to life.

    When I have the whole edited version done, I plan to have 'before' and 'after' questions. (Anal? Me)? A list for the beta(s) to read and keep in mind while they're going through the novel, and another for them to read and answer when they've just finished the book.

    Quite what those questions will be I don't know. Depends on what I feel my weak and strong points are at that stage.

  15. #40
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    A beta reader is just that - a reader. They give up their time for free ( or at most a reciprocal look at their MS)

    If I were to pay them they'd be a professional and of course you expect more then. But for a beta reader, while there is an optimal amount of detail, any feedback is good.

    I've got a couple of good ones who are right on my wavelength, they see just where I'm going with the story / characters and they help me fine tune

    But sometimes someone who isn't on your wavelength is good too - because not all your readers will be.

    I agree with SP in some respects ( I really must stop doing that, it's getting un-nerving!)- if they say 'this doesn't work for me' or 'I hate that' and no more that's fine - I know it needs work ( unless it's just that they don't like melting eyeballs or something lol) and it's my work to do. Suggestions are nice and might kick start an idea of my own on how to fix it. But just knowing where / what the problems are is what betas are for

    Even with editors, they may not give you a specific solution. Just the problem they want addressed. So why expect that from someone who isn't getting paid and is, essentially, doing you a favour?




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  16. #41
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Never mind.
    Last edited by Aeroud; 06-24-2009 at 08:18 PM. Reason: no time
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  17. #42
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    For myself, when I think something isn't working, I'll tell the author it's not working, but it's not my job to tell them how to fix it. However, if I really like the story and the characters, I will make one or two suggestions. But as with every bit of advice in life, they can take it or leave it, it's no skin off my nose.

    I may not have all the answers to writer's works, but my inbox gets tons of requests from where other people have recommended me. I only ever take what I like the premise of, and if I've helped someone just one tiny bit, then that makes my beta-reading time worthwhile.







  18. #43
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Which member are you addressing?
    Plus you can always ask for a beta reader on the fprum, via a posting of your own, that way more people will see it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aeroud View Post
    I just posted a need for a BR or Partner. I know I have problems so please check my post and see if it might be something you would like to do.







  19. #44
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thank you. No time for this.
    Last edited by Aeroud; 06-24-2009 at 08:17 PM. Reason: no time.
    • "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." Gene Fowler

  20. #45
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Aeroud. Firstly, I've bought loads of how-to-write books over the years too, but besides Elements of style, I've never read any of them. To me, keeping on reading, writing, and editing is what makes someone a better writer, not reading all those how-to books.

    Secondly, I'm one of those people that has enough imagination that I don't need descriptions of everything to see a picture painted in words. I read film scripts in the same way I would a novel, and I'm also one of those people that won't complain if something is all tell and no show, however, when I'm beta-reading, I do slap the knuckles of my writers if they've done too much of this.

    Tell me what your actual story is about, if I think I'll like it, I'll take a look at it for you, okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aeroud View Post
    Any one that wants to. I had a partner and when she passed I found things very hard. I did get published, eventually, but it took me nearly three years to get the work into a publishable form and by the time that happened, I was so angry, my anger came out in the work and it did not present what I really wanted to say. Much of my problem is that I write scripts and I see things in black and white. It is very hard for me to describe the color that makes up a background or a characters stance when I can not see outside the blinders that I wear, due to my experience. I attend writer groups and read the how to books, but it seems to go in the eyeballs, and out the ears with me. I've come to know that I can no do this without the help of another or others. this all might be TMI and if it is I apologize.







  21. #46
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks but no.
    Last edited by Aeroud; 06-24-2009 at 08:16 PM. Reason: found what I need
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  22. #47
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samantha's_Song View Post
    Tell me what your actual story is about, if I think I'll like it, I'll take a look at it for you, okay.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aeroud View Post
    Thanks but no, I've put enough information out in posts in this area of this site. You're a reader, so read.
    Classy response to a generous offer.

  23. #48
    practical experience, FTW Sargentodiaz's Avatar
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    I just had a beta reader take the time to give me a detailed critique of my work.
    It was an awesomely eye-opening experience!!!!
    I was shown where, while the writing was sound, I did not take the extra step to keep my readers interested.

    While some of the comments hurt, it generally has given me a new insight of what needs to be done.

    Now, the hard part - taking the advice to see if the story will entertain a reader - and be marketable.

    Thanks, thanks, thanks to a very thoughtful Beta Reader!!!!!
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  24. #49
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Aeroud
    Thanks but no, I've put enough information out in posts in this area of this site. You're a reader, so read.







  25. #50
    Pulp & Fiction Fame<Infamy's Avatar
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    What I prefer is honest opinions about the plot and characterization. And if the readability gets really bad, I'd like that pointed out. But then I think I would rather do the editing like that mostly alone.
    Keep Austin Weird.

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