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Thread: What if your Beta experience did not go as planned?

  1. #1
    In Search of the Throne of Stars Ralph Pines's Avatar
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    Cool What if your Beta experience did not go as planned?

    I had my first Beta a few months back and only two people responded. Others begged off due to other responsibilities (life gets in the way) and one fell silent and never responded.

    Does that mean my writing is so horrible people don't dare comment? Or did I do something wrong in the Beta process?

    Share your not so great Beta experiences here.
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  2. #2
    I'm a sparkly fairy princess! bettielee's Avatar
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    I gave two people my first novel. These were friends, one of whom had read many short stories and like them.

    Never heard from either of them. Not so much as a stiff fart in my direction. I work with one of these ladies and the other is a daughter of a friend.

    Didn't write for 2 years after that.


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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW wannawrite's Avatar
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    I have a pretty thick skin. I don't think I'm writing 'the next great thing' so I don't get too shook when people tell me that my writing didn't exactly move them to tears. *shrugs* Even so, I am careful about who I let beta me. You can put a lot of strain on a relationship if it does not go well.
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  4. #4
    Still alive. Kind of. caromora's Avatar
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    I think that's pretty par for the course. Every open call I've put out for beta readers has been similar--a couple people will come through, some will back out, and others will just never get back to you. It could be because your writing/story is something the person isn't interested in. It's hard to do a close reading of a story you're not enjoying. Or it could just be that something came up.

    For me, I do a LOT of beta reading and critiquing, plus I edit professionally. The stuff I don't get paid for is pretty low on my list of priorities, and I have a tendency to put it off or even forget about it if the person doesn't email to remind me. It's nothing personal.

  5. #5
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    I've flaked out as a beta reader. I feel guilty about it, but it's no reflection on the author - in one case I didn't even open the document.

    Real life piled up. It happens. It's not about you.

  6. #6
    Five by Five katiemac's Avatar
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    And this is one reason I suggest beta readers and authors are very clear about things up front - like an estimated time to get back to you, or the kind of feedback style - but sometimes it just plain doesn't work out.

    Find another beta, and set up some loose ground rules before you send out the manuscript so you're not wasting each other's time.

  7. #7
    Beware of the Thorns! Gray Rose's Avatar
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    Sometime in 2007, I posted an excerpt on SYW, people critiqued and three of them offered to beta. Two never finished the manuscript for various reasons, and one still reads everything I produce and offers great criticism. I found additional betas on AW. People can like you personally and not connect with your writing due to a variety of reasons such as life/busyness and lack of interest in the subject matter, that does not in any way reflect upon your work.

    It is true that readers can also stop reading if your writing mechanics are not completely up to speed, and most will be too shy to tell you this directly. I think you can easily test this by posting an excerpt in SYW to see what people say.

    I have been a slow beta before due to life a few times. In one case a manuscript with my notes was lost in an epic computer crash, and I was too discouraged to redo the critique (I have since critiqued another MS by this writer). Life happens.

    Good luck!

  8. #8
    In Search of the Throne of Stars Ralph Pines's Avatar
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    So don't take it personally, even if my mechanics and grammar suck. Set some rules down too.

    Got it.
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  9. #9
    Listening to my other selves Erin's Avatar
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    I found a beta partner here and she's awesome, and we work well together. She went thru my entire MS very timely, we set ground rules of what we each wanted, we both write in the same genre, so it works for us. It just happened that we we're both looking for a beta/critique partner at the exact same time. So keep posting here and check other postings daily. You never know when you'll find that perfect reader.

    Having said that, going thru a full MS takes a lot of time, at least for me. When I beta, I can't just read. I edit and suggest changes, even rewrite sentences, and it can be time consuming. I'm sure a lot of people just don't have the time to put into it, especially with full-time jobs and writing on the side, plain old life. Or maybe they aren't ready with their own work and don't want to spend the time on someone else without due consideration. Or maybe they read and write outside your genre, in which case, they probably shouldn't beta your work to begin with.

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  10. #10
    March 15th: Issue 1 release Skye Jules's Avatar
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    I've had the same experience. I've had a little over five people beta my novel, all who have flaked out. I know it's not my writing because I do trust these people and realize life can get busy. So, I'm going to re-do the entire thing myself and trust that my fiance can be a good beta reader, and I'll most likely have a beta reader do the first three chapters for me--that way, I'll know where I need to go with the rest of the novel depending on the feedback of the first three chapters.

    But I did find a beta reader who did my entire short story for me, and she is incredible. She's a hero, and I will never know how to thank her. My old AP Lit teacher also edited Angels and Sparrows for me, and she did a fabulous job with that. It's sitting in the Purgatory of a magazine still, but I can comfortably say it's polished.

    I'm beta reading a novel right now--more like full-blown editing--and I do understand that life does get in the way. I'm so busy with writing, I've only been able to do twelve pages for her in the four days I've had it. But I'm keeping her updated constantly, and I know I will get it done for her.
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  11. #11
    Flying blind on a rocket cycle.
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    I seriously thought my manuscript was cursed. All the people I finally swallowed my fear to give it to never even opened it. To this day, the only ones' who've read it are agents, and 66% of them have passed so far. *knock wood*

  12. #12
    KoalaKoalaKoala! Red-Green's Avatar
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    Beta experiences are always a mixed bag. On the receiving end, I've had readers who went above and beyond the call of duty. And I've had readers who just disappeared without a word. People who gushed madly about the first half of a book and filled up the margins with notes, but never responded to the second half.

    On the giving end, I know I've been a mixed bag. I've turned in lackluster efforts and absolute mountains of comments and often received the same "Thanks" in response. I used to use the "life got in the way" excuse when the truth was harsher, but now I just tell the truth when a book loses my interest or fails to get it in the first place. Of course, I won't go past the first chapter if it's riddled with errors.

    And that's always my advice: swap that first chapter before you go any further. Make sure your prospective beta isn't going to be put off by the premise or your grammar. It's easier to crit one chapter and say, "Nah, it's not for me," than it is to agree to a whole book and discover it's not for you in the first chapter. It's easier to take that than to wait weeks or months for that same answer. Or a lie that means the same thing.
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  13. #13
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I am terribly sorry that this post is so long. That being said, I had to add my experience. I put out a request for a beta reader. This is actually part of the request below. I received two responses at first and was excited but nervous. Lets face it, no one wants to be told they suck. I have absolutely no time during normal hours for writing, so I mainly write between 2:30 am - 4:00 am. I miss things, who wouldn’t!

    What I got was this, from the beta reader who offered first. . [Text removed by moderator.]


    I felt attacked. No lie. She didn’t love it? It wasn’t perfect? It couldn’t possibly be true. The truth hurt but I needed to know more. Something was missing for me from this beta read.

    Then I got the reply from my second beta reader. This is what I was looking for, the help I needed. The funny thing is, the first beta reader said the same things. It was the instruction and suggestions that I needed along with the critique. She pointed out my errors just as asked, all my mess ups and gave me the much needed encouragement at the end.

    [Text removed by moderator.]

    If it wasn’t for the second beta reader I don’t think I would have returned to AW. At one point I had deleted AW from my favorites and told my sister I was thrashing my story.

    When I sat down to rewrite, I was excited to make the changes. I knew I had the information I needed and a good idea of what needed done. Two beta reads, both say the same things, but one I could connect with personally. You just got to keep on trying.
    Last edited by katiemac; 07-17-2009 at 06:32 AM. Reason: Text removed for privacy
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  14. #14
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    I was going to make a posting of my own, but this one serves my purpose quite adequately, thank you.

    Since I've been on AW I have spent more time beta-reading than I have doing my own writing, and I've just had to let my latest 'victim' know that I've stopped for a while. I feel absolutely frazzled - brain-drained. I do line by line crits and can usually do a whole novel within a few days, but this time it's taken me 4 days to do only 10 pages, so I'm giving beta-reading up for a while. I'll miss doing it because I really enjoy it, but I need something more leisurely to do for a while, like my own writing.







  15. #15
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    This is exactly what I do too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Erin View Post
    Having said that, going thru a full MS takes a lot of time, at least for me. When I beta, I can't just read. I edit and suggest changes, even rewrite sentences, and it can be time consuming.

    None of it's personal. Don't give up!
    And KayJae, just be glad I wasn't your beta-reader, i've been known to make grown men tremble in their boots with my crits.







  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    KayJae, that was my experience exactly!

    I went to a conference two years in a row and had the same person in my crit group both times. I really liked her writing, she said positive things about mine, and we decided to exchange MSS by email.

    Well, I went first. Ouch.

    Here's the thing: most of her points were valid, but the way she said it...

    Basically, she told me I had to rewrite the entire plot, especially the beginning and the ending and oh, by the way, even the title won't work. If I'd followed her advice, I'd have ended up with a completely different book from the one I was trying to write. So it made me doubt everything I was trying to accomplish.

    Then I worked with a writing coach, and somehow when he made suggestions it felt inspiring, not demoralizing. Like, where the first person said, This is really random, I think you have to make the character do this, the second person said, Tell me why the character is doing this, maybe there's a way to give him a stronger motivation for it.

    After his crit, I did a HUGE rewrite, but I did it feeling like, YAY! I can make my story even better! Instead of s**t, I suck, I have to start over.

    So now that I'm on the beta coaster again, I'm taking a big step back from all the crits and asking myself, Does that comment fit? Does it help me bring out my vision of this story? Do I agree?

    And I try not to take any of it personally.

    Ralph Pines, to answer your original question: If you want better response to beta requests, it really helps to build relationships ahead of time by working a lot on SYW and by offering to beta for people. I'm really active in the Children's and Query threads, and I've tried to give a lot of people as much help and feedback as I can. Now when I need betas, a lot of those same people are offering to step up in return. And meanwhile, the process of reading other people's work has taught me so much. It's always easier to see what needs to be fixed when it's someone else's writing and you're not so attached to it.
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  17. #17
    World Class Rambler EFCollins's Avatar
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    I've beta-read for quite a few people and never had a complaint. Screenplays, novels, short stories. I've never left a beta read unfinished. Never. I might take a bit longer than anticipated, but I always finish reading and commenting. These people are trusting me with their hard work. Asking me, a chick with a tenth grade education, to read their book and give my opinions. The way I see it, they need my feedback and are depending on it. If I flake out, I might very well end a writing career because they think their stuff isn't worth it. I'm not going to do that.

    That being said, I sent an ms out for beta reads last year. One person returned it. One guy, and he's the one I read a screenplay for in less than a week, I never heard from again. Another, whom I read a novel for and did a line by line critique on, never returned. This year, so far I've had one full return and two partial returns on my novel. (And another return on a different novel as well) But, my betas are keeping me informed and not cutting contact, so I'm pleased with every one of them.
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  18. #18
    Teh doommobile, drivin' rite by you mscelina's Avatar
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    Sometimes, when it comes to betas and critiques, it's best to have and maintain a small core of people for whom you beta and vice versa.

    For me, I am very particular about both. I don't just shoot my manuscripts out to anybody and I very rarely beta for people outside my circle of normal crit-swappers. When I do agree to take a look at someone's work, it's because I (a) have time right then to look at it (b) have real respect for that individual as a person and (c) feel like I might be helpful. If I'm buried in work, I don't even agree. It wouldn't be fair to either one of us.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JudScotKev View Post
    KayJae, that was my experience exactly.
    As you've noted, presentation of the crit can be important. If you're not familiar with someone's critique style, start out with a chapter or two before determining if you want someone to take the whole novel. I pretty much beta how I crit queries, but harder.

    If you receive a critique with a presentation that demoralizes you but which contains some valuable feedback, go through and identify those points. Write them down in a new document in your own words, whether it's "watch out for passive voice" or "improve plot twist at point X" or "add more emotional response."

    The way I see it, my writing isn't going to be for everyone, and I encourage people to tell me if my manuscript isn't their thing. No foul. If there's substantive feedback that I can use to make improvements, I don't care if it's presented in a stripped down manner. If I disagree with a point, I don't feel badly about ignoring it. And if you happen to disagree with my point, it won't upset me. You take what works for you and use it. Leave the rest behind.

    If the critique is sound but hurts, well, growth can be painful. (My approach, not for everyone.) I have one unreliable but awesome beta who always makes comments that inspire in me a response of "damn you!" but it's a "damn you, you won't let me get away with it!" I shake my fist for awhile and, since I like it like that, relish the opportunity to fix it, though I may at times still drag my feet about it.

  20. #20
    Bartender, gimme a Linux Mint Matera the Mad's Avatar
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    I've had possible beta readers who never got around to reading. I've survived crits that seemed a bit off-balance too. On the other side of the page, I've read for various people. Some found my comments helpful. Some never replied again. There have been a few I wished I hadn't taken on, barely readable and hard to say anything about. That's when I should keep my mouth shut and delete. Right now I have an erratic but ongoing relationship with a nice little novel, and a couple of faithful betas are working on mine. It can take some trial and error to get the right people together.
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  21. #21
    Dead Men Tell No Tales Chasing the Horizon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KayJae View Post

    It's never a good idea to have this much character description at the beginning of a book. I've also heard that editors absolutely hate it when a character is described while looking in the mirror. I would try to condense the two above paragraphs into a single very short paragraph.
    Because there was so much description in between, I've forgotten what question Suzanne is answering.

    You slipped into present tense again.

    You were in Alice's POV (point of view) and now you're in Suzanne's. For the best chance at getting published, you'd want to write each scene from only once POV. If you do decide to switch POVs in the middle of a scene there are some techniques that would help make it clearer too. There have been some good discussions of POV on the Absolute Write forums. You may want to use the 'search' feature there and take a look at some of them.

    OK, I think you're making the same mistake I used to make with punctuating dialogue. Whenever dialogue is followed by a tag (like 'Name said') there's a comma instead of a period inside the quotes. Take a close look at the dialogue in any published novel to see examples of what I mean. I made this mistake over and over for the first year or so I was writing and was really mad that none of my beta readers ever pointed it out to me, lol.

    You missed a couple of closing quotes here and on the last page.I think the biggest problem in this chapter is the tense-switching. I made corrections assuming that you want it to be in past tense, since that's the tense most publishers and readers prefer. I think slowing down and really listening to the flow of the sentences as you write and edit may help. You may want to post on Absolute Write and ask for some advice on keeping yourself in past tense as you write.

    I do know that as you do more and more writing, things like tense and grammar begin to come naturally and eventually you don't even have to think about them anymore.

    I think you can have a very good and potentially marketable story if you work on the grammar and technical issues.

    This chapter was definitely better than your first, at least as far as the quality of the writing went. You were staying in past tense perfectly by the end. Particularly the last scene was really good, very hot! It definitely seems like erotica is a good genre for you.

    I'm looking forward to reading some more of your chapters.

    If it wasn’t for the second beta reader I don’t think I would have returned to AW. At one point I had deleted AW from my favorites and told my sister I was thrashing my story.

    When I sat down to rewrite, I was excited to make the changes. I knew I had the information I needed and a good idea of what needed done. Two beta reads, both say the same things, but one I could connect with personally. You just got to keep on trying.
    Hey, that's my critique!

    I just try to give critique in the same way I would want to receive it--honest but as gentle as possible.

    As a beta-reader I have to connect with the story, and feel like it's something I would pick up and read for entertainment once it's polished up. The voice needs to resonate with me. Otherwise I'm clearly not the target audience, and thus will not be very useful. When that's the case, I try to send a note to the person saying 'sorry, but this isn't for me', but sometimes I forget.

    I also have to have feedback on my critiques, preferably a little more involved than just 'thank you', if you want me to keep reading and putting in the hours necessary to be thorough. It's extra-awesome if I get to see the revisions. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see the story improve.

    And yes, I have stopped reading stories and never responded to queries for beta-reading. I've also gone to a lot of trouble to read for people and never heard a word back from them. Such is life.

    As for people reading my work, only my real-life betas have ever stuck around. I did have an exchange going with a girl I met on another forum, but we kind of mutually lost interest in each other's work. I need beta readers, but am shy because I had some really bad critique experiences in the past. You just never know if someone's going to be an asshole or really helpful. And, of course, the difference between the two is completely subjective, lol.
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  22. #22
    Watching for the New Year! Synonym's Avatar
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    I have two people that have helped me immensely. The first is a stickler for punctuation, spelling and will jump right in when you do something that throws her "out of the story" as she puts it. She lives nearby and has to have it printed out to work with. That's just her preference. (Costs a fortune in ink!)

    The second is someone I met here and we are trading stories. She's very good at pointing out style mistakes and helping me trim the fat. I lost nearly all of my first chapter when she pointed out that I was doing too much telling and not enough showing. After following her advice, I had to admit that the story was much more interesting.

    Since I'm still weak with style, I'm helping her with words. I might suggest stronger terms, more active words and rewrite a few scenes to tighten them up. We use our strengths to help each other along.

    I guess my point is that if you're lucky to find someone who's interested in your type of story, it may take a while to find them. Don't stop looking. When you get lucky and stumble onto the beta that can steer you in the right direction, do a happy dance!

  23. #23
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    Oof. Ouch. I'm one of the betas that gives really harsh critiques. I try to include the positives, but I tend to limit those since my role is to point out the flaws of the novel. However, I've already tagged myself with a disclaimer.

    I can't do just the beta-reading either. Some of the stuff I get are more polished than others, but if I see little errors here or there, I tend to correct them. So a full manuscript is very time consuming for me.

    But from my AW pool of beta-ees, I think I've only received silence from one after I'd sent the work back to them. The rest of my beta-ees have been very professional in their responses (I mean, it's never easy to read: "Yup. You just lost me there." or "Yeah. Your character's just being too bratty to like right now.") Overall, I've got to say, my beta-ees are pretty awesome.

    And I haven't have anyone beta for me just yet, simply because I'm tearing apart my own writing right now.
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  24. #24
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Out of all the critiques I've done for people on here, only three have not bothered to get back to me and thank me for my time. I would never do anything for them again. But if there was something particular that they were against, that I'd pointed out, then why didn't they talk it over rather than pretend it never happened.







  25. #25
    In Search of the Throne of Stars Ralph Pines's Avatar
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    I have no problems with people who respond with "sorry I really haven't had the time". They are doing me a favor, after all.

    The total silence gets to me. A few words would suffice.

    Also I thank each person profusely, before, during and after. That is just the way I am.

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