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View Full Version : Coolness in Ideal Beta Readers



Higgins
07-15-2008, 05:19 PM
Hmmm...I'm getting a novel of mine read by somebody I always wanted to
do some beta reading of me. They are the coolest person on the planet (by their own admission) and likely to be pretty blunt about my novel.

I'm definitely not the coolest person on the planet and I find the
likelihood of my novel not quite being all it should be in terms of coolness (or anything else)...increasingly
likely...To add to the horror this ideal beta reader uses a Mac and has iPods and iPhones full of World music and I just have several Windows XP machines full of combat games.

Maybe my ideal beta reader should be somebody less cool and more of a Windows XP kind of person.

Phaeal
07-15-2008, 05:34 PM
It's not cool to think you're cool. It's definitely not cool to think you're the coolest person on the planet.

Heh, the Mac vs. Windows XP comparison actually has some meaning even for me, spawn of the days when computers took up a whole building and spat out those appalling magnetic cards in vast piles that always fell over and got hopelessly mixed up. If Mac vs. Windows, in your case, also translates into something like Literary/Experimental vs. Genre, your proposed beta reader may not be of much help to you.

The true ideal beta reader would enjoy reading the kind of book you've written. He would know the conventions of your particular genre, including what level of diction is acceptable, even preferred. He would be aware of the flaws and cliches to which your genre is prone. He would have some idea of your intended audience, and respect it.

Most of all, he would be more interested in helping you than in preening and displaying his own superiority. That means he would be honest but empathetic, pointing out strengths as well as weaknesses, successes as well as failures, the little gems along with the little flaws. If there are problems, he would brainstorm possible solutions, not merely point and jeer.

So, is Mr. Cool up to the challenge? ;)

SPMiller
07-15-2008, 05:34 PM
I've got a tentative beta myself who I'm quite glad will be reading my work. Hopefully I'll be able to find even more good readers via AW when the time comes. But like you, I'm worried that this work won't live up to what I've been posting in SYW over the past few months. It's an irrational fear--at least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Higgins
07-15-2008, 05:55 PM
It's not cool to think you're cool. It's definitely not cool to think you're the coolest person on the planet.

Heh, the Mac vs. Windows XP comparison actually has some meaning even for me, spawn of the days when computers took up a whole building and spat out those appalling magnetic cards in vast piles that always fell over and got hopelessly mixed up. If Mac vs. Windows, in your case, also translates into something like Literary/Experimental vs. Genre, your proposed beta reader may not be of much help to you.

The true ideal beta reader would enjoy reading the kind of book you've written. He would know the conventions of your particular genre, including what level of diction is acceptable, even preferred. He would be aware of the flaws and cliches to which your genre is prone. He would have some idea of your intended audience, and respect it.

Most of all, he would be more interested in helping you than in preening and displaying his own superiority. That means he would be honest but empathetic, pointing out strengths as well as weaknesses, successes as well as failures, the little gems along with the little flaws. If there are problems, he would brainstorm possible solutions, not merely point and jeer.

So, is Mr. Cool up to the challenge? ;)

Well...you are entirely correct. I've just exaggerated or misrepresented the situation a bit...I do find it heartening that it is perceptible that a Windows XP dude will be writing genre (Sci Fi/Urban Fantasy). I think it was actually a bit disturbing for the beta reader to be told that the Mac/literary world was a lot more mainstream than the wacky niche I am writing for.

Is Miss Cool Mac-using beta reader up to the Challenge? So far she has only suggested that I take some dance lessons. I fear that is a bit cryptic and not a Good Sign for the novel.

aka eraser
07-15-2008, 07:22 PM
Anybody who "admits" to being the coolest person on the planet, isn't, and probably wouldn't crack the top 1 Billion.

Look for a beta reader who enjoys reading the genre you wrote.

Nakhlasmoke
07-15-2008, 08:32 PM
beta reading isn't about how cool the person is, it's about how good a reader they are, and how well they can communicate with the writer.

Higgins
07-15-2008, 08:37 PM
Anybody who "admits" to being the coolest person on the planet, isn't, and probably wouldn't crack the top 1 Billion.

Look for a beta reader who enjoys reading the genre you wrote.

Until last week, I would have thought the same about both these points, but it seems there are other possible readings of readings in terms of coolness. For one thing: has anyone checked on what is cool lately?
Nothing "edgy" about coolness these days. In fact I think "edgy" is really the only edgy...no matter what the Urban Dictionary says:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=edgy

It looks like the mainstream has given up being pretentious about its pretentions and resorted to being cool about its pretentions.
Which suggests that the mainstream is as usual, a bit tired of itself
and would like to read some genre fiction even if it doesn'y quite get it.

And cool has become so much easier to achieve: just buy a Mac, an iPod and an iPhone and be moderately attractive and there you are. Okay and take some dance lessons while you are at it.

Which leaves genre fiction with the residual attractive quality of not being mainstream. How cool is that?

Nakhlasmoke
07-15-2008, 08:52 PM
You know what, I actually have no idea what you're trying to say....

Red-Green
07-15-2008, 09:33 PM
By the way: most of us with Macs and iPods, etc. We're not cool. We're nerds. Anyway, nerds are more passionate. Cool people are boring.

Higgins
07-15-2008, 09:40 PM
You know what, I actually have no idea what you're trying to say....


By the way: most of us with Macs and iPods, etc. We're not cool. We're nerds. Anyway, nerds are more passionate. Cool people are boring.

I'm not so sure that cool is so far away for the average nerd these days.

It may be that being in any stream at all (mainstream, other stream etc)
is cool enough for some purposes. And given that, then admitting that
implies that infact there is a coolest person on the planet and I'm experiencing the worries of having them read my relatively less cool
novel.

Phaeal
07-15-2008, 09:41 PM
Meh, I'm not too interested in close parsing of the word "cool." If your beta candidate has the other attributes I mentioned, I say go for it.

MoonWriter
07-15-2008, 10:24 PM
Hmmm...I'm getting a novel of mine read by somebody I always wanted to
do some beta reading of me. They are the coolest person on the planet (by their own admission) and likely to be pretty blunt about my novel.

I'm definitely not the coolest person on the planet and I find the
likelihood of my novel not quite being all it should be in terms of coolness (or anything else)...increasingly
likely...To add to the horror this ideal beta reader uses a Mac and has iPods and iPhones full of World music and I just have several Windows XP machines full of combat games.

Maybe my ideal beta reader should be somebody less cool and more of a Windows XP kind of person.

If your beta reader isn't a member of AW, he/she is lying. I've already had the coolest people on the planet beta my novel. :)

I'm a Windows XP kind of person, but I don't know what that means or how it relates to beta readers. My advice - get your MS as polished as you can, then try to find a few beta readers here (I had four for round one and four for round two, and learned something from each). Respond to their critique, get a few more readers, and polish your MS until it shines. Then you should be good to go. Good luck, Higgins.

Blondchen
07-15-2008, 10:44 PM
Wait, if I use Windows Vista am I still cool? Cuz I feel pretty cool. Usually.

But just for the record, I work with some of the coolest people on the planet. Lots of artsy types - animators and artists, gigging musicians, writers, actors (okay, not usually cool) and circus performers. Yes, that's right, I said circus performers.

But I wouldn't want a single one of them beta reading my book. :)

JamieFord
07-15-2008, 10:48 PM
My wise reader consumes about 50 novels a year and knows her stuff. That's cool enough for me...

DeleyanLee
07-15-2008, 10:50 PM
I've read the OP several times now and I've got no clue why any of that stuff matters about the qualifications of a beta reader.

Are they interested in reading your story? Can they express their reactions in a comprehensive manner? Do you trust them to give you their honest reaction of your material?

Personally, I don't care if they're cool, jerk, jock; if they use XP, Mac, write on cured hides or carve comments into a rock;or if I'd let them date my child--as long as they can get me feedback for my work, that's as much "cool" as I would ever want.

jennifer75
07-15-2008, 10:54 PM
I've read the OP several times now and I've got no clue why any of that stuff matters about the qualifications of a beta reader.

Are they interested in reading your story? Can they express their reactions in a comprehensive manner? Do you trust them to give you their honest reaction of your material?

Personally, I don't care if they're cool, jerk, jock; if they use XP, Mac, write on cured hides or carve comments into a rock;or if I'd let them date my child--as long as they can get me feedback for my work, that's as much "cool" as I would ever want.

Seems to me that you would want somebody totally not like yourself, to read your stuff. Better critic, no? You don't want to sell your book to only people like yourself. You want the whole damn world to buy your shit. I mean, your book. :)

Higgins
07-15-2008, 10:56 PM
Wait, if I use Windows Vista am I still cool? Cuz I feel pretty cool. Usually.

But just for the record, I work with some of the coolest people on the planet. Lots of artsy types - animators and artists, gigging musicians, writers, actors (okay, not usually cool) and circus performers. Yes, that's right, I said circus performers.

But I wouldn't want a single one of them beta reading my book. :)

They asked to read it. I was a little wary, but I thought it might be interesting to have a mainstream opinion. Obviously I thought it was potentially a bit problematic and I wondered why I thought that exactly. Since the XP/Mac divide was there I decided to make that an issue when I posted here. The actual issue was stated at the time (last week) as mainstream versus other stream/genre. Coolness was something of a red herring at least at first and then I began to wonder how coolness related to the XP/Mac divide and so on.

On the other hand this cool, mainstream person is an awesomely good writer. Maybe that's what's really got me worried.

DeleyanLee
07-15-2008, 11:11 PM
Seems to me that you would want somebody totally not like yourself, to read your stuff. Better critic, no? You don't want to sell your book to only people like yourself. You want the whole damn world to buy your shit. I mean, your book. :)

To my thinking, the job of a beta is to help you tell if you managed to put the story you wanted to onto the page. I don't want a critic who will tear the work apart, I want a reader who's savvy enough to be able to tell me what story is on the page so I can compare it to the story in my head to see if I succeeded in the most fundamental part of the task. That job description has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone's personality.

The time for marketing is AFTER there's any need for beta readers anymore. And the time for critics is AFTER it's been published.

But, then, what ever writer needs from a beta is personal. This is just what I need and want. As always, YMMV.

kuwisdelu
07-16-2008, 12:11 AM
By the way: most of us with Macs and iPods, etc. We're not cool. We're nerds. Anyway, nerds are more passionate. Cool people are boring.

What this person said.

And what about those of us with a Mac that has OS X, XP, and Linux on it, and use all three?

Higgins
07-16-2008, 12:23 AM
Wait, if I use Windows Vista am I still cool? Cuz I feel pretty cool. Usually.

But just for the record, I work with some of the coolest people on the planet. Lots of artsy types - animators and artists, gigging musicians, writers, actors (okay, not usually cool) and circus performers. Yes, that's right, I said circus performers.

But I wouldn't want a single one of them beta reading my book. :)


What this person said.

And what about those of us with a Mac that has OS X, XP, and Linux on it, and use all three?

That's...uh...not cool. I thought one of the unspoken coolnesses of Mac users is that they have very little idea what is going on with their machines. Perhaps I'm wrong, but a machine like the Mac that seems to work without too much tinkering is cool because the user gets the use and none of the jargon and frustration to impede them. Me...sure...I guess I like a certain amount of jargon and frustration....but...I need dance lessons.

Blondchen
07-16-2008, 12:33 AM
But nerds ARE cool now. At least as consumers. I've never seen a demo spend so much $$$$.

kuwisdelu
07-16-2008, 12:47 AM
That's...uh...not cool. I thought one of the unspoken coolnesses of Mac users is that they have very little idea what is going on with their machines. Perhaps I'm wrong, but a machine like the Mac that seems to work without too much tinkering is cool because the user gets the use and none of the jargon and frustration to impede them. Me...sure...I guess I like a certain amount of jargon and frustration....but...I need dance lessons.

No, the coolness of the Mac is that you have the option of not having to know any of that, or ever deal with anything but a straightforward GUI, but also that there's a powerful UNIX underbelly for the command line gurus who spend the day SSH-ing into Linux superclusters and checking out code from CVS repositories in Switzerland...

But I also need dance lessons.

Higgins
07-16-2008, 06:44 PM
I've read the OP several times now and I've got no clue why any of that stuff matters about the qualifications of a beta reader.

Are they interested in reading your story? Can they express their reactions in a comprehensive manner? Do you trust them to give you their honest reaction of your material?

Personally, I don't care if they're cool, jerk, jock; if they use XP, Mac, write on cured hides or carve comments into a rock;or if I'd let them date my child--as long as they can get me feedback for my work, that's as much "cool" as I would ever want.

So in your opinion, if the beta reader wants to read your novel and can read it and can be honest then all is well?

I guess my point is that one's own response to a potential reading (or the reading of the reading so to speak) can vary according to one's insecurities (for example, I think in all objective honesty, I do fall far short in many meaures of coolness) and idealization of the reader (some readers may seem more impressive or authoritative or interesting than others).

I tried to make something humorous out of all that and evidently failed very miserably. Let's hope the comedy in my novel doesn't fail as badly as this series of posts.

Nakhlasmoke
07-16-2008, 06:58 PM
So in your opinion, if the beta reader wants to read your novel and can read it and can be honest then all is well?

...

Uh, yeah. That's pretty much spot on.

Who cares or decides about coolness factor?

DeleyanLee
07-16-2008, 07:11 PM
Are they interested in reading your story? Can they express their reactions in a comprehensive manner? Do you trust them to give you their honest reaction of your material?


So in your opinion, if the beta reader wants to read your novel and can read it and can be honest then all is well?

Nope. You missed the most important--part of the last qualfication: Do you trust them? If I can't trust them, doesn't matter what all the other qualifications are, they don't see my stuff.


I tried to make something humorous out of all that and evidently failed very miserably. Let's hope the comedy in my novel doesn't fail as badly as this series of posts.

Oh. Humor. Comedy. Nope, didn't get it, but I totally suck at seeing humor. I even read "A Modest Proposition" by Jonathan Swift without seeing the humor/satire of it--very embarrassing in a jr high school lit class, lemme tell you.

Higgins
07-16-2008, 08:03 PM
Who cares or decides about coolness factor?


Nope. You missed the most important--part of the last qualfication: Do you trust them? If I can't trust them, doesn't matter what all the other qualifications are, they don't see my stuff.


Well...bear with me on this. I had not thought about it until last week, but maybe coolness is worth considering when you think about what
kind of reading you are getting from a beta reader. You might trust them and everything, but there's possibly some hidden cultural dynamic in the
notion of coolness. For example, one rarely-noted aspect of coolness is an openness to things that are a little bit outside the mainstream. Perhaps an extremely cool mainstream person is in fact the ideal beta reader for certain types of non-mainstream genres.

I'm not sure how authentically Aztec that Avatar-skull is. Apparently it is spouting burning (oceanic/supercosmic/subterreanean shell-filled) water and has the sign for the god Smoking Mirror on top.

Nakhlasmoke
07-16-2008, 08:07 PM
Well...bear with me on this. I had not thought about it until last week, but maybe coolness is worth considering when you think about what
kind of reading you are getting from a beta reader. You might trust them and everything, but there's possibly some hidden cultural dynamic in the
notion of coolness. For example, one rarely-noted aspect of coolness is an openness to things that are a little bit outside the mainstream. Perhaps an extremely cool mainstream person is in fact the ideal beta reader for certain types of non-mainstream genres.


Right.

I think I'm just going to accept that we have different ideas of what makes a good beta reader and leave it at that.

As long as it works for you.

DeleyanLee
07-16-2008, 08:57 PM
Right.

I think I'm just going to accept that we have different ideas of what makes a good beta reader and leave it at that.

As long as it works for you.

Agreed. Every writer has to decide what's important to them in their commentary, etc. What works for one writer isn't necessarily going to work for anyone else.

I believe that's the way it should be.

Matera the Mad
07-17-2008, 04:33 AM
Well...I have both XP and Linux in mah lil box, and my best beta is not a member of AW. And some peeps think I'm a good beta, and some never want to talk to me again. Some just want me to fix their computers or something.

Nakhlasmoke
07-17-2008, 09:21 AM
Well...I have both XP and Linux in mah lil box, and my best beta is not a member of AW. ...

Oh hey snap. :)