View Full Version : When Betas go bad

05-17-2009, 06:55 AM
This is just a rant really, and the beta is somebody I know - not a real beta ;)

To my lovely, lovely beta. And I mean that. You help me immensely, and I adore you. But if you just barely skimmed the thing and are low on time, please just say that you didn't have time to read it like you would if it were a real book.

If I leave out the lapdance and customers part, how are folks gonna know she's a stripper? You know she's a stripper. Oh, you didn't catch that she was a stripper? Ah.

If you don't have a clue what happened in the 3rd paragraph, how do you know it needs an 'although'?

Yes, maybe she could meet his gaze instead of averting her eyes, but it sounded like a good place to mention why she's shy. Oh, you didn't catch that she's shy? The word 'shy' was supposed to help.

I have just written a draft with your changes, and it reads a lot like See Dick Run. Saying George 3 times in 2 sentences seems a bit much, but if you really think it's not clear without it...

Wait. Maybe you should read it again when you have more time. No, I know you read it carefully. Good night, and thanks :D

And with that, I'm gonna shake out my brain and close yWrite for a bit. Just sayin'.


05-17-2009, 07:01 AM
Yes. I feel your pain. I gave my first completed manuscript to someone and it disappeared. She has not mentioned it in two years. I would rather jab a knife in my jugular than bring it up. It is now in a folder on top of the entertainment center and I think it is going to stay there.

05-17-2009, 07:06 AM
LOL. I'm a hideous slow-poke as a beta, but that does not mean the quality isn't there. Just that I'm a flaky b!tch.

2 years is rather flaky ;)

05-17-2009, 07:10 AM
I mean, God - did I suck that bad?! It's like this horrible thing between us now. I wish she would have said I don't want to read your stupid book, get away from me. And punched me in the nose. It would have far less painful!

Sorry. Hoped I didn't derail! I just feel your pain is all. You gotta get that sucker to a writer to crit. I wish you luck!

05-17-2009, 07:14 AM
No derail; this is just a silly vent :)

And really, some people freak out if they'd change one word, so they won't talk about it. Some people are just flaky like me. Others might not like it, but are they big readers, etc? Is it their preferred genre?

Crits are awesome, but you have to have a sense about where they might be coming from. This one didn't really read it today. He's busy. No problem, but it was a silly crit in the end, for sure :D

05-17-2009, 07:25 AM
The title should've been "When good Betas go bad," it would have been more amusing. :)

05-17-2009, 07:31 AM
Hey, that's an awesome crit. My faith is restored :D

05-17-2009, 08:15 AM
I had a betta go bad once. It kept ramming the other fish and...

Oh. Nevermind.

Matera the Mad
05-17-2009, 09:48 AM
*snerkle* I usually warn the po fish that I only read when I've had a good night's sleep, which happens once every second blue moon.

05-17-2009, 09:51 AM
I gave a good friend a copy of my first novel to read, and what do you know, two years later she gives me some detailed feedback on what she liked and didn't. I'd since completely rewritten the thing, but it was fun to hear her opinions anyway and reminisce about my old plot lines.


05-17-2009, 01:37 PM
You know what.

Be grateful that someone took the time to even skim your work.

It's not a right to have a beta give you feedback.

05-17-2009, 03:06 PM
It isn't a right to have a beta give you feedback, or even to have a beta, but if someone just skims a manuscript and then presents themselves as having read the whole thing carefully and thoroughly, and gives feedback based on having read it carefully and thoroughly, that seems dishonest to me. Personally, if I ask someone to read one of my manuscripts, I would rather have them say, "Sorry, I don't have time right now" or "I can skim it for you but I don't have time to do more than that" than try to make me believe they took their time with it.

05-17-2009, 03:14 PM
Edit - Oooo 7am crosspost. That strikes me as odd :D

You know what.

Be grateful that someone took the time to even skim your work.

It's not a right to have a beta give you feedback.

Aw, ungratefuls and rights and do I know whats. Lord, how many smileys does one need to put in a post:

To my lovely, lovely beta. And I mean that. You help me immensely, and I adore you.

...this is just a silly vent

Nicole, lol. Maybe she had to mull it over a while?

And I was always told not to put beta fish together. It's supposed to knock Earth off its orbit or something.

05-17-2009, 03:41 PM
Oi, I myself pulled a skim blunder job, and I'm not too proud of it. x.X; Made the mistake of trying to beta for someone when a great deal of stressful shite was cropping up on all sides, so suffice to say I was in no condition to peruse anyone's manuscript. The partnership fell through as a result, which I regret, so I haven't really dared trying to find another beta reader for my manuscript. XD

05-17-2009, 04:14 PM
That sucks, Antaeus. It happens to the best of folks :)

I'll be your flaky slow-poke beta if you like. I just need maybe 2 years! That seems to be the flaky going rate around this thread :D

05-17-2009, 04:18 PM
XD I can handle slow-pokeness, just expect me to poke you every five or six minutes and bounce up and down like a hypercaffinated ferret. >.> "Didjareaddidjareaddidjaread?"

And I'd be happy to beta anything you're working on, now that my life's all stress free and mellow. XD I'll even be careful and read over everything three times before writing down anything. *nodnod*

05-17-2009, 04:21 PM
Well, you make such an enticing pitch:

just expect me to poke you every five or six minutes and bounce up and down like a hypercaffinated ferret. >.> "Didjareaddidjareaddidjaread?" :D

Hey, if you don't mind slow-pokiness, it's a deal. Just let's not start till June 1st so that I can give my other beta read some needed attention :)

05-17-2009, 04:22 PM
The topic and issues surrounding betas is an old one.

I use betas extensively. For what it's worth here is how I approach it.

1) Pick people whom you do not know personally.
2) Get as many betas as you can to read for you. I have at least eight per book.
3) As was noted in an earlier posting, you'll avoid frustration and disappointment if you pick people who have the time and energy to read for you. Ask!
4) Make sure your MS is as error free as you can make it. Betas are not your cleanup crew.
5) Be respectful of and to your beta.
6) Pick people who fit your genre. Generally speaking, people who feast on fantasy romance novels won't stay interested in your war memoir for very long. Unless you've been fighting Amazons on Mars.
7) Be specific. What do you want your beta to focus on? Give a time line for when you need the MS returned.

Always, always credit your betas by name in your acknowledgment page.
I send a signed copy of my book once it's available to each of my betas no matter how I feel about their work.

Repeat after me. Beta readers: their price is above rubies.

05-17-2009, 04:31 PM
Well, you make such an enticing pitch:

Hey, if you don't mind slow-pokiness, it's a deal. Just let's not start till June 1st so that I can give my other beta read some needed attention :)

Agreed, I've got exams this week anyway, so the delay will be most welcome. ^.^

05-17-2009, 04:38 PM
What to do when you get what you think is a crappy evaluation from a beta:

1) Thank the person, even if there is no single useful comment in the entire critique. This person took time from his/her life to read/skim/sloppyread your personal gem-of-literature and he/she didn't charge you a cent. It's called a gift, regardless of how tasteless it is or how fast you toss it up in the attic.

2) Take each instance where the beta obviously misunderstood what you were trying to get across and use that as a reason to review that passage. Many times readers misunderstand what the author is trying to get across because the author's silver-lined words are a bit tarnished. For example, in posts here, when a poster puts out a nasty statement and finishes it off with a smiley, how can we all know if the line was intended as a total joke, or the smiley was just inserted as a chickenshit in-case-anyone-objects way to get in a slam but deny it later (one of the reasons I hate emoticons and won't use them).

Better example (from personal experience)--several times I've thought that a beta didn't read sections of my stories carefully because they missed something important, only to realize in each and every case that I was the one who failed--I didn't get my intended information across in a way that was clear enough. In every single case, it resulted in a modification and an improvement of that section of the story.

3) Discard each and every comment of the beta that you think is inappropriate and look for ones that do make sense. Edit as you see fit, with or without any of the beta's comments/suggestions.

4) Don't complain if the review has little in the way of positive comments, unless there was a specific request to point out what worked as well as what didn't. A writer's focus at this stage should be on where the story didn't work so well, with the need for praise to come later, when the writer is confident the story is near submission ready. A writer should never submit a manuscript to a beta expecting praise. It will only lead to disappointment and possibly an emotional rejection of the beta's comments as all negative and therefore not useful (which defeats the purpose of asking for the critique in the first place).

5) If the beta asks about how the crit helped, thank him/her again and say it was very helpful. This won't be a lie since a negative experience tells you to not use this person as a beta reader ever again.

6) If a beta agrees to review something as long as a novel, and he/she drops off the face of the earth, just assume that person's life took some turns or became so busy with personal stuff that he/she couldn't bring your request up on his/her priority list at this time. If he/she finally finishes the review two years later, that is an admirable quality, not something to dis. A beta has a life, and that life requires attention way before any can be devoted to someone else's manuscript. We all bite off way too much at times, and personal issues can't be waived in favor of reviewing some else's manuscript. Again, this all goes to consideration of this person as a desirable beta for subsequent manuscripts.

7) Remember that when betas crit our works, they can and probably will ask for the return favor. Even if the crit you received was total crap, be professional in dealing with that other person's work--don't use the opportunity to "get even." It won't reflect well on you no matter what the original reason for your lack of professionalism.

05-17-2009, 04:45 PM
This thread reminds me again how grateful I am for the perverted services of our very own tt42. :D

05-17-2009, 05:02 PM
You and tt42 sound like y'all found the perfect beta-beta relationship! This beta is a good, helpful guy. He knows his reading.

Excellent advice, imho, citymouse and Neuro. Thank you!

-- And there will be no smiley-snarking from this corner! I just smile/laugh a lot and like to think of the web as if I were talking. I loathe smiley-snarking. (And I have no problem being seen as a b!tch, actually... just not a snarky b!tch).

05-17-2009, 05:09 PM
Also remember, we have people on AW who are negative about major successes like Dan Brown and literary icons like Hemingway. Why should any of us be spared? Believe in yourself, craft as best you can, and use whatever you wish to take from the betas.

05-17-2009, 05:44 PM
I have one addition to make to NeuroFizz's excellent post. Let your slow beta off the hook gracefully if you can.

Say your beta has had the manuscript for six months. Yeah, life can pile up on you, but in six months beta hasn't managed to read your work. That means it's not grabbing the beta, and that's all you need to know. Maybe it's poor work, maybe it's a poor match of tastes, but for whatever reason, beta is not enthusiastic about your work.

So rather than allowing the beta to plod onward out of some sense of duty or friendship, let the beta know you've received some very valuable input from other beta readers. While you'd be happy to have his/her input, too, you now realize you need to rework much of the novel and certainly don't want to waste the beta's time reading a version which will undergo changes.

And of course, thank your failed beta even if it seems he or she has given you nothing at all. The disinterest is something.

Maryn, who betas now and again

05-17-2009, 06:06 PM
Something else I'd find helpful in a Beta reader is honesty as to whether or not they want to muddle through my writing style. XD It's gotten mixed reviews; some have loved it, and others say I need to take a sizable weed whacker to the manuscript to trim the language down some.

Naturally I'd consider any and all critique carefully, including any made about my writing style, but in the end if I decide to stick with the style I've got, for whatever reason, I wouldn't want a Beta to rehash the exact same point or two over and over again; at the very least, if they felt the style was too disruptive to their analyzing the rest of the manuscript's aspects, I'd ask that they just bow out gracefully, and tell me it's because they just really can't get used to my writing style.

In many ways, not being able to read my book would be as much of an indicator

Also, I actually think non-writers (i.e. not trying to write novels/published short story anthologies, etc,) would represent a very helpful Beta pool, for the simple reason that they wouldn't have as established a style of their own to hold it up to. Sometimes I've betaed pieces of work and have felt a little bit of foreboding, not because the work is in any way bad, but just because I feel this jarring sense of disconnect every time I see something I would have done differently.

Not even done better; just differently.

Fortunately I manage to overcome this territorial instinct, at least I hope I do. =P It'd definately be nice, though, to have anon-biased individual who doesn't themself have a preferred manner of handling things, and would offer a truly fresh perspective.

That's my opinion, anywho. >_>;

05-17-2009, 06:29 PM
Your betas won't go bad if you store them properly....

what? :D

05-17-2009, 07:01 PM
And it only takes three betas to re-shingle your roof--if you slice them thin enough...