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ASwimmerWrites
12-12-2010, 07:24 PM
This girl contacted me the other day. She wanted to beta one of my MSs, which she had seen on another website (not AW). Her email was full of grammatical and spelling errors, but I decided to give her a shot anyway because she could at least point out big picture things. We emailed back and forth a couple times, and then I sent her my MS. In her reply, she attached her MS, even though we hadn't discussed swapping at all.

I'm the kind of reader who cannot stand a ton of grammatical/spelling errors, so reading her MS is very, very difficult. (She did say she's looking for big picture stuff, but the little stuff is way too distracting.) Couple that with the fact that we never discussed a swap, and I'm trying to figure out if I should even try to get through it.

Should I tell her I can't beta right now? Should I try to get through it? Any tips for this situation would be helpful.

CaoPaux
12-12-2010, 07:46 PM
Gah. Were it me, I'd give her some notes on the first five pages, then tell her straight that if she wants feedback on the "big picture" she needs to give you one that's in focus. :cool:

Sophia
12-12-2010, 07:59 PM
I'm sorry for the awkward situation. Whether you want to try to do the critique is up to you. If you don't, then I don't think you have any reason to feel guilty. It was her who contacted you (out of the blue, presumably, and not in response to something you'd said anywhere) and offered to beta. As a swap was never discussed, I would say that I apologized, but from the content of her e-mails, I had understood that this was an offer of critique, and not a request for a critique swap. I would add that I accepted if she was now no longer willing to critique my work.

I wouldn't mention anything about spelling errors, or give a specific reason for not critiquing her work.

I hope the situation is cleared up quickly and with no residual animosity!

Soccer Mom
12-12-2010, 08:48 PM
Gah. Were it me, I'd give her some notes on the first five pages, then tell her straight that if she wants feedback on the "big picture" she needs to give you one that's in focus. :cool:

I would do this. She needs to work on the basics before she worries about the big picture. It's like trying to build a house with only a saw and two nails. She needs all the proper tools. Be gentle, but be honest.

PinkAmy
12-12-2010, 10:51 PM
I'd opt for honesty, exactly what you told us. You're not the best person to beta for her because you get too distracted by the grammatical errors etc. Some people are better at big picture things and can overlook the voluminous mistakes. She could try to find someone like that or work on the mistakes and then find someone. It's up to her. I wouldn't mention that you didn't agree to read her MS, since she might have thought that was implicit in the agreement. In the future, just be clear whether you want to swap or just have someone read yours. GL

Captcha
12-13-2010, 12:47 AM
I think it's valuable feedback to know why people don't want to keep reading my MS. It's only happened once, to me, but I'm glad that my beta was honest about it. She even told me more or less how far she got before she quit.

Ever since then, when I send things out for beta work, I include a phrase saying something like "if you would have quit reading this, were you not beta-ing it, please quit reading! I'm looking for authentic reactions and feedback. If you could tell me what turned you off and roughly how far you got, that would be invaluable."

So, maybe that's not really what this person is looking for, but if you take a look at the first page or two and can't continue - that's something she needs to know!

Chase
12-13-2010, 06:46 AM
I'm the kind of reader who cannot stand a ton of grammatical/spelling errors, so reading her MS is very, very difficult. (She did say she's looking for big picture stuff, but the little stuff is way too distracting.)

It goes past not being able to "overlook" errors upon errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Writers who believe syntax and "content" are totally separate items, the latter somehow shining through the former when miserable, are from another space-time continuum.

A good novel and better shorter works are nuances of language carefully crafted by a writer. The idea of "read this for content, and I'll get some nerdy English person to fix all the petty stuff later" is a huge crock.

You are right to reject careless writing on the sound basis that it isn't yet up to snuff to beta.

ASwimmerWrites
12-13-2010, 06:39 PM
Thanks for all the feedback, guys! Great advice.

brandileigh2003
12-13-2010, 08:45 PM
I agree either first 5 pages or just be honest!

Phaeal
12-14-2010, 10:13 PM
I want my beta to be a better speller and grammarian than me. Er, I. I'm also one of those elitists who think that messy technique means a messy mind and does not bode well for the "big pic" aspects of the book. You may contact my lawyers Dewey Cheatum and Howe if you wish to sue me. (Yes, I patronize the same firm as the Car Guys.)

I'd call the whole thing off.

yoghurtelf
12-15-2010, 08:39 AM
Eek, awkward! I'd definitely give her some (gentle) feedback on whole grammar thing, as I do agree with Phaeal that poor grammar/spelling/etc. is a bad sign from the start.

Obviously she hasn't proof-read yet, then again if she has that's even more scary. Hehe. I'd never submit anything of mine for critiquing without proofing it first myself.