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View Full Version : Abusing friends, aka "when friends help you edit"



deborahlea
08-04-2008, 09:17 PM
I have a background in IT, so I'm very interested in processes.

Despite my ordinary interest in structure and processes, I just started hurling chapters at friends who volunteered to edit.

D'oh!

I'm about to send out a follow-up note, setting up a few guidelines, and re-emphasizing that I am happy for whatever feedback they can give, whether that's in the form of line-by-line edits or a single paragraph summing up their response to the entire book.

Would that I could go back and do this before I sent out any text! But, hey - I'm learning too, huh?

So my question is: How do you engage your friends in editing? What are your ground rules, and how do you get them comfortable giving as little or as much as they can, and freely? (One of my editors keeps apologizing for questioning bits of the story, which makes me laugh. That's what editing is, and it's the only way to really make a book Be All It Can Be!)

DeleyanLee
08-04-2008, 09:33 PM
My guidelines, whenever I've sent something out in the past.

1. No line edits. If I have a grammatical error I'm always guilty of, state the problem, but do not correct the text. (reasoning: line editing is a last-pass correction, not something to fuss with when it's possible large sections of the text could change or be deleted.)

2. Tell me when & where you had a strong emotional reaction (positive or negative)--and what that reaction was. Pinpoint it as close to the very sentence/word as you can to be most helpful.

3. What do you think the story was about?

4. Did you enjoy it?

That's all I want from an initial reader. If I have any questions about their responses, I'll go back and open a dialogue with them to pinpoint what I want to know. The dialogue is necessary because most people aren't conscious of why they had the resposes they had and have to be guided into thinking deeper than their surface reaction.

James81
08-04-2008, 09:42 PM
Do your own editting.

Also, bear in mind, that just because you SEND it in MS Word or whatever, doesn't mean you have to USE the copy they send back to you. Keep your origininal and when you get it back, make the changes yourself.

At least, that's the way I see it.

Maryn
08-04-2008, 09:47 PM
I don't ever ask friends to edit or offer feedback. That's what my critique group is for. A friend who would tell me straight my work sucks would be someone I couldn't feel warmth for, yet that may be exactly what I need.

In my early writing days, I asked family, but they love me and won't tell me anything negative, so it's useless.

Seriously, rather than abusing your friends, see if you can hook up with critique partners or beta readers here or in the real world.

Maryn, noting that it sounds like the painters are sanding her skull, they're so close

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 10:06 PM
My guidelines, whenever I've sent something out in the past.

1. No line edits. If I have a grammatical error I'm always guilty of, state the problem, but do not correct the text. (reasoning: line editing is a last-pass correction, not something to fuss with when it's possible large sections of the text could change or be deleted.)

2. Tell me when & where you had a strong emotional reaction (positive or negative)--and what that reaction was. Pinpoint it as close to the very sentence/word as you can to be most helpful.

3. What do you think the story was about?

4. Did you enjoy it?

That's all I want from an initial reader. If I have any questions about their responses, I'll go back and open a dialogue with them to pinpoint what I want to know. The dialogue is necessary because most people aren't conscious of why they had the resposes they had and have to be guided into thinking deeper than their surface reaction.

Thank you for this incredibly helpful - and well timed - comment. Based on this, I deleted the email I was in the middle of drafting. I'll send something much shorter and less intimidating in its lieu.

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 10:08 PM
Do your own editting.

Also, bear in mind, that just because you SEND it in MS Word or whatever, doesn't mean you have to USE the copy they send back to you. Keep your origininal and when you get it back, make the changes yourself.

At least, that's the way I see it.

A fair deal of my work involves "redlining," which is like "editing" contracts. Even in that realm, I tend to prefer getting feedback and building my own language based on general responses: "Well, couldn't we do something like this...?" Frankly, it makes it easier for me to shape the general idea into something more in tune with what I want.

This is so even with impersonal documents NOT generated by me, so - it seems even more appropriate to follow this approach here!

Jackfishwoman
08-04-2008, 10:08 PM
I use friends to edit my work and offer feedback - in fact, I depend on them quite a bit. Some are better at it than others but all have something to contribute. I love the collaboration aspect of it and each individual picks up on something different. I find it extremely helpful.
I don't have any ground-rules - I just ask my friends to give whatever feedback they can - and they do.
Also, I use my mother & my sister to do edits. My mom is a very good line editor and is very honest, and my sister is brutally honest and she always looks for the worst and is very cirtical. I find it very helpful to get her honest opinion.

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 10:13 PM
I don't ever ask friends to edit or offer feedback. That's what my critique group is for. A friend who would tell me straight my work sucks would be someone I couldn't feel warmth for, yet that may be exactly what I need.

In my early writing days, I asked family, but they love me and won't tell me anything negative, so it's useless.

Seriously, rather than abusing your friends, see if you can hook up with critique partners or beta readers here or in the real world.

Maryn, noting that it sounds like the painters are sanding her skull, they're so close

I'm the one whose siblings always told her, "You were a great model because you showed us you can love someone and totally, vocally disagree with them." So...

This is one area where I should state I'm in rather a unique situation. I have very literary friends and family with very strong opinions, and very eloquent ways of expressing these. Each of the folks who are acting as readers are ones I can argue openly but lovingly with. They're folks whose judgment I trust absolutely, and, with one exception, folks who aren't worried about the impact their comments will have on our friendship.

After years negotiating contracts and managing complex interactions like that, I'm no longer invested in being "perfect" the way I once was. Feedback only benefits me, whether harsh or positive, and I've made clear I asked for their feedback because it would benefit me.

Only in the one case am I having to reiterate there is no need for apologies. (Hence the "d'oh!" above.)

But for the most part, these are the people I want editing because they are people who have proven sound judgment in literary and life realms, and I'm grateful they're willing to take on such a project.

I'm also grateful for the feedback I've gotten here, already!, because it helps me set the boundaries a little more clearly. What I want from a first edit really isn't the same as what I'm going to want from a tenth edit, so - here I am, again, learning as I go!

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 10:38 PM
I use friends to edit my work and offer feedback - in fact, I depend on them quite a bit. Some are better at it than others but all have something to contribute. I love the collaboration aspect of it and each individual picks up on something different. I find it extremely helpful.
I don't have any ground-rules - I just ask my friends to give whatever feedback they can - and they do.
Also, I use my mother & my sister to do edits. My mom is a very good line editor and is very honest, and my sister is brutally honest and she always looks for the worst and is very cirtical. I find it very helpful to get her honest opinion.

My sister is also extremely honest, both in providing praise and criticism, and is a wonderful editor for it. In the past, I've only used her editing for school papers and short articles, but in this context I'm really getting to see what awesome editing stuff she's made of.

I definitely expect nothing less than honesty from her, and that, as well as the fact she's read about 6,789,234 books, makes her a treasured editor indeed!

Shadow_Ferret
08-04-2008, 10:49 PM
I don't have any friends that I would abuse by having them read my stuff. I do my own editing. I don't even like to use beta readers.

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 10:52 PM
I don't have any friends that I would abuse by having them read my stuff. I do my own editing. I don't even like to use beta readers.

Do you ever find it difficult to view your work objectively, as a stranger might? If not, what are your strategies for viewing somewhat objectively? Did it take you a while to develop that knack?

Bubastes
08-04-2008, 10:59 PM
Do you ever find it difficult to view your work objectively, as a stranger might? If not, what are your strategies for viewing somewhat objectively? Did it take you a while to develop that knack?

I'm the same as Shadow Ferret. I've used a beta for only one of my pieces. I was blessed (?) with a sieve brain, so by the time I review my work, I can barely remember what the last draft contained. Setting aside my work for a day or two is enough for me to look at it with fresh, objective eyes.

DeleyanLee
08-04-2008, 10:59 PM
I don't have any friends that I would abuse by having them read my stuff. I do my own editing. I don't even like to use beta readers.

I don't do beta readers often anymore either, though I was quite addicted to them at one point. I learned the hard way that the full responsibility of my work has to be on my own shoulders--I am truly the only one who will care so much about my story as well as the only person who knows my story as well as I do. What I use betas for is to see whether or not I got the story onto the page--which isn't the same as editing.

Shadow_Ferret
08-04-2008, 11:09 PM
Do you ever find it difficult to view your work objectively, as a stranger might? If not, what are your strategies for viewing somewhat objectively? Did it take you a while to develop that knack?

I'm the same as Shadow Ferret. I've used a beta for only one of my pieces. I was blessed (?) with a sieve brain, so by the time I review my work, I can barely remember what the last draft contained. Setting aside my work for a day or two is enough for me to look at it with fresh, objective eyes.

I think meowgirl is my twin. My memory is horrible and everytime I re-read my story it's all new again.

But define subjective. After all, how can you be sure your "friends" are being subjective? As far as me, I want it to be the best thing I can put out there. It's going to have my name on it, after all. I've always been my own worst critic. That's why my current novel is on its 12th draft.

Maybe I need a beta to look it over and go, "You can stop now."

JeanneTGC
08-04-2008, 11:14 PM
I use beta readers religiously. Nothing goes out to my agent unless at least two of them have vetted it, and it's gone through a final line edit with my crit partner.

In terms of what I ask a beta to do -- well, since I'm finally down to a short list of those who will tell me the truth (I'm definitely one who can take it), it varies. I have a couple who read it mainly for storyline -- they let me know if they feel the characters are off or the story is confusing, etc. I have others looking for content and all the little niggles like spelling, grammar, punctuation and word usage. My crit partner and I look for all of it.

My family lives to be brutally honest, so my daughter and husband beta read, I have a close friend who's like my mother who also beta reads, and then other writer friends who beta read. For the other writers, I beta their stuff as well.

I found the betas who worked best with me through trial and error, but I pretty much ask them to do whatever they feel comfortable with, then ask them questions if I'm confused or concerned by their feedback. My daughter and another teenaged beta only want to do the read and remark. The others are happy to find errors and suggest fixes. I think it's a good mix, at least it works for me!

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 11:16 PM
I'm the same as Shadow Ferret. I've used a beta for only one of my pieces. I was blessed (?) with a sieve brain, so by the time I review my work, I can barely remember what the last draft contained. Setting aside my work for a day or two is enough for me to look at it with fresh, objective eyes.

Hey, color ME envious! That's a blessing. :)

JLCwrites
08-04-2008, 11:16 PM
So my question is: How do you engage your friends in editing? What are your ground rules, and how do you get them comfortable giving as little or as much as they can, and freely?
I like to get them drunk first. :)


I have hubby be my first editor. He is very honest with me. Then I make notes about what he says, stick it on a shelf for a couple of months, then go back and approach it with fresh eyes.

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 11:18 PM
I don't do beta readers often anymore either, though I was quite addicted to them at one point. I learned the hard way that the full responsibility of my work has to be on my own shoulders--I am truly the only one who will care so much about my story as well as the only person who knows my story as well as I do. What I use betas for is to see whether or not I got the story onto the page--which isn't the same as editing.

It's interesting. Obviously this is a first for me, but I didn't really understand this "whether or not I got the story onto the page" was what I was looking for till Kitty Pryde sent her first comments. Those comments helped me see where there were lapses between what I feel, so close to the story, and what I've actually gotten down for the reader.

deborahlea
08-04-2008, 11:18 PM
I like to get them drunk first. :)


I have hubby be my first editor. He is very honest with me. Then I make notes about what he says, stick it on a shelf for a couple of months, then go back and approach it with fresh eyes.

I like the drunk bit. ;) I'll have to consider that!

dirtsider
08-04-2008, 11:47 PM
Someone from one of my writing groups has paid someone (a student iirc) to read her (the person from my group) work back to her. This way she gets to hear where the weak points/flaws are. The reader isn't as emotionally invested in the story as the author so there's that remove. Also, it frees the author up to take notes as the story's being read.

Me, though - I prefer to use my writing groups for the most part. Since they're all writers, they understand what I'm going through. I trust only two of my friends to beta my work. They're not the type to just go "oh, how nice". The rest of my friends either don't know I write or aren't the type of people I trust to give me a good crit. (Meaning they'd either just laugh it off or just say, "oh, how nice". I already had someone do that.)

Bartholomew
08-05-2008, 12:27 AM
I've actually started sticking space for comments at the end of sections. I also tend to end segments with questions. Like, "Was it obvious that X had a bad reaction to QP?"

Matera the Mad
08-05-2008, 03:52 AM
Nobody edits but me. I accept suggestions from beta readers whose abilities have won my respect. I will listen to comments from any reader.

deborahlea
08-05-2008, 03:56 AM
Nobody edits but me. I accept suggestions from beta readers whose abilities have won my respect. I will listen to comments from any reader.

I feel a little daft reading this, because until I read your comment, I didn't understand the "I-alone-edit" responses.

It's funny how much can be learned in a day. When I woke up this morning, "editing" involved any kind of review and comment on a work.

Now there seem to be more nuances to the word, so that, where before I'd have said, "seeking edits," I might now say, "seeking comments."

Hmm.

deborahlea
08-05-2008, 03:58 AM
Me, though - I prefer to use my writing groups for the most part. Since they're all writers, they understand what I'm going through. I trust only two of my friends to beta my work. They're not the type to just go "oh, how nice". The rest of my friends either don't know I write or aren't the type of people I trust to give me a good crit. (Meaning they'd either just laugh it off or just say, "oh, how nice". I already had someone do that.)

/headdesk

I don't even know how I would respond to that: "Oh, how nice."

Maybe with: "Oh, how helpful"? :p

JeanneTGC
08-05-2008, 05:14 AM
/headdesk

I don't even know how I would respond to that: "Oh, how nice."

Maybe with: "Oh, how helpful"? :p
Always remember that someone giving you a very mundane reply -- it's great write more, oh how nice, I liked it, not my cuppa, whatever -- is very likely giving you the only answer they know how to or feel comfortable with.

Betas, crit partners, folks who can and will willingly help you with any part of this process, are both rare and need to be trained up, just like you needed to be trained up as a writer.

I have a couple of friends who love to read my stuff, but they're only really capable of saying "I loved it" or "It's not my cuppa" and that's IT. And you know what? They still read it and gave me their feedback, and it's good enough. I found other people who gave me more critical feedback and so on -- I rely on those folks. But occassionally, hearing the "I loved it" is nice, and sometimes hearing "I don't like it" is helpful.

Always remember -- the beta reader is, truly, doing the writer a favor.

C.bronco
08-05-2008, 05:16 AM
Mom and Dad never complain.
:D

JeanneTGC
08-05-2008, 05:26 AM
Mom and Dad never complain.
:D
Wow, really? My MIL is more than happy to point out where I could and should be doing better.

My family lives to break that "you can't trust your family to be truthful" rule.

C.bronco
08-05-2008, 05:30 AM
My parents just say, "Send the next chapter!"

deborahlea
08-05-2008, 06:03 AM
My family lives to break that "you can't trust your family to be truthful" rule.

Ditto. Very, very much ditto.

MaryMumsy
08-05-2008, 08:39 AM
I'm Jeanne's beta who is like her Mom. I hard print everything, then mark it up with a purple pen and use those little post-it flags to mark the pages that need reviewing. Luckily we live close to each other and can go over the hard copy together. When she first asked me to read some of her stuff I knew of no other way to do it. I'm just thankful she is thick-skinned and doesn't take offense at some of my suggestions. She doesn't always agree with what I have to say, but at least she listens.

MM

JeanneTGC
08-05-2008, 08:53 AM
I'm Jeanne's beta who is like her Mom. I hard print everything, then mark it up with a purple pen and use those little post-it flags to mark the pages that need reviewing. Luckily we live close to each other and can go over the hard copy together. When she first asked me to read some of her stuff I knew of no other way to do it. I'm just thankful she is thick-skinned and doesn't take offense at some of my suggestions. She doesn't always agree with what I have to say, but at least she listens.

MM
Speaking of those who have no qualms about telling me when I suck or am not living up to potential...;)

Seriously, though, if you can take it, there's nothing better than an honest beta who can also tell you WHY something doesn't work. They're worth their weight in gold, and then some.

MaryMumsy
08-05-2008, 09:15 AM
As of Friday's price: $2,851,200.

MM