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

  1. #51
    phoenix blazing Parametric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dlparker View Post
    So please, if you're a beta, be responsible, and tell the author when you want to back out. If most authors are like me, I'll send a profuse and sincere thanks anyway.
    I've done this to someone. No malicious intent - I'm just an idiot. And I'm now way too embarrassed to contact that person and apologise.

  2. #52
    In Search of the Throne of Stars Ralph Pines's Avatar
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    Smile

    All great answers. So we learned a few things so far:

    1. Author's-Set the ground rules before you send your WIP. Include what you want from your Beta and how much your willing to wait before a response. 30-90 seems to be a good time frame from receipt of document.

    2. Betas- If you don't like what you got, please say so, in a polite manner as possible. Dropping off from the face of the Earth without a response is bad manners. If for some reason you can not follow through with the Beta, please inform the Author within 5-7 days. He/she will appreciate your candor.

    3. Reminders- Authors should always be polite and PATIENT with their Betas. Their doing you a favor after all.

    4. Time- This is a huge investment of time for both Author and Beta. Author's can only do so much while they wait for the Betas (and the future of their project may well hang on them) while Betas have, to put it bluntly, lives and this is just one of many things they have on their plate.

    Now for a new question(s):

    When is your WIP ready for the Beta phase?

    and,

    Can you/should you have more than one Beta run?

    Thanks everybody for your input and for the mods for re-opening this thread.
    Those that are offended by the truth can not be trusted with it.
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  3. #53
    At least I don't need backing-up Samantha's_Song's Avatar
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    Do you mean 30 to 90 days? I always have mine back to the author within the week, usually two or three days, depending on how good the story is. Something good is whipped through in no time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Pines View Post
    1. Author's-Set the ground rules before you send your WIP. Include what you want from your Beta and how much your willing to wait before a response. 30-90 seems to be a good time frame from receipt of document.

    Even when saying you don't want to go through with it, because it's not your cup of tea, some authors will try to cajole you into it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Pines View Post
    2. Betas- If you don't like what you got, please say so, in a polite manner as possible. Dropping off from the face of the Earth without a response is bad manners. If for some reason you can not follow through with the Beta, please inform the Author within 5-7 days. He/she will appreciate your candor.

    QFT.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Pines View Post
    3. Reminders- Authors should always be polite and PATIENT with their Betas. Their doing you a favor after all.

    For myself, I will only take on something when it is ready to be queried. Works go through a lot of changes throughout drafts, so why should I waste my precious time on something that will be nothing like the finished project.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Pines View Post
    When is your WIP ready for the Beta phase?







  4. #54
    In Search of the Throne of Stars Ralph Pines's Avatar
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    Yes, 30 to 90 days. Some people are slow readers while others can only manage to read snippets here or there between the rest of their lives. I prefer a solid Beta to a hurried one, not that yours are that. I can also see a quicker Beta if the work is hot enough for it.
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  5. #55
    practical experience, FTW
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    My worst Beta was my mother, many years ago when I was in high school. I finished (finished!!) my first short story. She'd always been supportive of me writing, so I handed it over to her. Some time later, she handed me it back. "Fixed." She'd re-written the darn thing, missed the point completely, changed my characters. It was horrible. I stopped writing mostly after that.

    Several years later when moving I found my short story again. I read it. It had enough sap to make a tree jealous. Obvious plot, cardboard characters. I asked my mom about it, and why she hadn't told me that straight out.

    She'd wanted to save my feelings, and butchering the work (my words, not hers) was the kindest way she had to express it.

    Now I'm writing again, and I AM going to finish this novel. She will not be beta reading it. I may not even tell her I'm writing again until I have an agent/publisher.

    And when I do get to the stage where I want a beta, I'm going to try to find someone who'll be honest and direct. I can't improve with 'I fixed this for you' or 'This is great' at all. I can work on missing information, plot holes, boring characters or any of the other flaws that could be lurking in my story, if I know they're there.

    On the other side of the coin, I've been a beta a couple of times. The first time, I didn't give much critique. I'd nitpick a few sentences, but on the whole it stood. However, I don't really know if I was much use. ( "I couldn't find any problems" is a compliment, not a critique ). The author was a friend, who I personally respected, the story was already very polished, and it made it hard to be critical.

    I have trouble critiquing published works too - I can't turn my internal editor on once it reaches a certain level of quality. I tried to analyze Lois McMaster Bujold the other day, and all I got was.. I don't always know how, but golly does she know what she's doing! Couldn't find a thing to change in the first few pages and quit.

    Recently I started another beta, and I critiqued up the wazoo. It lead to a lot of rewriting, which I get to beta again when done. It was a great experience, made me look for things in my own writing, and I felt/was told my comments were -useful-.

    What made it work (for me, and hopefully the writer), is that I could see problems in this round - the writing was at a stage where I had enough knowledge to critique it, and I didn't know the author at all, so I wasn't worried about hurting a friendship. Even when I was horribly honest about things I didn't like I was thanked. Plus, there were other readers on the project, so I didn't worry that my personal opinion was the only one weighing in.

    It's exactly the experience I hope to be on the other side of one day, though the thought of receiving the sort of comments I gave isn't something I look forward to.
    Last edited by lauraannwilliams; 08-22-2009 at 11:16 PM. Reason: typo
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  6. #56
    Talks a lot but doesn't say much watercayman's Avatar
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    I've learned a happy marriage is one that doesn't involve my wife critting my MS

    After several months of it sitting on her desk, I gently asked her to re-read it... She kindly obliged, but the genre is totally something she'd never read.

    I think I'll live without that kind of stress in the future!
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  7. #57
    practical experience, FTW jeseymour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dlparker View Post
    I have one great beta reader right now found on Absolute WRite.

    The other--also found here--didn't bother to respond when sent the manuscript. I followed up after a time with a polite inquiry, and still no answer. Never got any answer at all.

    It's very disconcerting to an author to have the reader drop out in silence THEN. Maybe she didn't like the work. That's fine with me; all she had to say was "decided not to do it after all" (or some white lie if she's too nervous to say it didn't suit).

    But to drop out after a writer's sent his/her work without a word is unforgivable, to me. It leaves the writer hanging, thinking, was it that bad? Is he/she DOING SOMETHING with my work?

    So please, if you're a beta, be responsible, and tell the author when you want to back out. If most authors are like me, I'll send a profuse and sincere thanks anyway.

    I'd like to say who this beta was so other authors will know this person didn't respond... but I won't, of course. I'm left wondering: something happened in her life? Didn't like the story (fortunately I only sent first short chapter)? Copying my story for all she's worth? Did an email I sent get misinterpreted? Who knows.

    But, lose one, win one. The other beta's just great.

    - Danielle
    I just had a similar experience. Posted an offer to be a beta reader, got a response from another mystery writer, exchanged the first couple of chapters, thought it was going well, sent my next couple of chapters and he disappeared. I know he's still around because he's still posting here, but he hasn't responded to my emails. I don't know what I did. I thought it was a good fit, he said it was a good fit. I have no idea if my second couple of chapters were so horrible that he couldn't read them, or what. I'm disappointed, but also confused. Why not just say no thanks after the first chapter? Why ask for more and then drop out?

    Sigh.

  8. #58
    practical experience, FTW havefaith22's Avatar
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    Yes, I've had some tough beta experiences too. The worst is when they just drop off the face of the earth. It really makes you second guess your work...
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  9. #59
    March 15th: Issue 1 release Skye Jules's Avatar
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    I had a beta reader who did a fabulous job with Dead Poet's Pendulum. Witch Tourniquet had once had problems finding one. I sent it out to six people. Some got back to me, and life got in the way for them. Others never got back. I have several people wanting to read it, but I want to make sure it's "polished" because I know these people aren't experienced enough to pick out any flaws.

    Witch Tourniquet, however, finally found a beta reader, but she does it chapter by chapter. It's going smooth so far--the process is a little slow, but I think the chapter-by-chapter feedback is better because it lets me know if a problem occurs, and it's not so overwhemling if I have to do a full re-write. Whereas, if I sent the entire novel off to her and got all this feeback (tons of comments that would require me to do severe re-writing), I'd be overwhelmed and less inclined to get back to WT right away.
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  10. #60
    practical experience, FTW jeseymour's Avatar
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    Happy to say my beta resurfaced. He had a major upheaval in his life, and he assures me that it had nothing to do with my writing. I feel better now.

  11. #61
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin LiNY's Avatar
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    Beta reader dilemma?

    Hi! Iím sorry if this isnít the right place to write about this, but I really need some advices. Iím not familiar with the protocol of having several beta readers. I have a one beta reader who has done amazing job. I love her input and how quickly she reads my text.

    But I donít want to bother her all the time, so I thought that I could get another beta reader as well. I posted a Ďbeta reader wantedí note into another site. One person responded. We sent messages to each other as we seemed to share same interests, and I got the feeling that she was interested in reading my writing. We agreed some things, and I sent a chapter for her to read. I also sent the same chapter to my first beta reader.

    My first beta reader sent the chapter back to me in a week, but Iím still waiting for the second beta readerís respond. A week ago the second beta reader sent me a message where she told me that she was sorry for the delay and promised to read my text after last Monday. She also said that she had already read half of it. The chapter has 2000 words. I responded that it was okay as I didn't want to be rude and I thought that I could get that chapter back by 'soon'. Well, I didnít. It has taken a week from her last message. I really want to wait for her respond but in other hand I have the chapter ready to be postedÖ and itís so long time since my last update!

    I really donít know what to do.

    Do I send a message to my second beta reader and say something like oh, you donít have to read the chapter anymore because that piece of work is already read through.

    OrÖ

    Do I just update my story?

    I donít want to hurt my second beta readerís feelings and ignore her work, but we agreed the time table and I said that a month is a bit long time for me to wait and she said that she can read my text in less time. It has taken almost three weeks now, so do I have to wait another week or what?

    Hope my message makes some sense. (Sorry for the mistakes, English isn't my native language.)

    What would you do in my situation? Please, some thoughts.

  12. #62
    SHAZAM!! justinai's Avatar
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    I think you may be mistaking the term Beta Reader for a critter. Beta readers are used after an MS is "complete" to spot problems in the plot and writing. Critters or critique folks read chapter by chapter and give feedback.

    Back to your original question...chances are that your first chapter will be changed by the time you get to the end of your book, so you should let the reader send back the information whenever she gets around to it. Feedback is invaluable, and since you aren't paying your critter you should just let her get through it at her own pace.

    The only caveat to that is if you have read something for her and this was supposed to be an exchange of work, in which case you should feel free to drop her a line and tell her you're waiting for her review. But when betas are giving you feedback of their own free will, it's best not to attach any expectations and just take it as the free advice it is.

  13. #63
    Goddess of Rationalization Hathor's Avatar
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    Just the thread I need right now ... I've been off Absolute Write because that is the only way I would actually get my draft done. You guys are much too addictive.

    Anyway, in addition to relatives duty-bound to read my draft, I first asked four people to look at it. One friend say she was too busy; hey, that's fine. The other three evinced evident enthusiasm and should be interested in the subject. That was three months ago. First I was getting email responses like "I'm almost done" and "I should be able to finish it off soon." Now they aren't responding at all. Last Friday, in the nicest way I could think of, I told them that I am anxious to finish draft 3, so just give me whatever they have by the end of this week, at least for the first few chapters to accompany my book proposal. (If this sounds abrupt, I had emailed the previous week, asking them how it was going and asking what a realistic time frame for finishing was. None of them responded to me. So I came up with a deadline. Heck, they are all lawyers; maybe a deadline will do the trick?)

    Again no response, at least not yet. My husband thinks I'll get something; I'm not so sure.

    If they would just tell me they don't have the time, don't want the responsibility, whatever. I wouldn't care. I think what is bothering me right now is not that I need them for my book, but they are disrespecting me. Either that or they hate the book ...

    Meanwhile two others have read my draft 2 and like it. One read my entire book and send me back comments in two days. The other proved to be an amazing proofreader, finding typos that multiple reads by multiple others had failed to disclose.

    I don't think I'm experienced enough to offer advice or to explain what is common protocol. But my inclination is to ask multiple people, thinking that some will pan out and others won't. I'm finding that different people see different things. It is also useful to have my betas disagreeing with each other, because them I feel justified in doing what I want

    Now I'm going to deal with the comments I got on draft 2 and put together draft 3 as soon as I can, because I have one (and perhaps more) folks willing to look at it.

    It could be all this beta-ing would be extreme for a work of fiction, but my book is nonfiction. I cover a number of rather complicated issues, so I really needed people to tell me if they couldn't quite figure out what I was saying. I've lived with this project for so long, it seems that I can't tell if some of my sentences are English or not.

    Oh well, enough of my venting. I have my (rather boring) polishing job to get to. Somehow, all this editing -- will I ever finish? -- is not as much fun as writing the first draft.

  14. #64
    What are you doing, Dave? setchmo's Avatar
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    A good friend of mine (at least I thought he was) called me up after having my book for two days and told me: "Dude, your book sucks. There is absolutely no chance this will ever find an agent or a publisher."

    I asked for him to elaborate (kindly) and he said (after hemming and hawing for several moments):

    "First of all, your title sucks. Second, your spacing is all wrong. Third your using the wrong font."

    Beyond that he vaguely mentioned something about my metaphors being all wrong and my autorial voice jumping around in certain chapters (my book is multiple POV). He swears he read the whole thing. He is an author himself (published an autobiography a year ago) so I was hoping for some good feedback. But he gave me absolutely nothing on the story or characters that I could use to improve the manuscript, which was what I asked for. I think he got it in his head he was an editor (which he really shouldn't try to be) and he was going to line by line dissect my prose. At one point he told me he spent two hours on my first page but wouldn't elaborate why or show me what he was doing.

    Finally, I asked that he send back my manuscript (I sent him a hard copy) but he keeps making excuses why he can't do that. Totally bizarre.


    Oh well...never going to ask him to read my stuff again.

  15. #65
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I met my friend and we are trading stories. She's very good at pointing out style mistakes and helping me trim the fat. After her advice, I had to admit that the story was much more interesting.

  16. #66
    practical experience, FTW AngelBluefairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Pines View Post
    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.

    I think having another set of eyes is very helpful when it comes to writing (unless you can somehow change your own outlook on your writing), but in my personal experiences, having a BETA reader did not work out.
    The first woman I contacted agreed to read the first chapter and I, the idiot sent her the unedited version, so I sent an email explaining how I made a mistake and was sick, along with the "edited" first chapter. No reply.
    My second offered to trade chapters and then after a short time (I think due to my semi-harsh critique of his first chapter) told me that we weren't a match. Then another person offered to read my MS but said that they didn't think theirs was ready to be read, so I didn't send them any of my work, thinking that best.

  17. #67
    Some practical experience.
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    Was not aware of the term Beta reader but appear to have been fortunate. I have had the silences, I felt perhaps embarrassed, by friends who had actually asked to read what I was writing. I have to say reading this thread has made me feel much better about that now

    Also had one finished manuscript read, then got back general feedback and helpful pointing out of mistakes by two friends who read it on holiday. They liked it and sent back page no's and details on errors or what had failed or confused them. The other by my elder sister who took ages but said she had simply read it as a book and had enjoyed it.

    Most gratifying, two different ladies, one a journalist, the second an editor, who both made encouraging noises and indicated that these were worth pursuing.

    I think it is to a degree a matter of taste, and of sometimes being so bad that the reader simply cannot go on. If they chose and paid for it, they will sometimes proceed. If was as a favor, easier just to put down and say nothing, despite the fact it isn't a particularly nice thing to do.
    Leigh.

  18. #68
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    I made the mistake last year of offering to trade beta work with someone I know on a different online group. We were both aiming for the same anthology, and I wondered at the time if that would be a problem.

    He sent me his story. I sent him mine. His was a capable story, but infused with the same persecution complex I'd seen in his online posts. I pointed out that his victimization themes were possibly dragging down what was a decent
    'releasing the tormented ghost' story. Then he savaged my story with comments that had little to do with the actual plot.

    So I backed off, politely, and sent my story in anyway. It didn't sell, but I got a personalized rejection from the editor saying essentially 'good story, but didn't fit the theme that the antho developed with the first acceptances.' I heard later that his story got a form reject.

    I won't do beta work for this guy now, because our worldviews and writing
    styles clash too much. I have higher hopes for the two beta readers who are looking at my fantasy mms right now, but it's complex enough that I don't mind giving them 60 to 90 days.

    Filigree

  19. #69
    Is swimming with creativity frogs AlishaS's Avatar
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    I've had both good and bad Beta experiences. The beta's that I have found who worked out have been nothing but gracious, we have formed tight friendships and still trade work.
    I've had some say the will read, then after a few chapters drop off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. Some who's comments and style don't jive with mine and we've parted ways. But all in all nothing terribly bad.

    That goes for me too. I offer my time to beta read here and there. I've had some people who loved what I have commented on and say they really think my work has helped them. Other's who think I've actually done them a diservice and think I've torn their work or part. But I've also on the occasion had to walk away from a beta read. It's a bad feeling but some when you come across a story you just can't get into or has too many flaws you have to just let them know nicely and step aside. Though, I have mentioned to those, with a little bit more work on their part and the story would be ready to read in the future.
    That's when I decided to no longer accept first drafts of work. If you can't put in the time to comb through the work yourself and edit, then why should I do it all for you?
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  20. #70
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    "too many flaws you have to just let them know nicely and"

    I think that is the key to beta's.
    If you offer or accept being asked, then I think you OWE the writer an opinion, at the very least. Even just "not my cup o tea" "out of my genres" "found too many errors too quickly" "have you read this thru yet?" "did you run spell check b4 you gave it to me" or "Sorry, I can't do this for you.. [reason(s)].

    I got into some family members for test reading simply asking for "does the story make sense, does it have a start, middle and end, what do you really think about it"
    Noone of them to this date, 18 months later, have even admitted they finished it. So there is no "I didn't like it" "It is not like store bought books" nothing. I know these people are literate, all college grads, but it bothered me for a long time that they either didn't or couldn't finish it, or they couldn't say a nice word, so they chose to say nothing at all.
    Now that is where you PUSH it on people. That is very different to beta reading.
    I have done some beta reads, one comes to mind, out of my genre, but I thort it was excellent, best seller material, and I told him so. Even where it is tuff or a real struggle, I go as far as I cna and then try to explain that it may be "too young for me" "too way out" "too rude or crude" unpolished, or even unedited.

    Now my work is difficult for people to work with. I know I can tell stories, but whether I can write them down legibly is a very different question. I will let anyone off, if only they would tell me what is wrong, or how bad it is.
    I have very poor technical skills, but I am prepared to pay an editor to "fix it", but FIRST, I need to know if the story is valid and it is worth investing the cash getting a pro edit.

    I am not looking to see my name in print, there are plenty of vanity publishers to give you that if it is your will and need. I truly want as many people to read and enjoy my stories.. if they don't meet minimum standards to achieve this, tell me now so I can quit and do something else. <GRIN>

    A beta owes a comment, good, bad or indifferent, or the dog ate it, I really feel that is part of the "CONTRACT" that goes without saying when the agreement is struck.

    My 1 cents worth, I am so undervalued!

  21. #71
    Gametrovert Shadowflame's Avatar
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    Hello, I haven't been signed up long, but I did want to comment on this thread.

    I've only been beta reading for a few months for people besides my comfort writing forums. I have 1/3 through a novel for another AW writer here and I can say it has been an eye-opening experience.

    For one, I don't use personal friends for Beta reads often. I have one person that I bounce ideas off of and occasionally use her for BR. She has great insight on plot lines, but does not read much in my genre. Family members? Hell NO! I tried my mom once. Bad idea. She doesn't read my genre at all and our viewpoints differ tremendously. My other siblings are much like my mother and I don't think they would be very effective with BR for me anyway.

    What I do know is that it is an honor to have someone come up and read their work. Sure you might come across a piece that really needs work, and I have a few times, but this allows you to learn how to handle this situation. You are going to be as polite as any editor or agent is going to be. If the plot is weak, give points on where to strengthen it. If the characters are flat, point out that they need some warts.

    Not only are you doing them a favor but you are doing one for yourself.

    By BR I have found that I can more easily find plot holes in my own work. I flesh out my characters more fully. I'm no grammar-natzi but I know when something isn't written right and can go look it up. Discussion on what works and what doesn't improves you and them.

    Be upfront if you are a writer or a BR. If either has RL problems then let the other party know. I know that I tend to get myself overloaded at times. Bad habit yea, I know.

    I love writing, I love learning about it, and I love helping other make better stories. Enough said.

  22. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herman Munster View Post
    "

    A beta owes a comment, good, bad or indifferent, or the dog ate it, I really feel that is part of the "CONTRACT" that goes without saying when the agreement is struck.

    My 1 cents worth, I am so undervalued!

    Sorry, but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY disagree. A beta owes you nothing. If they agree to take a look at your mss. and then their life gets in the way, or they find they're not that into it, or whatever, they owe you shit all. It is a huge time commitment to undertake a beta read and you, the author, don't set the terms at all. You ask for the kind of beta you want, and if you get some takers, you can send them your work. Then you get to say "Thank you" if and when they send it back. If they fall off the face of the earth for any reason, or you never hear from them again, or they give you feedback that you're not happy with or different than what you asked for, fine, don't use them again. If they email you and say, sorry, I wasn't feeling it and can't finish, say "thank you" and move on.

    I've beta read for 17 people, several of them more than one mss. I've had a few bad experiences but it wasn't until recently that I had a demanding writer email me 4 times a week asking when I'd be finished even though I said I had other commitments that came up. He said exactly what you said, "You owe me". Owe you??? needless to say, I told him exactly where he could shove his mss. and told him never to email me again.

    I take beta-reading seriously, but my life comes first. If you pay for a service, you're owed something. If you do a beta swap, you're owed something. but if someone offers to read your work and they don't ask for anything in return, you're not owed anything!!!!!

    Can you tell the bad experience was very, very recent. I'm still reeling.

  23. #73
    No, you're the grease monkey. Fruitbat's Avatar
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    Cool

    I've found that the more beta reading/critiques I give and receive, the smoother it goes. I've gotten thicker skin on it both ways and also have learned from my own mistakes.


    I offer to beta read because critically reading others' work helps me improve my own writing. So I always get something. And if I send mine and get nothing back or nothing useful (or even, once, something that seemed downright hateful) well, I don't have any less than before I sent it and I have also gotten plenty of good solid help that way.


    So, whatevah, it's all good to Fruitbat.

  24. #74
    What? Nothing.
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    On the flip side of this topic, what should we do about beta reading experiences where my experience as a beta reader didn't go as hoped or planned? I've had some very good discussions with authors after giving a crit, and some nice simple "Thanks, I'll give this a hard look" notes with some followup questions, but I've also had experiences where someone just disappeared when I gave a crit, with no response. If this is how these authors treat betas, I'd like other people to know about them before they agree to beta read their stuff in the future.

  25. #75
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    I think the rule: "Don't take it personally" applies here.

    As for the earlier question--when do you give it to a beta, I say after you've tried to get as many critiques as possible. I send out Betas to smooth over plot inconsistencies (Stairs are to the left here, right there), so huge grammar mistakes should be fixed. Bloody typewriter manuscript--if someone sends me that I bounce it back to them. Betas are not a cheerleading squad.

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