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Maryn
04-27-2011, 12:15 AM
Some people here retain their basic trust in the goodness of humanity. Time permitting, they will beta read for anyone who asks. This is wonderful, of course, and I like to imagine fine beta-for-beta arrangements stemming from their generous spirits.

But there are plenty of AWers like me who have beta read entire novels, written up five or ten thousand words of commentary we hoped was both insightful and useful, and never heard a word back. Or heard a single word, Thanks, or in one memorable instance, Asshole!

On behalf of those who have been similarly burned, here's why I won't beta read your book:

You may know me from lurking, but I don't know you. A beta read takes many hours, at a minimum. A book which has 'issues' takes much longer. Pretty huge favor to ask of a stranger, don't you think?
You're new and already have your hand out, asking for a lot without having given one damned thing to the AW community in general. Me, me, me is not cool.
I don't like you. This can happen even if I've never interacted with you. I've observed you here at AW, and I didn't like what I saw. Bummer, huh? This is what your mom meant when she said, "What goes around, comes around."
I like you well enough, but I don't share your politics, your taste in reading, or your sense of humor. Something essential about you and me does not mesh, and I'd be willing to bet that extends to your book.
You and I may get along splendidly, but I don't read your genre because I don't care for it. That probably includes your book. Plus, if I don't read the genre, I will not be able to tell if you've written something wonderfully original or retold Eat, Pray, Love or A is for Alibi.
It seems you don't need a beta read so much as reassurance that your work is pretty good, or that you're on the right path. You can get that without asking others to invest so much of themselves.
You've never put a scene, chapter, or story up at your genre's Share Your Work board. I need to see your writing to know if you've mastered basic mechanics, can string together coherent sentences, know the difference between show and tell, can pare away unnecessary words, etc. Show me something which suggests you've got the goods.
I have no reason to believe your novel has been rewritten, revised, edited, and polished until I need sunglasses to look at its brilliance. If it hasn't, it's not ready for a beta. No matter how good you may be, your first draft is not good enough.

And because I'm not a total meanie, here's how to turn things around:

Become a regular presence at your genre's board. Ask questions, or answer without being a know-it-all. Seek reading suggestions. Share a few titles you really enjoyed. Discuss what traits the best of the genre often share. The others will feel like they know and like you in a matter of weeks.
Critique other people's writing at your genre's Share Your Work (SYW) board. Those who are actively writing will feel like they owe you one. Don't know how to critique? Bullshit. You know how to read, right? What parts work for you? What doesn't? Why not? There, you're critiquing. I knew you could.
Note the people who give the most useful critiques to other writers in your genre.
Get active in the 'overview' board of whatever you write, whether it's novels, short stories, memoirs, or scripts. A broader group will know you and like you.
Join in on the activity at any of the non-writing boards, from politics to cooking or movies, or just goofing around at Office Party. People will know and like you--but a different and far more diverse group than just your own genre's writers. I bet you're seeing a pattern here, huh? Being a person who's known and liked means people are happy to help you write your best.
After you've hit 50 posts, which will take no time if you get involved at multiple AW boards, polish up your first chapter then post it at the appropriate SYW board. Make sure you read the sticky about how to format it, since AW doesn't support tabs and won't recognize your italics or font size.
Note the people who gave you the most useful (read: most painful) critiques which ID specific mistakes, flaws, and weaknesses.

Now you'll be somebody known and liked by people who are active at different parts of AW, who's a part of the AW community, and who's contributed his or her own time and effort before asking for anyone else's. We're far more likely to help you, because you're one of us.

Plus you'll have a short list of people from whom you'd most like to receive feedback, and can even tell them in a PM why you're asking them specifically.

Maryn, earning her Curmudgeonette badge

Medievalist
04-27-2011, 12:23 AM
The thing about communities--and networking--is that you get out what you put in.

Entitlement is a no-win-scenario.

Stew21
04-27-2011, 12:25 AM
:applause:


nicely done, ma'am.

Pistol Whipped Bee
04-27-2011, 12:32 AM
I don't remember asking.

Gravity
04-27-2011, 12:44 AM
Maryn, you've encapsulated my thoughts exactly. Well done!

Now it's my sad duty to inform you that a female-lady-type woman such as yourself cannot be a curmudgeon. That, alas, is a field reserved only to men (I know; I'm one). For proof, I refer you to John Houseman's character in Paper Chase. See? :evil

You can, however, be a curmudgeonette, and your badge is even now winging its way to you! :D

RemusShepherd
04-27-2011, 12:45 AM
Most of your list, Maryn, is depressing but I can live with it. They're all defensible reasons for shutting down someone for reasons that cannot be changed -- I put in as much time here as I can spare, I can't help it if nobody likes me, et cetera et cetera.

But there's one bullet point that I have an honest question about, and I was wondering if you could enlighten me.



I have no reason to believe your novel has been rewritten, revised, edited, and polished until I need sunglasses to look at its brilliance. If it hasn't, it's not ready for a beta. No matter how good you may be, your first draft is not good enough.

How exactly does one get past this point? How do I rewrite, revise, and polish a manuscript in the absence of feedback? I thought the point of a beta reader was to look at an unfinished work and offer suggestions on how to revise and polish it. (Am I thinking of an 'alpha reader'? If so, where can I get one of those?)

I'm not asking you to beta for me. It seems to me that you want only perfect manuscripts from perfect people. I might have the first -- nobody's told me differently, because nobody will look at it! -- but I damn well ain't the second. :) What I'd like to hear about is this step in the process that I seem to have missed, where an author is able to revise and polish in a vaccuum. That's a trick I'd sure like to learn.

pandora1983
04-27-2011, 12:51 AM
All very good and valid points Maryn. As a newb who did that without even realizing she did, this is me expressing my very genuine Whoops! To make amends I will impart said advice to all newbs whose path I cross.

Pandora who can admit a mea culpa.

shadowwalker
04-27-2011, 12:54 AM
How exactly does one get past this point? How do I rewrite, revise, and polish a manuscript in the absence of feedback? I thought the point of a beta reader was to look at an unfinished work and offer suggestions on how to revise and polish it. (Am I thinking of an 'alpha reader'? If so, where can I get one of those?)

I'm not asking you to beta for me. It seems to me that you want only perfect manuscripts from perfect people. I might have the first -- nobody's told me differently, because nobody will look at it! -- but I damn well ain't the second. :) What I'd like to hear about is this step in the process that I seem to have missed, where an author is able to revise and polish in a vaccuum. That's a trick I'd sure like to learn.

I do tend to agree with you on this point. Seems like if it's at that point of perfection - why the need for a beta? It's ready for the presses...

Karen Junker
04-27-2011, 12:54 AM
I'm one of those wide-eyed optimists who has beta read for -- let me count my files in the Beta Reads folder -- 60 plus AWers I've never met.

Five of them have thanked me, the rest never responded. One even beta-read my partial manuscript and has become a regular critique partner.

Remus -- what you're looking for is a crit partner, not a beta reader. You can post and ask for them in this forum. PM me and let me know what genre you write and I may be able to help you out!

scarletpeaches
04-27-2011, 12:56 AM
I agree with Maryn entirely and understand her stance on this.

firedrake
04-27-2011, 01:00 AM
Most of your list, Maryn, is depressing but I can live with it. They're all defensible reasons for shutting down someone for reasons that cannot be changed -- I put in as much time here as I can spare, I can't help it if nobody likes me, et cetera et cetera.

But there's one bullet point that I have an honest question about, and I was wondering if you could enlighten me.



How exactly does one get past this point? How do I rewrite, revise, and polish a manuscript in the absence of feedback? I thought the point of a beta reader was to look at an unfinished work and offer suggestions on how to revise and polish it. (Am I thinking of an 'alpha reader'? If so, where can I get one of those?)

I'm not asking you to beta for me. It seems to me that you want only perfect manuscripts from perfect people. I might have the first -- nobody's told me differently, because nobody will look at it! -- but I damn well ain't the second. :) What I'd like to hear about is this step in the process that I seem to have missed, where an author is able to revise and polish in a vaccuum. That's a trick I'd sure like to learn.


I do tend to agree with you on this point. Seems like if it's at that point of perfection - why the need for a beta? It's ready for the presses...

The idea is that the manuscript should be in the best state the writer can get it to prior to going to betas. Get it into the condition that you'd want to send to an agent.

To a large degree, the polishing is down to the writer who should, hopefully, have the skills to produce a polished manuscript. If it's proofreading you want, that's an entirely different ball park.

I've done some Beta reading and there's nothing worse than spending a great deal of time pointing out fundamental errors and spelling mistakes that a writer who takes their craft seriously shouldn't be making.

Just my opinion.

I agree with everything Maryn says.

OpheliaRevived
04-27-2011, 01:06 AM
I'm sorry you had a bad experience and I get it. I've been very lucky with my Betas so far.

mccardey
04-27-2011, 01:21 AM
Good post, Maryn. I love beta-reading - but there's nothing so annoying as sending a report back and getting "Thanks will read later" as your only response.

It only happened once, but it was very irritating.

The other thing I didn't learn quickly enough was to ask for a few pages first, to see if the work was beta-ready. My first read here was a total waste of my time and writer's time in progressing-the-work terms - when I sent a report back (the work was entirely unfinished) she said she'd already trunked it. But I had enjoyed reading and learned a lot and I hope the writer did, too, so it wasn't entirely pointless.

shadowwalker
04-27-2011, 01:50 AM
The idea is that the manuscript should be in the best state the writer can get it to prior to going to betas. Get it into the condition that you'd want to send to an agent.

The beta groups I've been involved in (for several years) work with manuscripts at all stages. The degree of critique is based on whichever stage the story is at (and yes, I'm talking critique, not proofreading). I guess for me, if the manuscript is already in "the condition that you'd want to send to an agent" then I don't need a beta.

bluntforcetrauma
04-27-2011, 01:59 AM
I was once new here. Came through the front door, both guns blazing. Made a lot of foolish mistakes. Then I saw that there are hundreds of gifted writers here. Slowly, I found a comfortable place and am still learning the community. Will I ever ask for a beta? Who knows? When and if I'm ever ready for a reader, I'll be ready. Really ready.

PorterStarrByrd
04-27-2011, 01:59 AM
I'm beta reading two projects now as I write two of my own. I look at that as the "SHARE" in share your work.

I agree that it is nice to have a well polished clean book to read .. but many in this are novices.

As long as the thing isn't filled with mis-spellings and bad writing I don't mind. I generally take several chapters at a time and look at the line by line. If the thing is 'ready for the agent' I ask for the rest of the thing and just enjoy reading. Then I can pass on my thoughts.

I have also read a book that has been 'Beta Read' by two other readers who told the author, essentialy, "It looks fine." while it had major flaws and needed quite a bit of editing before it would get onto my desk, let alone an agent's desk.

I don't claim to have the talent to edit. I have sold nothing, nor tried to yet, and consider myself less than a pro. I don't know how many on this board are pro's with books (plural) to their credit (I don't count self publish or on line published work that may or may not be up to snuff)

We're in this learn and help each other and Beta Reading and Beta Readers seems to be a bit of a crap-shoot.

My limitations are genre and subject within a genre. I'll look at the first paragraphs and then, if I get through those, the first few chapters. I don't feel I have 'promised' to read the whole thing. If I don't like it, I don't get angry. I notify the writer that I don't want to continue and tell why.

Since neither the writers nor readers have a quality badge below their names I don't know before hand what I am getting.
I am new enough that I may not have found it but the helpful thing would be a thread recognizing good Beta Readers. I'd say the same for writers but that would not be fair since most of us are capable of learning and might grow from awful to damned good. I guess the real good ones get published and show up in the brags :)

As far as thanking the Beta Reader, that should almost be public even if you later realize they were patting you an the butt with their response. I guess they just got a free book to read and were happy, huh?

Kitty27
04-27-2011, 02:15 AM
Oh,my.

I was a beta and it was a wonderful experience.I enjoyed the book and she thanked me in the most lovely manner.

What we have here with people not thanking folks is a lack of home training. You ALWAYS thank someone when they take the time to do something for you. I also sense a thin skin syndrome. If the beta is blunt without being cruel/snarky and tells you what needs to be done,I don't understand the upset.

If you are so sensitive that a Beta reader's comments makes you say rude things,how in the world are you going to make it in the MUCH more brutal world of publishing?

fourlittlebees
04-27-2011, 02:18 AM
I totally get where Maryn is coming from, and I haven't even participated here long (although I've been lurking since 2007 or so *grin*)

Old-school online etiquette is that you slink in, observe, and find you way before you put your hand out or open your piehole.

New-school lacks etiquette, and has a tendency to expect hand-holding.

What's frustrating (and trust me... I've already seen this) is when you take time you don't have that's part of the precious bit you have left after job and family and sleep and working on your own stuff to try to help someone out, only to be ignored or contradicted.

Publishing is a business, and a tough one to break into at that. Those of us who did the research and read the agent blogs and pored over PM and Twitter and P&E and Writer Beware and everything else are going to get frustrated when we do everything right, yet the loud, yapping people blast in, demand attention, ignore everything you try to explain or link them to, and disappear into the ether. Of course, it's not everyone, but eventually the few bad apples make the whole barrell look infected with rot.

AyJay
04-27-2011, 02:34 AM
Awesome post, Maryn. I say we should adopt it as a beta code of conduct.

I'm frankly shocked by this behavior, but maybe I've been lucky. I've done 6 beta reads over the past 12 mos., and only one was flaky, and not to the degree of the experiences above.

I've turned down as many requests because I didn't have the time to devote to the work, or didn't think I was the best guy for the job. Even the people I turned down were polite in later correspondence.

But gosh Karen: 60 beta reads and only 5 thank you's? I'd give up beta reading completely.

Amadan
04-27-2011, 02:35 AM
One of the reasons I'm pretty harsh with my critiques is to filter out people who get whiny or defensive.

I do occasional critiques in SYW, but I wouldn't volunteer to beta read a whole novel unless I read the first chapter and it actually made me want to read the rest.

Amadan
04-27-2011, 02:37 AM
I don't remember asking.

:Wha: Why yes, you did say that out loud.

Williebee
04-27-2011, 02:42 AM
Hey Karen? I think I said thank you... didn't I?

THANK YOU!

:)

AlexPiper
04-27-2011, 02:56 AM
As I've always understood it:

Crit partners are people who read the book and give you feedback as you're writing. This is a critique circle, a writing list, whatever.
Beta readers are the people who read the finished thing in one go, as if it were a real book, and give you big-picture feedback.

If all you have is two chapters and an idea on the rest, you're not looking for a beta reader. Just like if you are writing software and all you have is a basic prototype where you want to run the design concept past some people, you're not looking for a beta tester. :)

Smish
04-27-2011, 02:56 AM
:Thumbs:

Sage
04-27-2011, 03:08 AM
I don't know if this is just me, but I really dislike when the assumption is that if someone offers to beta for you (not because you asked, but they offer), you're going to automatically beta their novel in return. I offer to beta for people all the time based on excerpts I've read of their work and descriptions of their novel, or even query letters. And I don't expect that just because, say, I read both MG and YA, that this MG writer I offer to beta for is going to want to read my YA novel. Just because their query or writing caught my eye, doesn't mean I expect that mine has done the same.

I don't know, there's just something about receiving an offer that goes like this, "I saw your query in QLH, and I'd love to beta your novel if it's ready. Mine is ready whenever you want it."

I have been known to offer to my betas to read their stuff, but this is because I know a little bit about it and like it and it's a genre I tend to read. But it should be my right to offer. Not an expectation just because the other writer offered to read mine.

I totally have no problem when someone, including me, is requesting betas and offers to read anything by whoever volunteers to read theirs.

Bluestone
04-27-2011, 03:09 AM
Brave and succinct. It should be a sticky.

Unfortunately I have very limited time, (you wouldn't know it by the amount of time I spend on AW!) but have beta read for 5 people at AW and really put a lot of time and effort into it, because obviously I think it's important and that's what I would want from someone beta reading my mss. Only 2 thanked me, a better average than poor Karen's, but still left me puzzled and feeling a little disappointed. Am I a bad beta? Did I not understand the concept? Was I too harsh? Did I miss the message of the book? Not sufficiently skilled for the genre? I try to balance comments, but I'm not going to say, this was so lovely there was nothing I could add. What I hope I provided in each and every case was thoughtful, helpful, possibly insightful reading. Instead, I am left wondering where I went wrong.

RemusShepherd
04-27-2011, 03:17 AM
Remus -- what you're looking for is a crit partner, not a beta reader.

Am I? I'm honestly not sure. I have a crit group already, and they've already gone through one of my novels. (They're slow; they took two years to do that one. They're in the middle of another now. They haven't looked at the third, and I don't think I'll ever send it to them.) Do I need two or more crit groups? One for each novel? How will I find the time?

If it's just a matter of copyediting for typos and obvious errors, that's all fixed in the first draft stage. If any errors remain in my manuscripts then they're not obvious, because if they were I'd fix them. I would assume most authors do the same. (Maybe that's a bad assumption?)

Apparently beta readers want some assurance that a manuscript is polished enough for their attention. But writers want the beta readers help in polishing. It seems like a Catch-22 to me.


You can post and ask for them in this forum. PM me and let me know what genre you write and I may be able to help you out!

Thanks for the offer. I'll take you up on it. But I'd like some tips on getting beta readers the honest way. Unfortunately I am very short on social skills, and making friends is really, really difficult for me, so Maryn's tips are not helpful. Maybe that means I'm just excluded; I'm used to that.

cscarlet
04-27-2011, 04:24 AM
Well said, Maryn.

cscarlet, paying homage to Maryn by ending her post this way.

PS: I like your egg.

Chase
04-27-2011, 04:26 AM
I don't beta read, so perhaps I should stay out of this thread (fat chance), but I agree with the raging curmudgette.

I'm working on a novel and need critique partners, where the same principles may be applied.

After exchanging a chapter or three, we may find the other's work outside our comfort zone or the other's critique not helpful.

As others have said, we can become bogged down in many and repeated errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. A while ago, two candidates for partnership assured me their works were "polished" when they were in fact horrible in all three areas. They told me I should be looking at the "content." I guess I'm a reader who can't see good content through poor mechanics.

I'm not talking perfection. I'm talking the basics. If those are murky, then odds are so is the content.

Chase, a seasoned curmudgeon

Bluestone
04-27-2011, 04:38 AM
I have a crit group already, and they've already gone through one of my novels. (They're slow; they took two years to do that one. They're in the middle of another now. They haven't looked at the third, and I don't think I'll ever send it to them.) Do I need two or more crit groups? One for each novel? How will I find the time?

Unfortunately I am very short on social skills, and making friends is really, really difficult for me, so Maryn's tips are not helpful. Maybe that means I'm just excluded; I'm used to that.First of all, Remus, no reflection on their skills, but I think you need a new crit group if they're taking that long! Ideally, you'll want to continue to write and edit and finally produce a finished product in your lifetime.

As for the second part, it makes me sad to think you feel excluded. I do believe Maryn's tips are extremely helpful and, as I said in my own post, I relate to the sentiment. But I don't believe she meant anyone and their work had to be perfect. I think it was hyperbole for the sake of making a point. It should be sufficiently edited and polished that your beta isn't slogging through poor sentence structure and bad grammar trying to get to the meat of the story and provide some outside perspective.

Some people do have perfectly edited mss and others know there may still be the odd typo or punctuation issue, but ask you to ignore that and tell them overall if their story works: is voice true, does it flow, engage the reader, does it fit the genre, info dump, that sort of thing. In other words, is it ready to go out into the world or need some tweaking or maybe even a complete overhaul.

If you feel your work is ready for a beta then I hope you'll persevere and find one that is a good fit.

Mara
04-27-2011, 05:41 AM
I've beta-read novels for two people and beta-read a few chapters for a third. I'm not sure how good of a beta-reader I am, but they all thanked me. (But two were people I'd interacted with a lot on various forums, and the third was someone I'd interacted with at least a little in the SYW forum.)

The idea of doing sixty beta-reads and getting acknowledgement for only five boggles my mind. That sounds like some really bad luck.

bluntforcetrauma
04-27-2011, 06:23 AM
Remus, you just need to relax and banter with some folks in Office Party. It helps us get to know you better--but Maryn already said this.

Back to topic:

I think 100 posts before showing our own material would be better. Maybe even 200 before asking someone to beta. Just a thought.

Craig Mattice
04-27-2011, 01:06 PM
Hello Maryn,

I'm not fully confident I am qualified to respond on this board as I've been living on the Basic Writing Board.

I fully enjoyed this post and have a high degree of respect for you based on your principles and forthrightness. Your post is exactly the type of information I was in search of to fully understand what my next move should be on my own project.

To say I agree with your presentation of the subject 100% would be short of my true feelings and observation. My thoughts in reading your posts were that of amazement at people not responding, lack of gratitude for your time, effort, and freely sharing your knowledge and experience, solely for their benefit. How rude and disrespectful can one be without a swift kick? There is a level of common decency, common sense and knowing right from wrong one should possess and fully understand to be involved with AW.

Thank you for the well thought out and solid continuity of your original post. I appreciate it and have learned more about how best to utilize the benefits afforded to good members of AW.

With sincere gratitude and appreciation,

Wayne K
04-27-2011, 01:29 PM
:nothing:

telford
04-27-2011, 02:03 PM
Maryn,
You go girl.

Except for one beta, others asked for my honest appraisal, got it, then disappeared.

Prawn
04-27-2011, 02:28 PM
I have been betaing my book for the past three or four weeks. During that time, 14 people on this board have read all or part it, and for most of them, I returned the favor. Interestingly enough, the three people that helped me the most wanted nothing in return. I can't tell you how much stronger my book is now than it was a month ago. Yes, some people refused to listen to my comments about how to improve their book, but even their refusal to make any changes helped me see that I needed to be flexible in revising my own manuscript.

Now I only offer to swap one chapter at the beginning so I don't invest too much energy in making comments for someone who isn't receptive.

But everyone has helped me so much, and beta-ing their books taught me much about how to improve my own.

Prawn

DiloKeith
04-27-2011, 03:25 PM
Great post, Maryn.

My experience, FWIW:

I started writing while active on a fanfiction site and quickly found betas for short pieces. Most of those relationships were reciprocal. I also posted requests on non-writing forums relevant to the subject matter (BDSM, gay fiction). One piece reviewed by these people and friends will be published this Fall (probably).

Now, I'm getting to the point of writing longer pieces and don't feel comfortable asking most of those people to read. Fortunately, one established writer I met during all of this offered to stick with me through the entire process of editing and submitting my current manuscript (12K). That's still a WIP.

I can't think of anyone to approach with my novel-length ms, but by the time it's ready, I will probably have new contacts. Several people have given positive feedback on separate chapters over the past year.

Maryn
04-27-2011, 05:27 PM
Remus, I'm hoping that if you are not included at AW, it's because you choose to not be part of the community, not because we choose not to have you.

It sounds to me like your critique group is moving at a glacial pace which cannot serve your needs sufficiently. (Mine does a novel in three or four months--while also juggling other work for critique.) While I prefer a face-to-face group focused on one genre, that's not always possible. I do hope you will actively seek a second critique group or one or more critique partners, either real-world or online, and keep at it until you find a good fit.

I checked to see if you'd ever posted a first chapter at SYW, and was pleased to see you had, more than once. I was not pleased to see your rebuttal of the points some of the critiques made, also more than once. As one reply put it, the proper response to all feedback is heartfelt thanks, then to use or ignore the input as you feel best serves the work.

Meanwhile, it's been very nice to learn I said what others have been thinking for some time. And most distressing to hear Karen's abysmal rate of gratitude. She's a perfect example of the goodhearted reader who continues to beta, where I'm more like the Grinch, whose heart was two sizes too small, although I have never tied antlers on a dog. Yet.

Maryn, who thrives on positive reinforcement, like everybody else, but can also handle hearing negatives stated tactfully

Jettica
04-27-2011, 05:38 PM
I completely agree with Maryn, it seems like there are a lot of people who come onto forums such as this for feedback on their work and nothing else.

I think some wires have been crossed here. I believe, what Maryn was trying to say was that manuscripts being sent out for beta-ing should be as good as the writer can get it at that stage. Known plot holes fixed, characterisation as good as it can be and free from grammar and spelling mistakes.

If there are grammar and spelling mistakes then a quick read through should fix that. If there are technical aspects of writing you are not sure about, ask in the relevant forum (generally Basic Writing or Grammar and Syntax).

The reason for betas, as others have said, is to look at your work as a whole. They aren't there to rewrite your novel for you. They are there to comment on things you may haven't even thought about. A plot point that hasn't been tied up or some aspect of the story that hasn't been explained very well.

The problem with writing a novel is that we get so absorbed in the story line that it is constantly at the forefront of our minds. We might understand a character's feelings towards another because they live in our heads. A reader may not. That is where betas come in, to make sure your novel stands well as a whole.

I'm also in agreement with all those who have said it's best to read a first chapter before agreeing to a full read. If that first chapter doesn't hook a potential beta reader then it needs work. Politely ask why they don't want to read on and use their reply to improve that first chapter.

(Long post is long)

RemusShepherd
04-27-2011, 05:56 PM
Remus, I'm hoping that if you are not included at AW, it's because you choose to not be part of the community, not because we choose not to have you.

No, it's because of who I am. I'd love to be part of the community, but I don't make friends easily.

Someone suggested bantering in Office Party. I don't have a lot of time for bantering, but even if I did, the last time I let my guard down on these forums it turned into a flamewar. The time before that it turned into a flamewar plus a stalker who followed me to my personal blog to flame me there. One time before that -- on another forum -- it turned into a flamewar, death threats, nasty lies sent to my employer, child services and the FBI got involved, and it was just a big mess. You can understand if I'm wary of casual banter with strangers. :)


I checked to see if you'd ever posted a first chapter at SYW, and was pleased to see you had, more than once. I was not pleased to see your rebuttal of the points some of the critiques made, also more than once. As one reply put it, the proper response to all feedback is heartfelt thanks, then to use or ignore the input as you feel best serves the work.

Here we simply disagree. I think critique should be a dialog. Sometimes I do not understand a critique and I need to ask for clarification, and other times I want the critiquer's help in brainstorming a solution to the problem they've found. I have struck up dialogues with critique partners; I have never, ever gotten angry at them or dismissed their concerns without reason. That's the way I expect to be treated when I critique a piece, and I believe in the Golden Rule.

But it's clear that I'm the oddity, and as I said I am used to that. I'm glad for you that so many agree with your points, Maryn, and I hope you all get lots of values out of critiquing each others' work. Just be honest with yourselves; you are forming a clique, and you are excluding some who do not meet your arbitrary rules. Nothing wrong with that -- it's the way of the world -- but you need to understand where the set of rules that you all agree to will lead. Best of luck to you all.

lbender
04-27-2011, 06:07 PM
She's a perfect example of the goodhearted reader who continues to beta, where I'm more like the Grinch, whose heart was two sizes too small, although I have never tied antlers on a dog. Yet.

Maryn, who thrives on positive reinforcement, like everybody else, but can also handle hearing negatives stated tactfully

Two things- the most important of which is let's not pick on the dogs. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon7.gif

Secondly, I've exchanged work with a number of people, both here and on other websites. I always begin with an exchange of a chapter or two - a few thousand words. In a number of cases, that's as far as we go.

The major reasons for me are that either the feedback I get on my work is not at all helpful, or that I don't like the work I read in exchange...sometimes it's poorly structured, sometimes it's just not something that holds my interest.

Sometimes I'm willing to continue, but the other person isn't. I assume the same reasons apply to them. One possible additional reason is, although I really don't try to be, my crits can sometimes sound harsher than intended.

I have, however, ended up exchanging full manuscripts with several people. Their work is good and they've helped me improve mine. I hope I've helped them also.

All I can say is, if you need help, keep trying. You'll eventually find someone who can help you...and who you can help.

Maryn
04-27-2011, 06:39 PM
lbender, the last work I had betas on, I killed five dogs as part of the plot. There were objections, especially as there was some vilification of some of the dogs. I eliminated the bad-mouthing of the breed and made three of the dogs' deaths unintended, happening only because a plan goes awry.

They were pretend dogs, remember!

Maryn, who wrote an erotic thriller

veinglory
04-27-2011, 06:51 PM
Here we simply disagree. I think critique should be a dialog. Sometimes I do not understand a critique and I need to ask for clarification, and other times I want the critiquer's help in brainstorming a solution to the problem they've found.

What is being flagged is responses that rebut, argue with or disparage the critique. Not acknowledge and expand upon it.

lbender
04-27-2011, 07:14 PM
lbender, the last work I had betas on, I killed five dogs as part of the plot. There were objections, especially as there was some vilification of some of the dogs. I eliminated the bad-mouthing of the breed and made three of the dogs' deaths unintended, happening only because a plan goes awry.

They were pretend dogs, remember!

Maryn, who wrote an erotic thriller

Maryn, I'm a vet, so I've unfortunately killed my share of dogs - in my case, all really sick.

The part that scares me is your mentioning killing dogs and an erotic thriller in the same post.

"Shiver"

E.Murray
04-27-2011, 08:03 PM
I've sent requests to 5 different people from this board who said they were looking for books to beta. I always send a chapter with my request so they can get a feel for my ability, style, and the book's voice. I never ask for a commitment since they are doing me a huge favor out of the kindness of their heart. Two of them very politely declined since they didn't feel the genre was for them. The other three, however, were gracious enough to actually read all 106,000 words and give feedback. Two of the three sent simple emails with a paragraph summarizing how they felt overall. The third, PorterStarrByrd, is reading a bit at a time and giving very substantive suggestions. He claims he's not editing, but it's pretty darn close. :) I have another, non-AW person also beta/editing and the setup works great. Porter has a low BS tolerance for the hard facts of the plot (which is spectacular) and doesn't hesitate to call me out on places that need work plot-wise. My other reader is female and catches things like character arc and believability and dialog that works and doesn't. Having two very different readers is really eye-opening. From now on, I want one of each.

In my opinion, here's what makes a beta reader great:

Jotting down thoughts as they read through for the first time. Initial "raw" impressions of individual scenes are way more useful than a general overview after the fact.
Honesty. If part is boring, say it. If your BS-meter is going off, say it. If part makes you laugh or cry, say it. Don't worry about the author's feelings. As Uncle Jim has said, a reader looking for a book is the most selfish person in the world. Their thoughts about a book ignore the feelings of the one who wrote it. Betas should do the same.
A willingness to have a dialog with the author about what can be done better and what should just go away.
The understanding that some of your suggestions will be ignored. The author has a vision for the story and if your suggestions (even good ones) take it outside the vision, they may get the boot.
Anyway, I just wanted to give props to the willing betas on this board. Also, to bring it back around to the topic at hand, Maryn has a great list that starts this off.
No dogs were harmed in the writing of this post...

dragonangel517
04-27-2011, 08:38 PM
When I first came here, I mistakenly asked for a beta reader, when what I wanted was a writing partner. And I asked for that way too soon. I wish this had been posted then.

Since then I have hung out, and made friends and learned a great deal. I have met several people who have agreed to read my stuff, and I met them by offering to beta for them.

Since I am still learning myself, I only offer my opinions on story lines and characterzation. If I can't spot passive voice in my own WIP, I sure won't be able to point it out in someone elses.

Thanks for writing this Maryn. Maybe it will save someone time and embarrasment.

Tifferbugz
04-27-2011, 08:41 PM
This thread makes me realize how amazingly lucky I have been in finding the couple of betas/crit partners/writer buddies/whateveryouwanttocallthem folks that I have found here.

I can't imagine putting in the time it takes to crit a novel, then never hearing anything back. That would be upsetting, to say the least.

whacko
04-27-2011, 09:56 PM
Yeah, you can get peed off. I've responded to things and never even got a rep. So you do get selective.

So, as we're all in this together, rest assured I'll ditch you all IF the big advance comes in.:evil

No, only kidding.

This forum seems mainly populated by people who dig the craft of writing, in a groovy sort of 60s way, and we learn a sense of community: how we've all got a common goal and that some of us - and now I'm havering...:D

But there will be the drive-by writers, wanting to get told just how good they are.

The rest of us? We plod along regardless and contribute to the best writers' forum on the internet.

And yes alcohol has been punished before, between, and no doubt after this epigram.

Regards

Whacko

Amadan
04-27-2011, 09:59 PM
Here we simply disagree. I think critique should be a dialog. Sometimes I do not understand a critique and I need to ask for clarification, and other times I want the critiquer's help in brainstorming a solution to the problem they've found.

My recollection (I think I was one of your critiquers) was that you responded to some of the critiques by saying, in essence, "You're wrong." You were polite about it, but you clearly thought the critter had missed the point and therefore they had read your story incorrectly. Bad form.


But it's clear that I'm the oddity, and as I said I am used to that. I'm glad for you that so many agree with your points, Maryn, and I hope you all get lots of values out of critiquing each others' work. Just be honest with yourselves; you are forming a clique, and you are excluding some who do not meet your arbitrary rules. Nothing wrong with that -- it's the way of the world -- but you need to understand where the set of rules that you all agree to will lead. Best of luck to you all.

You're not an oddity because you can't join the Cool Kids Club, you're an oddity because by your own admission, you make no attempt to socialize but then resent the fact that people don't want to socialize with you. There's nothing "arbitrary" about not wanting to crit someone who makes no effort to lubricate the wheels of social interaction even a little and who makes critiquing them a trying experience.

I don't think anyone would accuse me of being overly gregarious or cliquey. But I like to think when I am ready to find a beta for my completed novel, I'll be able to find someone willing... (Looks around, lower lip trembling.)

squibnocket
04-27-2011, 10:14 PM
Not yet having beta'd with anyone here at AW, what does a beta reader expect for their time and suggestions beyond words of thanks? Do betas expect ongoing dialogue about the project? Updates? Responses to suggestions? Gifts and accolades?

I may be misunderstanding but some former betas have mentioned they "only" received thanks from their writers and that's left me a bit curious.

muse
04-27-2011, 10:40 PM
Great thread, Maryn.


I don't know if this is just me, but I really dislike when the assumption is that if someone offers to beta for you (not because you asked, but they offer), you're going to automatically beta their novel in return. I offer to beta for people all the time based on excerpts I've read of their work and descriptions of their novel, or even query letters. And I don't expect that just because, say, I read both MG and YA, that this MG writer I offer to beta for is going to want to read my YA novel. Just because their query or writing caught my eye, doesn't mean I expect that mine has done the same.


I think I might have got the wrong end of the stick, (probably the sharp, pointy end :D) But I thought if you asked for a beta you were honour bound to beta in exchange.

Saying that, an AW member did offer to read my MS and he made some fantastic comments, which I'm now working on. I did feel uncomfortable, though, that I couldn't return the favour for him.

To hear that some people don't even bother to thank their beta's is beyond belief, it's simple courtesy after all.

Amadan
04-27-2011, 10:46 PM
I think I might have got the wrong end of the stick, (probably the sharp, pointy end :D) But I thought if you asked for a beta you were honour bound to beta in exchange.

I don't agree. If you want to make quid pro quo a condition of betaing, work that out with each other, but I would not assume that if I beta for someone they have implicitly agreed to beta my work, or vice versa.

Maryn
04-27-2011, 10:50 PM
I've beta read for people who have offered to beta mine, and I've beta read for people who were effusive with their gratitude and told me specifically which remarks they found most valuable. (My favorites thanked me all over again when the work sold.) So far I have not asked for a beta from anybody whose work I beta-ed, due to genre incompatibility.

I understand that for some people, a small gift is the right thing to do, but it's not the norm. I always wonder if those people are friends in addition to betas.

To me, the ideal is a nice big display of gratitude, an offer to return the favor, and the promise to pass in on, doing a beta for someone else, and soon.

Maryn, who hasn't seen her first beta in a while--hope he's busy writing

san_remo_ave
04-27-2011, 11:17 PM
I've beta'd and been beta'd here (and elsewhere) and I've been fortunate to have generally positive experiences. I not only make sure to thank people for their time and consideration, but also I try to share back with them what I found particularly helpful about their remarks --everyone does help in some way, even if I don't incorporate all suggestions. Some of the most insightful remarks came from folks who are generally lurkers and have very low posting count. They're the other, unseen and unspoken, side of the coin --the people on here who don't ask for betas, but DO offer to do them for the right story, and don't ask for anything in return. So, it's not all take, take, take is my point.

The one piece I've asked for a beta here (as opposed to the odd scene in SYW) I went on to sell with my target publisher. I attribute that to not only the insightful reads from betas, but to all of the discussion and interaction on these threads. I read, I participate, I pay-it-forward when I can. It's a cumulative benefit and Maryn's suggestions on how to get involved are all spot-on.

Oh, and FWIW, I not only thank my critters, betas and commenters in SYW, I dedicated that first pubbed story to AW and all of the folks here.

I love you guys. *sniff*

muse
04-27-2011, 11:24 PM
I don't agree. If you want to make quid pro quo a condition of betaing, work that out with each other, but I would not assume that if I beta for someone they have implicitly agreed to beta my work, or vice versa.


Yup, as I feared, I got the sharp pointy end.:D

Thanks for clearing that up, Amadan.

AnotherMorning
04-28-2011, 12:13 AM
I try do my best for any story I'm beta-reading, and I hope for the same in return. In most cases, I've gotten it--with one novel, Prawn's rather intense critique has completely changed the beginning of the novel for the better.

So when it works, it works.

I've had people never respond, not thank me, etc. Do you know what I do when this happens? Nothing. I move on with my life.

So I guess what I'm really trying to say here is the negative aspects of beta-reading, they come with the territory and aren't really worth dwelling on.

sneakysnail
04-28-2011, 12:28 AM
Maryn,

Loved this post, I want to print it and hand it out to those I read for. I have done a few here at AW and only put out a few chapters of my own. I try to give the best and detailed critique as possible. In general , I have had great responses.
However, I also do lots of beta reads from outside AW (helps me edit my own) and those are the ones who never respond. I just try to think of it as experience for me.

Again, Loved it!;)

stormie
04-28-2011, 12:28 AM
Hey, Maryn? Would you read my 200,000 word romantic thriller western fiction novel manuscript like, in two days? I'm all set to query a gadzillion agents and I need a fast read. Oh, and thanks ahead of time, since I'll be too busy to thank you when you send it back to me.

*stormie now gets serious.*
About the only things I'll beta read are some queries and some first chapters. And picture books. Most do thank me. Only once did I have a problem, and it wasn't an AWer. She got really upset when I critiqued her PB. It was a mess and I tried to be gentle. Didn't work. But then she wanted me to read her next PB. I politely told her I was really too busy.

Devil Ledbetter
04-28-2011, 12:39 AM
Hmm. I've only asked a select few to beta for me, but I've never had any response other than a resounding "yes." Maybe I'm doing something right.

Beta reading is a big commitment. I wouldn't do it for anyone I didn't already know and like.

Stew21
04-28-2011, 12:43 AM
I'll beta for you anytime, Devil. I loved Dog Loyal. :)

brainstorm77
04-28-2011, 12:44 AM
I've been asked to beta through PM. I don't beta, and it's not something I'm interested in doing.

I often wonder why some think I would, since I haven't posted ever offering to beta and I have not posted anything in SYW in ages.

JSSchley
04-28-2011, 12:49 AM
I think 100 posts before showing our own material would be better. Maybe even 200 before asking someone to beta. Just a thought.

I'm not entirely sure post limits are as helpful as meta discussions like this one. Since the 50 post SYW requirement was instituted, I've seen more than a few people make lots of posts in the matter of a day or so, they reach 50, their 51st post was their query or their first few pages, and then they disappeared. I've also seen others amass post count in the high hundreds simply by posting and reposting drafts of their own work and replying repeatedly to people who critted them, but never critting anyone else.

I don't know. I just figure karma often works its own simple magic--if I give people thoughtful, attentive feedback in SYW or even more generally, hopefully they'll remember me and want to help when I post something. I haven't requested any beta readers yet, but I'm really glad to hear that sometimes folks request to read for someone. I've read more than one query in QLH that very effectively did the job of making me want to read the book. Nice to know it's okay to ask (although aftre reading the comments here, I'll be sure to note my read isn't a quid pro quo thing). :)

Great post, Maryn.

Devil Ledbetter
04-28-2011, 12:49 AM
I'll beta for you anytime, Devil. I loved Dog Loyal. :)
Aw, meshanks, Stew! I'd beta for you, too.

Devil Ledbetter
04-28-2011, 12:52 AM
I'm not entirely sure post limits are as helpful as meta discussions like this one. Since the 50 post SYW requirement was instituted, I've seen more than a few people make lots of posts in the matter of a day or so, they reach 50, their 51st post was their query or their first few pages, and then they disappeared. I've also seen others amass post count in the high hundreds simply by posting and reposting drafts of their own work and replying repeatedly to people.

As far as I can tell, we've had a huge uptick in zombie thread resurrections since the 50-post count rule was instituted. Still, it takes work to get to those 50 posts so it must be cutting down on the drive-by SYW deposits somewhat.

Maryn
04-28-2011, 01:27 AM
Hey, Maryn? Would you read my 200,000 word romantic thriller western fiction novel manuscript like, in two days? I'm all set to query a gadzillion agents and I need a fast read. Oh, and thanks ahead of time, since I'll be too busy to thank you when you send it back to me.You're joking, of course, but I once did a beta in three days for a novel, because its author knew just what to say. He's the only AW author I've beta read twice. Loved 'em both.

I've also been asked for fast turn-around and had to refuse because I had other commitments, or just didn't feel like it. But no hard feelings.

BTW, I'm hearing via reps of some pretty horrific beta experiences, including one [EDIT: Make that three!] of a person holding his feedback until the author convinced him he'd rewritten the part the beta had already seen to incorporate every change suggested. Wow. Just... wow. Pardon my language, but people are dicks. (No offense to real dicks, of course.)

Maryn, ever so refined

mccardey
04-28-2011, 01:48 AM
I've had people never respond, not thank me, etc. Do you know what I do when this happens? Nothing. I move on with my life.

So I guess what I'm really trying to say here is the negative aspects of beta-reading, they come with the territory and aren't really worth dwelling on.

I agree with that, except that I think this thread is really important for giving new people an idea of how beta-ing works and what the expectations are.

A post up-thread asked what is expected beyond a thank-you: I think probably just a quick note back saying what was helpful. It's feedback, and feedback will help the beta process survive.

The thread is also bringing up the differences between crit-partners and betas which is worth knowing. And we're learning more and more about Maryn and why puppies should avoid being part of her books - again, invaluable information... :tongue

I like beta-ing - but I like to know I've done it right because I'm new at it, too. I want to know if it's been helpful (or not).

Adobedragon
04-28-2011, 01:53 AM
Not yet having beta'd with anyone here at AW, what does a beta reader expect for their time and suggestions beyond words of thanks? Do betas expect ongoing dialogue about the project? Updates? Responses to suggestions? Gifts and accolades?

I may be misunderstanding but some former betas have mentioned they "only" received thanks from their writers and that's left me a bit curious.

I expect you to buy all my books and anthologies containing my work. /kidding, obviously

I haven't done much beta reading here, but I've been a member of Critters for years and in that time have read and critiqued hundreds of short stories and about a dozen novel-length manuscripts.

My reason for critiquing/beta reading is entirely selfish. See, the work of reading, evaluating, and explaining what I see as a work's faults, helps me as a writer. It strengthens my ability to see the same faults in my work. Which is why, while I appreciate a "thank you," I don't expect it.

That said, my rules for reading longer work are similar to Maryn's. Obviously, the story doesn't have to be perfect, but I don't want to slog through a hot-off-the-presses, first draft, riddled with typos, grammatical errors, contextual inconsistencies, etc.

Nowadays, because of time constraints, I won't read more than about 5K, unless I really like the first chapter (voice, premise, etc.).

stormie
04-28-2011, 02:10 AM
You're joking, of course, but I once did a beta in three days for a novel, because its author knew just what to say. He's the only AW author I've beta read twice. Loved 'em both.

I've also been asked for fast turn-around and had to refuse because I had other commitments, or just didn't feel like it. But no hard feelings.


Aw, geez--I meant, "Could you read and critique my 200,000+ romantic thriller mystery fiction novel in two hours? I'm sure agents are just dying to read my golden words.

And, oh: thanks ahead of time. I'm really bizee."

--stormie, who writes tongue-in-cheek, esp. when peppermint schnapps is near her right hand.

Mr Flibble
04-28-2011, 02:50 AM
I can see it form both sides, tbh

I was that newbie with F-all knowledge of grammar etc, who found a few people here to beta for me (and they did a spanking job). So, frankly, I don't mind so much if there are issues there that the writer hasn't learnt yet that I can help with as I was helped. I'm paying back what I took. Seems only fair.

I think what IS vital though is a sold communication before the crit gets underway. I tell people what to expect from my crit, and ask them what they are looking for. If they are looking for a grammar nazi, I tell them I ain't it (I'm still a bit shaky on some of the rules!) but I'll point out any things I spot. I also send, with my crit, the offer to answer any questins/brainstorm ideas as I find that for me, that's often the most useful part of the crit. It also encourages response - and I've yet to have anyone not respond to a crit.

But everyone is also entitled to their own reasons for not doing a crit - after all it's a fair chunk of time and brain energy to spend.

bettielee
04-28-2011, 02:54 AM
I've had awesome beta experiences:
I've only had one book of my own beta'd, and was very fortunate in the feedback, but I beta for several others.
There is on AWer who I am (almost) always guaranteed to read her stuff before publication- which makes me happy cuz she are good! <--not the sort of sentence I would find acceptable. I can do it, but you can't. She also was a huge help in beta'ing my first book and giving me chunks of information from writing sources to help me with weak spots in my own writing.

I find that beta'ing actually helps ME. I slip into passive and filtering all the time when I write, but I tend to see it in other's work, and that helps me see it in mine. It's like when you read something that too vague or not "working" in someone else's work you can apply it to your own. I don't know why that happens... it just does.

I like to ask for the person to tell me what they want from the beta experience. If they don't know, it doesn't bode well, but I let them know straight up that it is my duty as a beta to point out what I don't think works. And sentences beginning with And. You know who you are.

JayWalloping
04-28-2011, 03:52 AM
Thank you for writing this Beta-Reader Bill of Rights.

I wonder about the Nervous Novelist Bill of Rights. I've previously had two bad experiences asking folks to beta-read for me. One was a colleague at work I knew had similar reading interests to what I was writing. Another was an online friend. I never got back any response from either. Zero. Zip. I pestered a few times, as much as I was willing to do at the time. I just chalked it up to their being unhappy with what I wrote and unwilling to tell me.

This is the reason I'm a bit reticent to approach complete strangers for a read through. Perhaps if we all think about the give and take it'll work better. Maybe I'll ask one or more nice folks on this board to give it a read. And I will be thankful for any comments. I promise.

shadowwalker
04-28-2011, 05:27 AM
I've beta'd elsewhere for several years and generally I've had great experiences. The only big exception was a gal who not only steadfastly refused to acknowledge that her writing needed "improvement" (as noted by several different betas), but who then went on trash-talk the beta group to others.

But, you know... I lived. ;)

ladyleeona
04-28-2011, 05:51 AM
Bravo, Maryn. Definitely a sticky.

I've had good beta/crit experiences. Most people who are worth reading for are immensely thankful. Others who aren't, well, not so much.

Although I don't consider myself an expert, I'd love to beta for (almost) anyone with a good premise and decent mechanics. Plus, beta-ing for people helps me. Takes me out of the running for sainthood probably, but definitely a win-win scenario, in my mind.

Astronomer
04-28-2011, 06:34 AM
(No offense to real dicks, of course.)None taken.

Karen Junker
04-28-2011, 07:28 AM
I continue to beta, even though I don't get thanked very often, because when I do get mentioned in the acknowledgments page of an author's book it makes me very happy. It's a numbers game for me. The more I beta, the greater the chance I'll get a mention! :)

cooeedownunder
04-28-2011, 08:04 AM
Maryn, well said as usual.

I promised myself I'm not going to rant about this topic. So, I will just say, sometimes beta reading works and sometimes it doesn't.

JSSchley
04-28-2011, 08:07 AM
As far as I can tell, we've had a huge uptick in zombie thread resurrections since the 50-post count rule was instituted. Still, it takes work to get to those 50 posts so it must be cutting down on the drive-by SYW deposits somewhat.

Oh, agreed completely. (I edited out the part where I mentioned my approval of some sort of post minimum to discourage the drive-bys because I tend to write dissertations every time I click the "quick reply" button).

I just find that posts like this one can be more effective than developing a long string of "you need 50 posts to post a query, 100 to post a longer piece, 200 to ask for a beta" because post minimums are sort of reductive and people will be inclined not to think of the post minimum in terms of participation but simply in terms of "how do I get the most posts fast?" Far more useful, I think, to talk about what it means to be a good member of this community and how the process of asking for and giving critique reflects that. It puts the emphasis in the right place.

Filigree
04-28-2011, 09:33 AM
I love my beta readers. One's a friend with whom I occasionally do collaborations, and another I met here on AW. (Waves and yells 'Hi, Tanya!') They're busy people. I treasure their input, and I've promised to bribe them lavishly with artwork and mentions. I also love doing beta reads for other people, but I'm very picky on the projects I take up.

I've had great experiences as a beta reader, and heartbreaking ones -- including one writer from another forum for whom I will never, ever copy-edit again, because this person was a Black Pit of Despair no matter what. And then let their serious psych issues tank a rewritten story that had been REQUESTED by an editor. I don't necessarily need to be thanked, but I do want to know my effort wasn't in vain.

Because it is effort, even if I'm not getting paid for it. I have to put on my reader hat, and then my copy-editor hat, and then my therapist hat. My payment is in reading a great story before almost anyone else does, and hoping I helped the writer take it closer to publication.

Jettica
04-28-2011, 01:05 PM
What baffles me is why people wouldn't thank a beta. I just can't get my head around it. Is it because the writers are scared to acknowledge possibly negative comments?

I think if a beta is willing to get into a dialogue about points they've raised then wahey! That's beneficial to everyone, right?

I have to admit, my novel is with betas at the moment and yet I didn't ask anyone from here. I'm not sure why and I'm now thinking maybe I should. The friends and family who have the novel at the moment will probably never read it or never get back to me.

I've beta'd fanfiction and looked over manuscripts for friends but I've never offered up my services here. Probably because I don't think myself worthy and I was always worried I wouldn't have the time to read and crit an entire novel. God, I wish I did have the time, there are so many talented writers here that I'd love to read and help out.

Maybe I should offer to beta some first chapters. That would be nice.

PorterStarrByrd
04-28-2011, 04:15 PM
Curious ..
Assuming that most beta readers agree with the opening post, as stated, where does an author with a clean edit completed find out if his manuscript is 'ready for the agent?'
I was under the impression that the Beta-reader was the best place for newby authors to get a sanity check. Never having stepped under the magnifying glass of a professional editor, how can they know what works and what doesn't.

Most of the reasons I agree with, but I guess the door just looks a little narrow. To argue with my self, if I focus on the word "I" in the heading I see a justified set of reasons for the original poster to ward off people SHE does not want read. Maybe it would be good to have a note posted on the door of every Beta reader listing the rules for entry.

I realize that the posting when Beta readers offer their time is a forum for stating these but a lot of them don't get very specific. On first posting a new beta reader may not even know what rules should be stated.

Jettica
04-28-2011, 05:26 PM
Everyone had different criteria for what they will beta read and how they will crit. I don't think it's about making sure the piece is agent ready, but more about improving your work with feedback from others when you can go no further.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
04-28-2011, 05:27 PM
Brava, Ms. Maryn. Brava!

The very best, most honest, most helpful beta reader I've ever had came from my participation in this Community Known as Absolute Write. I credit her fully with my eventual success in being contracted with an agent. When I'm published, both she and Absolute Write will get a tip o' the hat on the Acknowledgements page. ::waves at her beta and tips hat again:: Until then, I beta read for others, paying it forward, and I hope my ongoing investment here will help others as I've been helped.

Maryn is spot on and has put into words what many of us have thought - and done - over the years. I started out betaing for anyone who asked. Soon I had to put some limitations on genre. Finally, I had to put limitations on length, as well, offering to do the first fifty pages only. Most folks thanked me... a few got the feedback and didn't even acknowledge it, let alone say 'thanks'. Those who were grateful were 100% members of this community; the latter were folks who hadn't been around long and didn't stick around long after. People who wanted to be pros vs. people who were looking for confirmation of their perfection? I dunno for sure, but the longer I do this, the more I think so... thus the limitations on my investments. Not only do I look at a members time on AW, I review his/her participation before I commit.

So... what's my point here in this ramble? Oh! Yeah!

Excellent set of guidelines, tips, and definitions, Maryn. I'm voting it be stickied, too.

shadowwalker
04-28-2011, 06:06 PM
Everyone had different criteria for what they will beta read and how they will crit. I don't think it's about making sure the piece is agent ready, but more about improving your work with feedback from others when you can go no further.

Yeah, that's pretty much been my take on betas (from both sides of the table) ever since I got involved in it.

Mr Flibble
04-28-2011, 07:38 PM
And sentences beginning with And. You know who you are. You're never going to let me forget that, are you? :D


Yeah, that's pretty much been my take on betas (from both sides of the table) ever since I got involved in it. QFT

Fruitbat
04-28-2011, 07:58 PM
I think the no reply or nasty reply stuff is the same as with critiques, it is a very beginning stage. They aren't used to serious critiques and get their feelings hurt.

Critiquing improves my own skills so I get something anyway. But still, now if I don't know somebody I will do a chapter or two first and see how it goes. It's not a nice feeling to spend hours on somebody else's writing and get a rude reply. I'd rather work with somebody who has a more professional attitude.

J'Dubee
04-28-2011, 09:55 PM
I'm new to writing and feel inadequate in critiquing.

I've read many genres for most of my 76 years without wondering why I enjoyed them. I know what I like, but lack the technical skills to communicate the reason I like it to someone.

Thanks to AW, I'm learning.

heza
04-28-2011, 10:04 PM
Maybe it would be good to have a note posted on the door of every Beta reader listing the rules for entry.


Isn't that what the Willing Beta Reader Volume II (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=154927) thread is for? Maybe that's what you were talking about in the last paragraph of your post. I couldn't tell if you meant that or were just talking about general communication in a request thread.

c.m.n.
04-29-2011, 07:09 PM
I'm new. I had never asked for a beta reader until recently. So I was nervous. Not sure if I should have asked for a beta or a critique partner (which was really what I needed).

But I cannot imagine not thanking anyone for their help.
I have found a very helpful beta who's been working with me to better my writing, grammar, ect and has been helping me work out plot details.
I thank her every time I can. In every e-mail I send to her, sometimes more than once. And I plan on crediting her too :)

Of course, there are those who take and take, but don't give a licking spit back.

skylark
04-29-2011, 08:47 PM
Maryn, I'm absolutely with you.

Just gobsmacked that anyone wouldn't thank someone for betaing, though. I'm new here from the world of fanfic, and it's considered really pretty rude there not to thank even for a short SYW type of critique. Beta is a whole step up from that. I've never not been thanked for a beta.

I also thought it was an unwritten rule that you asked someone to beta for you only if they'd already reviewed/critiqued your work? Is that just a fanfic thing? It does work fairly well - you know if they liked it in general, and they presumably liked it enough to spend time critiquing. I'd never dare ask someone to beta who hadn't already commented on my work (heck, I'd never even dare ask them to critique :) ).

As far as post count goes - I've commented on a few things, I've added to a few threads. It'll be a while before I get to fifty posts. There are plenty of people posting in SYW who've been here for much less time than me. I do wonder if a minimum membership time would be a good idea, to avoid people posting fifty one-liners in a couple of hours just to get their fifty posts. That is, if the hit-and-run issue is still an issue at all now there's the minimum post count.

Phaeal
04-29-2011, 09:46 PM
I've been asked to beta through PM. I don't beta, and it's not something I'm interested in doing.

I often wonder why some think I would, since I haven't posted ever offering to beta and I have not posted anything in SYW in ages.

I take it as a compliment if someone asks me to beta out of the blue -- hey, he must think I'm a good writer!

However, there's certainly no obligation beyond a simple response: "Sorry, but I don't beta," or "Sorry, but I don't have the time to beta now," or whatever may be the case.

CheG
04-29-2011, 10:01 PM
I have gotten thank yous for my betaing. Whether anyone implemented any of my feedback is entirely up to them.

Have anyone I've beta'd for become my new BFFs? No. But that's fine too.

Will I ask for a beta when my novel is done? Maybe. Though I'm not sure I will. I'm rather leaning toward not right now.

I have beta'd everything from ready for the agent to this is the first draft and each one requires different feedback and different work, but I don't mind either.

brainstorm77
04-29-2011, 11:06 PM
I take it as a compliment if someone asks me to beta out of the blue -- hey, he must think I'm a good writer!

However, there's certainly no obligation beyond a simple response: "Sorry, but I don't beta," or "Sorry, but I don't have the time to beta now," or whatever may be the case.

I just reply with the truth. I don't beta, I never have.

Jess Haines
04-30-2011, 12:00 AM
I found a great beta here on AW. I also had a couple of very lovely people who were very thankful for the work I put into doing a beta of their work.

Then there were the handful of not-so-lovely people who never thanked me and/or ignored my advice.

It's touch and go with a public forum. I've learned to tread more carefully when extending offers to help--but I haven't ceased entirely just because of a couple of bad experiences.

Still, I think Maryn did a great job of explaining why some people may not be getting offers when they ask for help. Thanks for putting that together, darlin'! It was all well said.

Chase
04-30-2011, 08:29 PM
Then there were the handful of not-so-lovely people who never thanked me and/or ignored my advice.

To not give thanks to someone we asked to critique for us amazes me, but then I stand amazed at people for whom I hold doors open as they sail through without a word or expression of thanks. I often wonder if they were feral cave dwellers until recently discovered and dressed to look like normal people.

However, the reaction at not following a critique partner's advice puzzles me. It's his or her story. I may offer suggestions, but whether they're used is completely my partner's choice.

If a critique partner railed against the advice and called my mom bad names, I'd certainly think it was bad form, but what a writer incorporates into a work-in-progress isn't my business.

It's like offering a lunch companion one of my French fries and then leaving in a huff when it's refused.

I've had critique partners who hadn't read beyond a couple thousand words wanting to change around scenes, names, story and character details, and dialog to be more like their stories or what their how-to book dictated. One even refused to continue unless I agreed to the changes. Who needs a critique dictator?

Still, I thanked the person.

shadowwalker
04-30-2011, 08:53 PM
However, the reaction at not following a critique partner's advice puzzles me. It's his or her story. I may offer suggestions, but whether they're used is completely my partner's choice.

I agree with you in part - certainly when one is discussing characterization, or plot, or any of the more 'ethereal' parts of a story, the beta should not be dictating. It should only be suggestions or ideas offered, without conditions attached.

I do tend to think that technical issues are a different matter. If an author refuses to correct punctuation so the story is less confusing, ("That's my style!"), I personally feel no compunction to continue as their beta. And it's probably better that I don't since I would be continually distracted by it. Or if one points out a problem, the author acknowledges it, and then posts more without correcting that problem ("I'll do that later"), again, I don't feel I should spend any more time trying to slog through it. If the author can't make the effort, why should I?

BenPanced
04-30-2011, 10:33 PM
However, the reaction at not following a critique partner's advice puzzles me. It's his or her story. I may offer suggestions, but whether they're used is completely my partner's choice.
Some things, yeah, you can leave if you choose to. However, it's not a good idea to ignore real world rules as they apply to your writing. At my writing group one night, somebody pointed out how faulty the physics were in a chapter that was getting critiqued. The author tried to dismiss it because she was writing science fiction and she could bend the rules of science if she wanted to (true, to a degree, but she was completely rewriting the laws of force and gravity in the process to near ridiculous levels). The person offering the critique just couldn't impart on her that people will find fault with such things, but she just kept hiding behind "suspension of disbelief" and "the science works because I said so".

Chase
04-30-2011, 10:38 PM
I do tend to think that technical issues are a different matter. If an author refuses to correct punctuation so the story is less confusing, ("That's my style!"), I personally feel no compunction to continue as their beta. And it's probably better that I don't since I would be continually distracted by it. Or if one points out a problem, the author acknowledges it, and then posts more without correcting that problem ("I'll do that later"), again, I don't feel I should spend any more time trying to slog through it. If the author can't make the effort, why should I?

I completely agree with your quibble. It's my quibble, as well. Repeated serious flaws in basic mechanics (sometimes left for me to clean up chapter after chapter, like the guy following with a scoop shovel after the prancing horses in a parade) are definite areas for discussion about whether we should continue.

Fruitbat
04-30-2011, 11:03 PM
My request to them, whether it's a beta read or critique, is just that they treat it like any other favor.

I don't expect anyone to do what I say or care either way. It is only my opinion. And why should I be any better than they are, all is up to them. But, I'm not crazy about putting in my time and effort for a line by line and then hearing:

1) It was only a rough draft.

2) They have already rewritten it.

3) They are far too busy to bother with it any more, they've got bigger fish to fry.

4) A line by line critique of my critique, explaining how their story is really pretty well perfect as is and that I am well, just not bright enough to get it (okay I take that back, that one is awesome, lol).

5) That they liked it. And would now like you to do another chapter for them, with the same uncorrected errors as you pointed out in the chapter you just did.

6) Nothing.

In other words, I would ask them to not act like their own time is more important than that of people they've asked something from.

Now and then doesn't matter but too much response with a "F-you" feel to it can make you get that same attitude and not bother with it any more.

sneakysnail
04-30-2011, 11:38 PM
5) That they liked it. And would now like you to do another chapter for them, with the same uncorrected errors as you pointed out in the chapter you just did.


^Oh, I hate this.

Maryn
05-01-2011, 12:06 AM
Fruitbat, that post hit a lot of raw nerves. I think the second beta I ever did here, the person had already rewritten the first two chapters but left me to do a line edit of the godawful mess which was the earlier draft before telling me. The replacements were nearly as bad, in a different way, and when she blithely assumed there was no need to correct the overt errors in writing mechanics, as corrected and instructed in the first installment, appearing full-blown and hideous in the second, I became one of those people who was suddenly too busy and offered hope I'd helped a little.

I doubt she improved the hilariously misplaced modifiers. I remember at one point she opened a letter with a trembling stomach. I'd have paid to see that.

Maryn, knowing she is no longer here

AnotherMorning
05-01-2011, 01:31 AM
4) A line by line critique of my critique, explaining how their story is really pretty well perfect as is and that I am well, just not bright enough to get it (okay I take that back, that one is awesome, lol).



:ROFL:Yeah, I imagine these are awesome. I unfortunately have yet to get one of these. Can't wait until I do.

Devil Ledbetter
05-01-2011, 01:55 AM
Let's add: Because you never even bothered to thank me for the thoughtful crit I provided in share your work.

Chase
05-02-2011, 03:44 AM
Reason: typos galore


You know how I hate to go off topic, but wasn't Typos Galore one of Fleming's Bond girls?

Maryn
05-02-2011, 03:52 AM
The one played by Honor Blackman, right? (How sad, that I struggle to remember our wedding anniversary's date, but that I knew cold.)

"Galore" is one of those words it's hard to use when you're just talking or writing in a casual tone. I think I need to add it to my list of words I really like. (What, you don't keep one?)

Maryn, who should be critiquing but isn't

Filigree
05-02-2011, 05:52 AM
I can use it with a straight face, Maryn, because it's the name of one of my all-time favorite bead stores in central AZ: Beads Galore.

Bartholomew
05-02-2011, 02:07 PM
I dunno. I'd probably beta again, if I liked a project well enough.

I had an awful experience last time, though. The lady insisted on sending me a hard copy of the MS-- SPIRAL BOUND!!-- and whenever I tried to talk to her about issues I had with it, she claimed that her agent liked whatever part I was talking about. This happened three times.

She tried to bully me into paying the postage, too, (both ways) and got very upset when I informed her that I'd recycled the ms, after she'd made it clear that she didn't want my opinion.

Maryn
05-02-2011, 04:53 PM
Oh, Bartholomew, that sucks. I mean, seriously, postage both ways at the beta's expense? And why the hell does she need a beta if the work is already with her agent?

I prefer to read hard copy when I'm betaing or critiquing, but if someone can't afford to accommodate my quaint fiber-media preference, I'll just print out what they email, on the backs of early drafts, old critiques, etc. If they want to see the marked manuscript, they can pay for its return or do without and just see my overview.

I know many people are on tight budgets, but if you balk at paying three bucks to see the nit-pick specifics from your beta reader, to me that says you don't value the beta's time and input much.

Bart, if you read my genre, I'd be glad to have you beta for me. (And I'm real nice about it, I think.)

Maryn, nicety-nice-nice plus muffins

Ketzel
05-02-2011, 06:04 PM
I haven't agreed to beta since I gave a writer, who urgently solicited my input, several pages of comments on a 100,000 word manuscript. After six weeks of silence, an envelope arrived in the mail containing my comments, marked up in red with nasty marginalia about my own inability to write. Among other things, the writer "corrected" my spelling and "grammatical errors," sarcastically pointed out my "choppiness" (apparently I didn't organize the comments to the writer's satisfaction) and finally directed me to give up "offering" critiques as I clearly had nothing of value to offer.

The funny thing is that I had no warning at all this writer was such a special flower type. We had been in a critique group a few years earlier together, and there hadn't been any tantrums at the time.

timewaster
05-02-2011, 06:17 PM
I haven't agreed to beta since I gave a writer, who urgently solicited my input, several pages of comments on a 100,000 word manuscript. After six weeks of silence, an envelope arrived in the mail containing my comments, marked up in red with nasty marginalia about my own inability to write. Among other things, the writer "corrected" my spelling and "grammatical errors," sarcastically pointed out my "choppiness" (apparently I didn't organize the comments to the writer's satisfaction) and finally directed me to give up "offering" critiques as I clearly had nothing of value to offer.

The funny thing is that I had no warning at all this writer was such a special flower type. We had been in a critique groups a few years earlier together, and there hadn't been any tantrums at the time.

That's awful.
I haven't done any beta reading here because I only have limited time and I teach CW part time at a local uni which means I do a lot of critting and too much gets in the way of my own work. When I have done it it has been for people I've known for some time on line and who have, in the main, helped me out and beta'd for me later in return.
It is a very big ask if it isn't reciprocal and i take my hat off to everyone who does it pro bono.

Chase
05-02-2011, 06:50 PM
Trading tree-bark manuscripts by postage stamps? Final drafts at agents' or publishers' requests, but while the words are still in flux? For me, a huge waste of time and money, but different strokes, etcetera.


I haven't agreed to beta since I gave a writer, who urgently solicited my input, several pages of comments on a 100,000 word manuscript. After six weeks of silence, an envelope arrived in the mail containing my comments, marked up in red with nasty marginalia about my own inability to write. Among other things, the writer "corrected" my spelling and "grammatical errors," sarcastically pointed out my "choppiness" (apparently I didn't organize the comments to the writer's satisfaction) and finally directed me to give up "offering" critiques as I clearly had nothing of value to offer.

The funny thing is that I had no warning at all this writer was such a special flower type. We had been in a critique groups a few years earlier together, and there hadn't been any tantrums at the time.

Tantrum is an excellent description of the rare "special flower" types" I've encountered.

I believe both overkilling counter-attacks I received were in petulant retaliation for my suggestions to correct spelling, punctuation, and a bit of questionable grammar on first chapters I was assured were "highly polished."

First chapters get exchanges quite a bit. Since both of the land mine responses I got were so far off other first-chapter comments and so obviously fits of rage, I still exchange for mutual benefit with others.

Its unfortunate your prima donna exploding in your face soured you on beta work. So far I'm only exchanging chapters, but soon I hope to seek help from a beta reader for a full novel. Too bad you and a few others have been embittered by the few, the proud, the totally bonkers.

Ketzel
05-02-2011, 07:00 PM
I guess I wouldn't consider myself embittered. I still like to do critiques (lucky for me, since I'm a peer reviewer for a couple of professional journals) and I still offer them here in Share Your Work. But I won't take on another beta, unless maybe it's someone I really know will accept my comments in the constructive spirit in which they are given.

Maryn
05-02-2011, 07:17 PM
Ketzel, as luck would have it, that's entirely possible here. I've received excellent beta input, and (I hope) given it. So it's good to hear you're not completely soured and closed to the possibility.

'Maybe someday' is a pretty generous response, given what happened last time! Sheesh.

Maryn, clucking her disapproval

Steph King
05-02-2011, 08:02 PM
I just begged my crit partner for forgiveness in case I ever forgot to thank her in the past. I think she's wonderful, but it's just possible that I may have been thinking about her comments so hard that I forgot to say the words on occasion. It's easily done, but still a terrible thing to do.

ardenbird
05-02-2011, 10:30 PM
I just begged my crit partner for forgiveness in case I ever forgot to thank her in the past. I think she's wonderful, but it's just possible that I may have been thinking about her comments so hard that I forgot to say the words on occasion. It's easily done, but still a terrible thing to do.

Good point, and good reminder. I know I've got the first seven chapters of my novel sitting in my inbox with comments from my friend (I call her my alpha reader, as I felt it more in line with alpha testing than beta testing :) -- she begged for it as soon as I was done and I warned her there would be spell checking but little else, but she was still game), and even though I chatted with her for an hour about novels and other such recently, I'm not sure I said THANK YOU! I'll be sure to reply with effusive thanks once I get my email tomorrow.

I think it might be easier to forget with people you know well. I must say I can't imagine not thanking a relative stranger, and I hope I never forget such...

Polenth
05-02-2011, 11:48 PM
Let's add: Because you never even bothered to thank me for the thoughtful crit I provided in share your work.

You get thank yous?!

It does happen sometimes, but it seems I'm more likely to get reps from random people who thought my comments were good, rather than the original SYW poster.

Jess Haines
05-02-2011, 11:53 PM
I agree with you in part - certainly when one is discussing characterization, or plot, or any of the more 'ethereal' parts of a story, the beta should not be dictating. It should only be suggestions or ideas offered, without conditions attached.

I do tend to think that technical issues are a different matter. If an author refuses to correct punctuation so the story is less confusing, ("That's my style!"), I personally feel no compunction to continue as their beta. And it's probably better that I don't since I would be continually distracted by it. Or if one points out a problem, the author acknowledges it, and then posts more without correcting that problem ("I'll do that later"), again, I don't feel I should spend any more time trying to slog through it. If the author can't make the effort, why should I?

Let me be more specific--if a person has a story which includes not-so-obvious faux pas, such as info-dumps, "as you know, Bob" moments, etc, and the person does not heed your advice to clean those things up, you have a problem.

I don't mean a "this character isn't working for me, why don't you give them blue eyes instead of gray" crit. Of course I wouldn't expect someone to take my advice on something like that, just because it is a personal preference. It's when I am offering advice of a technical nature (kill your darlings, set a brushfire to get rid of all of those adverbs, etc, etc) that goes ignored that I get peeved and cease to offer my services as beta to that person in all capacities.

shadowwalker
05-03-2011, 12:04 AM
It's when I am offering advice of a technical nature (kill your darlings, set a brushfire to get rid of all of those adverbs, etc, etc) that goes ignored that I get peeved and cease to offer my services as beta to that person in all capacities.

I think we're pretty much agreed on that. (Of course, I wouldn't say *all* adverbs, but that's another discussion ;)). But definitely, if one is giving non-subjective technical advice, it's a waste of both parties' time if the author refuses to accept any of it. Precisely why I stopped beta-ing for one writer who refused to acknowledge that "said" even existed. (Oh, the agony!)

Jess Haines
05-03-2011, 11:59 PM
I think we're pretty much agreed on that. (Of course, I wouldn't say *all* adverbs, but that's another discussion ;)). But definitely, if one is giving non-subjective technical advice, it's a waste of both parties' time if the author refuses to accept any of it.

Yeah. Sorry if that was unclear. That's exactly what I was referring to!


Precisely why I stopped beta-ing for one writer who refused to acknowledge that "said" even existed. (Oh, the agony!)

Oi, I feel your pain. :scared:

latourdumoine
05-04-2011, 12:34 AM
I think it might be easier to forget with people you know well. I must say I can't imagine not thanking a relative stranger, and I hope I never forget such...
But with people you know, when they forget to thank you, you can also tell how thankful they really are by the comments, their behavior etc. I totally agree with what you said. Point being, when it's someone I'm close to, that forgets to thank me, that's what I think of. When it's me who forgot to thank them, I'm like you.

A very trusted friend helped me turn 13 pages of pure, unadulterated tripe into my current WIP, which I've shown around to some people. Her critique was honest, blunt and to the point, things like "don't take me for an idiot here," and "I really like this paragraph." Not to mention an assessment of said thirteen pages. If it hadn't been for her . . . I can't even begin to imagine.

A recent beta experience I had recently was with someone who didn't know me so well. I asked her for an honest and blunt critique. She went very slowly at first, seeing how much I could take. It was a short story that had received very positive feedback from some sources. She basically ripped it to shreds, but in the best possible way. And I thanked both of them profusely.

Different readers will react to different things, some will like your style and some want. But instead of snapping at them, take that on board. Because, no matter how good your story is, there's always someone who won't take to it. So, even if you don't see eye-to-eye with them, it's worth taking that opinion on board. I remember one person in a crit group commenting on a story, "this takes place in another country, and I don't live there, so I'm not interested in the story."

I guess finding a good beta really is like playing the lottery.

Maryn
05-04-2011, 12:43 AM
I guess finding a good beta really is like playing the lottery.Except I think the odds of winning with a beta are a little better, especially here.

Maryn, who should get offline and go critique

Unimportant
05-04-2011, 05:21 AM
I guess for me, if the manuscript is already in "the condition that you'd want to send to an agent" then I don't need a beta.
A lot of people have commented something along those lines.

When I read Maryn's original post, I found myself nodding agreement. When I read the "but if it's perfect it doesn't need a beta" post, I think I figured out what the disconnect was.

I don't expect a manuscript I beta read to be perfect, or even good. What I do expect is that it will be as good as that author can make it at that time. It's really frustrating to spend hours or days critiquing a manuscript and have the author come back and say "Yes, I knew all that, I was planning to change it in the next round of revisions" or "Yeah, I knew those chapters didn't work so I've deleted them and the entire subplot."

So: No. Revise it, edit it, polish it, and make it as good as you can. Then send it to me. I'll try to spot problems you've missed. That's my job as a beta. Not to spot problems you already know about.

I can't speak for Maryn, but that's what I mean when I say that I expect a completed, revised, edited, polished version. Not a perfect story. But as perfect as the author can make it.

Mom'sWrite
05-04-2011, 07:13 AM
Beta reading can be one of those minefield experiences. I did a couple, and one in particular, where I'm still finding imbedded shrapnel from the explosions. He was very upset with my suggestions, even circular filed the ms and vowed never to write again. I admit his reaction really rattled me for a long time.

I just recently dipped my toe back in the beta reading/critiquing waters. Thank goodness, nothing has exploded, melted, or come down with spots...yet.

shadowwalker
05-04-2011, 05:46 PM
What I do expect is that it will be as good as that author can make it at that time.

This I can agree with, with the caveat that if the author clearly states it's an early draft and only wants certain things looked at (ie, ignore spelling errors, typos, etc and just look at the meat of the thing), then it doesn't have to be 'that good'. But if they tell you it's been spell-checked and edited etc etc - then it darn well better be.

Maryn
05-04-2011, 06:40 PM
Call me snooty and demanding (I dare you!), but I won't beta read or even critique work which isn't as good as the author knows how to make it. I value my time too much to spend it correcting and instructing, only to find out the author knew all that stuff and hadn't bothered to incorporate that knowledge into his or her work. It tells me the author does not value my time.

For me, a work which contains lots of mistakes is unreadable. I literally can't ignore mistakes when there are a lot of them. That's probably just my own shortcoming.

Not that I totally freak out over the occasional typo, misused word, or subject-verb disagreement. I'm talking more like this classic oldie which I returned to the author more than ten years ago:


Montana staid in the living room, listening to one bottle after another....Cindy was preparing a champaine bath. When she had heard twenny bottle, she decided to see what Cindy was up to. She walked into the Bathroom just in time to see Cindy stepping nuded into the tub which was filled with the bubbley.

Maryn, remembering she did about five single-spaced pages

MeretSeger
05-04-2011, 06:50 PM
Oh my gosh, this hits a nerve. Last year I met a fellow writer and we had the most wonderful discussions about the craft...of course I would beta for her! I received a physical, printed manuscript with not one indent or paragraph break of any kind. It was hundreds of pages of text-brick.

I called her to point out the problem and was peevishly informed that this was her "style" and she was "experimenting". When I gave it back unread, it was the end of a beautiful nascent relationship.

Thank you to anyone who has ever beta'd from the universe, for those who never said it.

MissAimee
05-04-2011, 07:07 PM
I know I'm really late on commenting but I have to say is well done, Maryn!

shadowwalker
05-04-2011, 07:50 PM
I received a physical, printed manuscript with not one indent or paragraph break of any kind. It was hundreds of pages of text-brick.

I can ignore misspellings and such if forewarned - but it does have to be legible. So I would've told her basically the same thing - leave the (pretentious) style until after I've read it! (Actually, I probably would've told her to leave it until she's famous enough for readers to stomach it... :evil)

MarcMcClure
05-04-2011, 08:04 PM
I can ignore misspellings and such if forewarned - but it does have to be legible. So I would've told her basically the same thing - leave the (pretentious) style until after I've read it! (Actually, I probably would've told her to leave it until she's famous enough for readers to stomach it... :evil)

I agree - I can ignore some grammar and spelling issues - but if the problems actually change the meaning of the text, or make it unreadable (that story about the text brick below just floored me), my beta reply would consist of, "I'm sorry - I couldn't get past page 2 - and I like you, so I doubt any agent will read past sentence two."

Deb Kinnard
05-05-2011, 01:37 AM
When an AWer requests a beta, I'm assuming (correctly?) they're not asking for nit picks or punctuation/word choice edits, but for a reader to read for story? I'm a bit in the mist about what a beta's actual contribution is. If it's dotted Is and crossed Ts, that wouldn't be of interest to me, because (as 10 signed contracts and multiple edits may attest), I'm usually beyond that. Not that I don't make errors -- I do. But I'd love someone to beta read my WIP for story -- does it hang together, is it engaging, does Part A flow into Part B, are the characters well enough drawn, sympathetic, etc.

Does a beta do this? Can he/she be requested to beta-read only for this aspect and not for the 2.5 commas I may inadvertently leave out?

Maryn
05-05-2011, 01:51 AM
Well, I can only speak for myself, but if the manuscript is pretty clean--not perfect, but pretty damned clean--I am able to beta for story alone.

But I suspect it comes down to this: Anything you and a potential beta reader can agree on can work just fine. It's when those expectations are not clear, so one of you expects or demands something which isn't going to happen, that these relationships founder. Oh, and whenever the absence of basic courtesy exists.

Maryn, code name Flounder

AnotherMorning
05-05-2011, 01:51 AM
Does a beta do this? Can he/she be requested to beta-read only for this aspect and not for the 2.5 commas I may inadvertently leave out?

Yes, you just have to make it clear upfront of course. Judging from the replies in this thread, there are some people who do not want to be a spell-checker and prefer to beta well-polished books.

I do think that when you beta-read, you're rolling the dice with regards to how "professional" the book is going to be. The people for whom this is an issue should make it clear upfront, request only a small sample, or something like that.

When I ask for a beta, I'm looking for comments on the story--and if they happen to spot a glaring error, then yes, I want them to tell me about it.

Polenth
05-05-2011, 01:58 AM
When an AWer requests a beta, I'm assuming (correctly?) they're not asking for nit picks or punctuation/word choice edits, but for a reader to read for story?

As a rule of thumb, it seems that people who've been here awhile understand that a beta generally doesn't do line-by-line edits or act as a writing teacher/mentor. People who are new vary wildly in what they think a beta does.

Your best bet is to make it clear what you're after from a beta in your request post. Or if you're offering, make it clear what you're offering.

Sage
05-05-2011, 02:52 AM
I usually note any grammar things I find, and my betas tend to note them too. If the novel is gripping enough (and not full of grammar mistakes), I'm more likely to miss those. If it's full of them, I'll probably end up focusing on them (although at some point I might say, "You do this a lot. Here's how to fix it")

BunnyMaz
05-05-2011, 03:07 AM
Thank you for writing this! Given the glacial pace of my current writing attempts I'm guessing it'll be a long time before I'm ready to even think about looking for a beta, but it is good to know what to expect and - more importanty - what is expected of me first.

Honestly, I can't see any requirements in the list you've given that I could object to. All makes sense.

MarcMcClure
05-05-2011, 03:38 AM
I think the point is, whatever you're asking to have beta read should be readable. If reading it is work, I'm going to give up.

shadowwalker
05-05-2011, 04:57 AM
As a rule of thumb, it seems that people who've been here awhile understand that a beta generally doesn't do line-by-line edits or act as a writing teacher/mentor. People who are new vary wildly in what they think a beta does.

Possibly *here* - but I've been a beta for several years and I do line-by-line if that's where the writer is at, or overall story if that's what the writer is looking for, and as teacher/mentor/brainstorm partner if that's what's required. The role depends on the participants.

skylark
05-05-2011, 11:44 AM
Can he/she be requested to beta-read only for this aspect and not for the 2.5 commas I may inadvertently leave out?

If you have only left out 2.5 commas, I'm not sure I see the difference. Are you saying you don't want them to point out the very few typos remaining if they see them? Or are you saying you want them to ignore a shedload of typos because you will fix them yourself later?

I'd find the first odd, and the second unworkable-with - I can't focus on a story if I'm repeatedly being jarred out of it by technical issues.

I have been asked to beta stories "just for content" and I've always said no. (Note that that's not the same as betaing a story which the author has already proofread to a high standard and which has very few technical issues - which I am highly delighted to do. Makes my life much easier :) )

Prawn
05-05-2011, 04:27 PM
It was only a matter of time before someone took advantage of the attention of all of you great beta readers and asked:

Would anyone be kind enough to take a look at my ms? It is a mystery with political overtones.

It is in a state of high polish, but I'd like some opinions about plot and character.

I could send you the opening and if it speaks to you, you could read more.

I am of course willing to reciprocate. PM me!

Maryn
05-06-2011, 05:22 PM
(Thanks for killing my thread, Prawn! <--Sarcasm)

Barbara R.
05-06-2011, 05:39 PM
How do I rewrite, revise, and polish a manuscript in the absence of feedback? I thought the point of a beta reader was to look at an unfinished work and offer suggestions on how to revise and polish it.

I think the OP was suggesting that writers should take their drafts as far as they can on their own before seeking help. I agree with her that it's presumptuous to ask anyone, even your mother, to read a first draft. 99% of first drafts stink! The best thing about writing them, I've always felt, is knowing that no one else will ever read them.

The time to turn to a beta reader is when you've done as much editing and polishing as you can on your own. That's when a fresh pair of eyes is useful, to see what you couldn't.

sneakysnail
05-06-2011, 05:53 PM
It was only a matter of time before someone took advantage of the attention of all of you great beta readers and asked:


:ROFL:Well, this is a better ploy than offering money! Wish I'd thought of it. :Sun:

Prawn
05-06-2011, 06:16 PM
(Thanks for killing my thread, Prawn! <--Sarcasm)

What, does everyone on this thread have some sort of shellfish allergy or something?

Maryn
05-06-2011, 06:28 PM
Depends. You buying? Among my favorite memories is peel-and-eat shrimp on the Texas coast. Meet me there.

I suppose we should attempt to stay on-track, but I've pretty much had my say about how I decide whether I'll beta read. (I'd consider yours if I didn't have one on my plate already.)

Maryn, shrimp lover

PinkAmy
05-06-2011, 06:31 PM
But I suspect it comes down to this: Anything you and a potential beta reader can agree on can work just fine.

Love your thread and I agree with this point.

I beta for content, plot, believability, plausibility, and character development. Nobody would want me to beta for typos or grammar, because I would miss more than I would find. I don't mind reading an earlier draft because of what I beta about.

For people beta-ing my work, I usually have something specific in mind, like dialogue or typos or the pacing etc. I'll take whatever input people have, and I'll use a lot of it, but I probably won't use everything.

BardSkye
05-06-2011, 11:34 PM
What, does everyone on this thread have some sort of shellfish allergy or something?


Sent you a PM.

tko
05-06-2011, 11:57 PM
An author/beta relationship should be fun and beneficial to both. It's not fun to read 5000 words with misspells, or basic grammar errors. I was looking up some "review for pay" sites. One stated that they would only give you a price quote if you submitted the 1st chapter to them for evaluation. Obviously, they wanted to find out what level your writing is at before estimating the job.

So, it seem like the 1st step is to have your beta read a chapter and see if you get along. I'm working w/a wonderful beta would just agreed to proof a few chapters, and it developed into more.

I think a lot of beta's have a certain fear. Suppose I get a 180,000 word novel that wanders all over the place and requires a week per chapter? How do I say no?

Wouldn't it be interesting to have a "post your 1st chapter and look for people who want to read the entire novel" forum? A dual purpose - people would try to put in hooks to get people to read the rest - which is how it is in real life.


One of the reasons I'm pretty harsh with my critiques is to filter out people who get whiny or defensive.

I do occasional critiques in SYW, but I wouldn't volunteer to beta read a whole novel unless I read the first chapter and it actually made me want to read the rest.

DeaK
05-07-2011, 01:00 AM
I think a lot of beta's have a certain fear. Suppose I get a 180,000 word novel that wanders all over the place and requires a week per chapter? How do I say no?

I think it's okay to tell someone almost exactly that. It would be really good advice to just say 'from you first x chapters and your word count I can tell you need to do some cutting. If you work on that, maybe I can help you with other issues afterwards.



Wouldn't it be interesting to have a "post your 1st chapter and look for people who want to read the entire novel" forum? A dual purpose - people would try to put in hooks to get people to read the rest - which is how it is in real life.

I like that idea, but likewise, the author of the piece needs to see the beta's crit style to know if the feedback would be useful (and then it would almost be like SYW anyway).

Prawn
05-07-2011, 01:06 AM
Sent you a PM.

At last, someone who appreciates seafood! :)

BardSkye
05-07-2011, 02:29 AM
I'm having a seafood platter with clam strips even as we speak.

Comments should be in your inbox, you cruel, cruel Prawn, you.

Linda Adams
05-07-2011, 02:51 AM
So: No. Revise it, edit it, polish it, and make it as good as you can. Then send it to me. I'll try to spot problems you've missed. That's my job as a beta. Not to spot problems you already know about.

This reminds me of something that happened a few weeks back. I posted on a board about a problem that I discovered I had--I leave out details, often important details. I'm a big picture thinker, and I have it in my head they did those things, but it doesn't always make it into the story. I had identified what the problem was, and I was looking for options on how to solve it. The most common suggestion? Let a beta find them. I thought it was awfully presumptious to push this off on a beta--especially since I knew it was a problem and was trying to fix it. Not only that, it sounded an awful lot like, "I'm bad with grammar. Correct all my mistakes."

skylark
05-07-2011, 02:53 PM
I'm not sure that's a problem you can fix yourself, though. "Have I explained this clearly enough for someone who doesn't know what's going on?" can only really be answered by someone who doesn't know what's going on.

I would say that's a reasonable thing to ask a beta, but I'd say something like "I'm aware that sometimes I don't include enough detail for readers to pick up what's happening - if this happens, don't struggle on, let me know." That way they know if they have a "huh?" moment that it probably wasn't intentional.

Mr Flibble
05-07-2011, 03:02 PM
I thought it was awfully presumptious to push this off on a beta--especially since I knew it was a problem and was trying to fix it. Not only that, it sounded an awful lot like, "I'm bad with grammar. Correct all my mistakes."


Like Skylart said. I know I have a problem with too few details/description (esp in fantasy) and I also tend to repeat things too much sometimes. I try to fix these myself, obviously, but it's hard to know when I've got it right.

Notes to betas often read 'Please tell me if you can't picture something in your head or point out areas that you think need fleshing out' and 'Please point out where you stop and think 'Too much already!''

If you're upfront about what you need from the beta, I don't see there's a problem, because they can always say no.

Prawn
05-07-2011, 04:05 PM
I'm having a seafood platter with clam strips even as we speak.

And you are a fast eater. You read the whole thing and commented on it in one night. What a great beta!

shadowwalker
05-07-2011, 05:33 PM
If you're upfront about what you need from the beta, I don't see there's a problem, because they can always say no.

This is it in a nutshell, regardless of what the problem or what the author is looking for help with. Don't sugarcoat problems just to get a beta, because you won't have one long once they start reading. Be honest and get the right one for you.

Linda Adams
05-07-2011, 05:39 PM
I'm not sure that's a problem you can fix yourself, though. "Have I explained this clearly enough for someone who doesn't know what's going on?" can only really be answered by someone who doesn't know what's going on.

I would say that's a reasonable thing to ask a beta, but I'd say something like "I'm aware that sometimes I don't include enough detail for readers to pick up what's happening - if this happens, don't struggle on, let me know." That way they know if they have a "huh?" moment that it probably wasn't intentional.

It's hard for me to explain and have people understand. They don't get how bad it actually is. I routinely have to correct this is in every single scene and have had to add more than 500 words to correct it. So it's not something where you might be reading along and see it every 50 pages or so -- it's on every 3-5 pages. And it's hard to spot because it's something that's not there. That's why I have the problem with asking a beta to do that much work.

ETA: It was really bad before I knew it was a problem, and may be one of the reasons betas gave up on the story.

BardSkye
05-07-2011, 09:35 PM
And you are a fast eater. You read the whole thing and commented on it in one night. What a great beta!


It was very tasty. And I even had time to watch two hockey games between courses

:e2tongue:

Prawn
05-07-2011, 09:45 PM
It was very tasty.

I am so glad you liked it!

Would anyone else like a taste?

I'd love another set of eyes on it.

jdm
05-07-2011, 11:39 PM
People not thanking you for your efforts? Outrageous and rude to say the least!

Judging from the expected etiquette and the posts here, I would have to say I have been the luckiest guy on the planet with regards to finding a beta reader and critique partner. When my wife suggested I find a beta reader, I had no idea what she meant, so I started trolling the internet and found AW. Not being a very social animal, forums and social networks were all foreign to me and I had no idea of the rules for this site, either stated or implied. As a result, my first post was to request a beta reader.

I only had to wait a day before a wonderful gentleman offered his help on a provisional basis, despite his reservations about my expressed level of patience. We were to exchange the first chapter of our works just to see if we could put up with each other's writing and go from there. After doing so, he was impressed enough to want to continue. Little did I know how fortunate I was.

It turns out the man was a retired professor of English with plenty of writing and editing experience. Not only has he provided me with a myriad of useful suggestions, he has been a fountain of knowledge regarding many things, from lesser known rules of grammar and word usage to specific knowledge of certain subjects dealt with in my manuscript. On top of that, he proofed and corrected the basic spelling and punctuation errors that we all know are so difficult to catch when proofing your own material. He has been generous in pointing out the things he liked and in giving explanations for the things he felt I needed to consider. And he has been prompt in returning material critiqued. An added bonus is that he has increased my awareness of things I need to be cognizant of, making me a much better editor of my own material.

On the other side, I have been fortunate as well for he never fails to thank me for the catches and suggestions, incorporating many of them in his work. Currently, he is on his third read-though of my manuscript.

The funny thing is, after starting the relationship out so tentatively, I am now his only remaining beta, the other four or five having dropped out on him. I have made a promise to stick with him for however long he needs me as I certainly owe the man a huge debt of gratitude. And besides, I have to find out what happens in his novel. His voice is unique, his characters are interesting both physically and personality-wise, and he knows prose.

I would mention his name and sing his praises openly, but he probably would not appreciate all the requests he would get to read manuscripts. He has my utmost appreciation for all the help he has given me. I wish everyone on here could be so lucky as to have him as their beta/critique partner.

firedrake
05-08-2011, 12:07 AM
People not thanking you for your efforts? Outrageous and rude to say the least!

Judging from the expected etiquette and the posts here, I would have to say I have been the luckiest guy on the planet with regards to finding a beta reader and critique partner. When my wife suggested I find a beta reader, I had no idea what she meant, so I started trolling the internet and found AW. Not being a very social animal, forums and social networks were all foreign to me and I had no idea of the rules for this site, either stated or implied. As a result, my first post was to request a beta reader.

I only had to wait a day before a wonderful gentleman offered his help on a provisional basis, despite his reservations about my expressed level of patience. We were to exchange the first chapter of our works just to see if we could put up with each others writing and go from there. After doing so, he was impressed enough to want to continue. Little did I know how fortunate I was.

It turns out the man was a retired professor of English with plenty of writing and editing experience. Not only has he provided me with a myriad of useful suggestions, he has been a fountain of knowledge regarding many things, from lesser know rules of grammar and word usage to specific knowledge of certain subjects dealt with in my manuscript. On top of that, he proofed and corrected the basic spelling and punctuation errors that we all know is so difficult to catch when proofing your own material. He has been generous in pointing out the things he liked and in giving explanations for the things he felt I needed to consider. And he has been prompt in returning material critiqued. An added bonus is that he has increased my awareness of things I need to be cognizant of, making me a much better editor of my own material.

On the other side, I have been fortunate as well for he never fails to thank me for the catches and suggestions, incorporating many of them in his work. Currently, he is on his third read-though of my manuscript.

The funny thing is, after starting the relationship out so tentatively, I am now his only remaining beta, the other four or five having dropped out on him. I have made a promise to stick with him for however long he needs me as I certainly owe the man a huge debt of gratitude. And besides, I have to find out what happens in his novel. His voice is unique, his characters are interesting both physically and personality-wise, and he knows prose.

I would mention his name and sing his praises openly, but he probably would not appreciate all the requests he would get to read manuscripts. He has my utmost appreciation for all the help he has given me. I wish everyone on here could be so lucky as to have him as their beta/critique partner.

What a lovely post. It sounds to me like you're both a good match.
I've been very lucky to find some great beta readers on AW and I wouldn't have got as far as I have without them.

BeatrixKiddo
05-08-2011, 02:18 AM
Excellent post Maryn.
I am truly a newbie to this world. I've never been published. I've never submitted anything. (Well, that's not true. I submitted a short story years ago to a writers magazine and got a fairly pleasant rejection letter back but that's been it so far.)

To me, if I plan on being a writer, I have to do the work to become one. Especially if I want to become a good writer or at least a decent one. That's why I'm so glad I found AW. As much as I love goofing off in the social forums, I need to read posts like this because they remind me of what a looong way I still have to go.

For example, my grammar is still a mess. I would never send a WIP to someone who agreed to read it for me without trying to correct and polish it as much as I could first. To me, that's just common sense and I'm truly surprised at some of the hostile responses some of you beta readers have received from folks you read for.

It's not just rude, it's horribly immature. I personally want and need advice that's honest and brutal because it's the only way I'll learn. Maybe it's a generational thing. I notice folks younger then me can't seem to handle any kind of critique on their writing. They seem overly sensitive.


A lot of people have commented something along those lines.

When I read Maryn's original post, I found myself nodding agreement. When I read the "but if it's perfect it doesn't need a beta" post, I think I figured out what the disconnect was.

I don't expect a manuscript I beta read to be perfect, or even good. What I do expect is that it will be as good as that author can make it at that time. It's really frustrating to spend hours or days critiquing a manuscript and have the author come back and say "Yes, I knew all that, I was planning to change it in the next round of revisions" or "Yeah, I knew those chapters didn't work so I've deleted them and the entire subplot."

So: No. Revise it, edit it, polish it, and make it as good as you can. Then send it to me. I'll try to spot problems you've missed. That's my job as a beta. Not to spot problems you already know about.

I can't speak for Maryn, but that's what I mean when I say that I expect a completed, revised, edited, polished version. Not a perfect story. But as perfect as the author can make it.

This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Good post.

Ray H
05-18-2011, 07:12 PM
Maryn,

I know I'm a month late in responding, but that can't be helped since I'm a newbie.
But, from what I could take from your explanation you felt compelled to post, you've read several, if not numerous novels, cover to cover, out of the generosity of your huge heart. And in return, you received nothing (or in one case a rude comment).

To me, that sounds like a lack of communication between you and the author(s). If that is true, then you are just as much to blame for the author not reciprocating your generosity or not sending you reams of praiseworthy words worth your effort.

If indeed you did communicate and still did not receive anything in return, then why did you keep reading the author(s) novel(s) and writing/sending "...five or ten thousand words of commentary"? Again, this seems partially your fault.

Now, so I'm not a total meanie...

I know that you probably wrote that in frustration and did not mean it in the way it looks... "I'm better than you newbies because I've posted X amount of times and until I approve of your worthiness, do not bother me."

I do appreciate the insight you have given, especially and more specifically, the second half of your post. If that part was the only section posted, I would have found your post the most helpful post a newbie could read (Obviously, you have a lot of information and knowledge to offer). Instead, I am partially turned off by your chest beating and ranting of how unworthy we are as newbies, despite the fact that I agree with most of your points.

I guess this is an example of how it is stated as opposed to what is stated.

Maryn
05-18-2011, 08:00 PM
Maryn,

I know I'm a month late in responding, but that can't be helped since I'm a newbie.Pleased to meet you. No apology or explanation necessary. I'm a huge newbie fan.

But, from what I could take from your explanation you felt compelled to post, you've read several, if not numerous novels, cover to cover, out of the generosity of your huge heart. And in return, you received nothing (or in one case a rude comment).

To me, that sounds like a lack of communication between you and the author(s). If that is true, then you are just as much to blame for the author not reciprocating your generosity or not sending you reams of praiseworthy words worth your effort.Wait, you lost me here. I have not asked anyone for whom I beta read to read my work. Instead, I have agreed to beta read for others who assured me their work was submission-ready. Sometimes it was, sometimes not.


If indeed you did communicate and still did not receive anything in return, then why did you keep reading the author(s) novel(s) and writing/sending "...five or ten thousand words of commentary"? Again, this seems partially your fault.I didn't read and comment on a second novel for any author who lacked the basic courtesy to show gratitude for the first beta. However, at one time I would agree to new beta arrangements far more readily than I do now, giving the new person length commentary.


Now, so I'm not a total meanie...Nah, I think maybe you just haven't been burned enough times and are still trusting and hopeful. Good for you!


I know that you probably wrote that in frustration and did not mean it in the way it looks... "I'm better than you newbies because I've posted X amount of times and until I approve of your worthiness, do not bother me."Well, Ray, you can take it that way if that's the spin you prefer to put on it. Or you can become a part of the AW community, someone we've all seen around and have no reason to dislike, whose intent to improve his writing seems genuine. After too many negative experiences, that's one way I can vet the people who seek beta readers.


I do appreciate the insight you have given, especially and more specifically, the second half of your post. If that part was the only section posted, I would have found your post the most helpful post a newbie could read (Obviously, you have a lot of information and knowledge to offer). Instead, I am partially turned off by your chest beating and ranting of how unworthy we are as newbies, despite the fact that I agree with most of your points. I'm not sure I understand where you get the chest-thumping superiority version of me. Stick around and you'll see the Maryn who's more often awash in self-doubt. But I do stand by my opinion that I, personally, will no longer beta read for people who are strangers to me. Instead of taking offense at that, or assuming I think you are not worthy, get acquainted with me, and with AW in general. There are many, many ways to do that, lots of them requiring no particular writing expertise or experience. I cordially invite you to the Office Party thread Ray's House of Love, where I stop at least once daily. We just chat, joke around, sometimes talk writing. You are more than welcome to join in. (Everyone is.) Plus, we meet in person every so often, and those who I've looked in the eye are even more likely to get a beta out of me.


I guess this is an example of how it is stated as opposed to what is stated.Sorry you didn't care for my approach. There are plenty of agents who seem to share your opinion.

Anyway, I'm glad you spoke up, and I continue to be pleased to meet you.

Maryn, actually a very nice person

Jcomp
05-18-2011, 08:23 PM
Maryn, actually a very nice person

Co-sign.

Don't think of it as a rant or chest-beating. Think of it as tough love.

Ray H
05-18-2011, 08:28 PM
I'm not sure I understand where you get the chest-thumping superiority version of me. Stick around and you'll see the Maryn who's more often awash in self-doubt. But I do stand by my opinion that I, personally, will no longer beta read for people who are strangers to me. Instead of taking offense at that, or assuming I think you are not worthy, get acquainted with me, and with AW in general. There are many, many ways to do that, lots of them requiring no particular writing expertise or experience. I cordially invite you to the Office Party thread Ray's House of Love, where I stop at least once daily. We just chat, joke around, sometimes talk writing. You are more than welcome to join in. (Everyone is.) Plus, we meet in person every so often, and those who I've looked in the eye are even more likely to get a beta out of me.

Sorry you didn't care for my approach. There are plenty of agents who seem to share your opinion.


Maryn,
I have read several of your posts, and no, I do not think you are some kind of elitist writer. And I don't think you believe you are better than us newbies. In fact, I have found some of your post insightful.

I do think you are somewhat jaded by your negative experiences and that came out in this particular post. Particularly to us new people. I know that your post was meant to inform and even help someone like me, but the frustration was palpable.

I do thank you for taking the time to read my post and respond. And I do look forward to reading/posting in AW and corresponding with you and others in the future. Unfortunately, I am not a big forum/internet social bug. So I usually only post when an AWer writes something that evokes a response.

'til then...

Ray H
05-18-2011, 08:35 PM
Co-sign.

Don't think of it as a rant or chest-beating. Think of it as tough love.

I'll do that

sneakysnail
05-18-2011, 11:45 PM
had the brilliant idea today that I should start a Beta Black List for people who get their entire freakin' novel critted and then don't do any crits for anyone else and then bail from the group. :)

Well, I don't know if that is a brilliant idea. I beta for experience and yes, I'll say it ... pleasure. I have gotten to read some great work. I learn tons. I could care less if anyone betas back or not. It's my gig, it may not be theirs.

Matera the Mad
05-19-2011, 12:05 AM
What Maryn said.

Anybody having an issue with polishing needs to think a bit. No amount of perfect grammar and punctuation will make up for confusing statements, incomplete description, gaping plotholes, and inconsistent characters. Writers are human, they make assumptions and they have habits. That's what betas are for -- they see from a new perspective what the writer is too close to. And by gad we don't get paid enough to do that through the pain of enduring just-plain-bad writing.

I've seen enough poorly constructed Precious Words to drive me to satire, disguising my disgust in flash fiction. It would not make sense to expect thanks for some of the things I've had to say in the name of tough love. At least I can hope that they have learned something, and might come back in a few years with some real writing.

If some of the better reads forget me, well, I can forget them right back. They're easier to forget than the godawful Marysues and Great Idea Guys.

I will still beta anything that I think is worth it, when I have time and energy to do so. Because of visual impairment and sleep issues, I can't always spend a lot of hours sitting up reading--at least not critically. But I love to do it when I can. Some of the best ones I've had weren't even near my genre. 'Twould be nice to catch a new reader who had time to bang away at my own 120,000 words too, but at least I have faithful old Beta Prime and a few casuals. I also have some regular beta-ees who come back for more.

I love shrimp!

AlishaS
05-25-2011, 10:56 PM
Great thread! I've had both good and bad beta experiences, some have become lasting friendships, some have left me with nothing...
My biggest peeve is when I arrange a swap, this is with the idea that you read mine, I'll read yours and everyone's happy.
Well, I read fast. Really fast. I'll finish off a novel, the other person get's what they wanted and is never heard from again.
However, I will still beta read. I really enjoy it, I think it helps me out with my own writing as it does the other person. I now am just more careful.

Griffin Hayes
05-26-2011, 02:37 AM
Alishas,

There's a simple solution (as far as I see it at least). Do your part of the beta, tell the other when you plan on being done and then agree on a time to swap. Otherwise, I can see how some lazy person might receive a critique and say, "hell, now that I got what I want, why should I bother."

Maryn
05-26-2011, 04:52 AM
Wow, common sense prevails. Great input, bighockeyhair. This might solve a lot of beta-exchange situations.

Maryn, a.k.a. Occam

cooeedownunder
05-26-2011, 06:26 AM
Alishas,

There's a simple solution (as far as I see it at least). Do your part of the beta, tell the other when you plan on being done and then agree on a time to swap. Otherwise, I can see how some lazy person might receive a critique and say, "hell, now that I got what I want, why should I bother."

I've had this happen three times.

JoleaB
05-26-2011, 04:55 PM
I've had pretty good luck with beta readers, but after reading these posts I fear I've been trying to beta too early. I'm definitely in the polishing stage, but not sure about 'submission ready'. I've had a couple betas give overall feedback and another who is doing a line by line edit - a HUGE undertaking. I thank her every time we email. When she's ready to have her ms read, I will be first in line.

My only gripe is when someone says yes they will read a few chapters, and then, after the chapters are sent, they drop off the face of the earth. I usually wait a couple weeks before asking, but frequently get no answer. I'm not afraid to hear the book is not their thing, don't have time, your writing is terrible, etc...But to get nothing from someone who said sure I'll read and is posted on the beta boards as being available to read? I only ask people who say they are willing to beta read, and then send chapters only to those who say they are interested in my genre and premise.

I think leaving people hanging is just as rude as not saying thank you.

The solution perhaps is to better know your limitations as a beta. Just as putting your writing out there for a critique isn't for the faint of heart, being able to say what you think isn't either. Love it? Say so! Don't like it? Say so. And if you run across a writer who has a snit fit over that opinion - isn't there a block feature on here? Report their whiny butts to the mods!

As a writer, I'm going to work harder on the polishing part to make sure my work is as close to submission ready as I can make it.

Jolea

Maryn
05-26-2011, 05:08 PM
Sometimes I still hesitate to tell the author I'm not liking it, or that it's so riddled with errors it's hopeless. If you interact here a lot, you know which people are obviously fragile--and not yet publishable, either. It presents a big challenge, and I confess I've been very slow to get back to such a person.

But not never. That is indeed rude.

Maryn, nicer than that

fourlittlebees
05-26-2011, 05:08 PM
The solution perhaps is to better know your limitations as a beta. Just as putting your writing out there for a critique isn't for the faint of heart, being able to say what you think isn't either. Love it? Say so! Don't like it? Say so. And if you run across a writer who has a snit fit over that opinion - isn't there a block feature on here? Report their whiny butts to the mods!


And this is why I offer to beta VERY sparingly and always with a warning. I pull no punches, even with friends. If something isn't working, it isn't working, and me being nicey-nice about it isn't going to help anyone's book be ready for an agent to rave over.

Of course, I expect that same brutal honesty from anyone who betas for me. I also use crit partners before a beta ever sees; I know some don't use that step, but I have at least two people who will do knock-down, drag-out over a sentence for days before I turn to a beta. And I LOVE them. They are worth their weight in gold, even if occasionally even they apologize when something isn't working the fourth or fifth time through.

I do think a lot of people get way too attached to their words. You have to be able to take an entire chapter (or four), stick those words in a folder, and start with a blank page again if it's not working because you WANT it to work so badly. If you aren't at that stage? You aren't ready to query a book anyway.

Kelsey
05-27-2011, 01:28 AM
I have Beta read once, and was completely turned off when I didn't even get a "thank you" email. Before this post, I just assumed my hard work was lost somewhere in internet space.

Thanks for the post!

Rowan
05-27-2011, 05:52 AM
My beta experiences run the gamut from fabulous to dreadful, but I won't go into detail here. ;)

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I'm fortunate in that I found two fantastic beta readers who double as brainstorming partners and are also friends. (You both know who you are.)

It still baffles me that Karen has helped so many people and received so little thanks. She beta read for me and was not only fast but very insightful. (Cheers again, Karen!)

Inkstrokes
05-27-2011, 09:43 PM
I've seen other sites with 'Trader Ratings', maybe this site should have a 'Beta Rating' and/or a 'Feedback Meter'.

Now the receiver of said Beta really needs to step back from their work a look at the feedback received. Look at it through eyes not jaded by their attachments to the words, and rate based on the quality of the feedback not just because they didn't like that the beta didn't immediately fall in love with it.

The same can be said of whether the Beta receives a thank-you for their time and effort (I mean really, how hard is that?). Thank them for their time even if you didn't agree with their views.

Bufty
05-30-2011, 08:20 PM
Sounds great in theory, BUT...I don't immediately see how a reporting system like this could be guaranteed to operate in any real, fair or constructive sense to either beta readers or potential recipients unless details of the relative parties and their experience were disclosed.

How does a total beginner (and they seem to post the majority of requests for beta readers) rate quality of feedback in a manner that is meaningful to say, a non-beginner, for example?



I've seen other sites with 'Trader Ratings', maybe this site should have a 'Beta Rating' and/or a 'Feedback Meter'.

Now the receiver of said Beta really needs to step back from their work a look at the feedback received. Look at it through eyes not jaded by their attachments to the words, and rate based on the quality of the feedback not just because they didn't like that the beta didn't immediately fall in love with it.


...

fourlittlebees
05-30-2011, 09:29 PM
Some if it may be the n00b thing and a lack of knowing what to do. I can say that whether it's a crit partner or beta, EVEN SOMEONE I AM FRIENDS WITH AND TALK TO/IM WITH REGULARLY, I send a note.

Because I know from the other end how frustrating it can be when it seems like your suggestions are being ignored, I generally address each main point. If I agree with something, I note it. If I don't agree with a suggestion, I give a short explanation as to why I feel it goes against what I'm trying. If it's something I'm not sure about, I note that I'll think about it.

Nine times out of ten, the issues are places I've already internally flagged as potential problems.

Bufty
05-31-2011, 12:44 PM
Yes - it's always nice to have a brief thankyou.

I would not be interested in entering exchanges simply to answer observation rebuttals, but by all means seek clarification of something that's not clear.

Beyond that it seems to me that what recipients do or don't do with a beta's individual comments is up to them and not really of concern to most beta readers, unless they want their own egos stroked.


Some if it may be the n00b thing and a lack of knowing what to do. I can say that whether it's a crit partner or beta, EVEN SOMEONE I AM FRIENDS WITH AND TALK TO/IM WITH REGULARLY, I send a note.

Because I know from the other end how frustrating it can be when it seems like your suggestions are being ignored, I generally address each main point. If I agree with something, I note it. If I don't agree with a suggestion, I give a short explanation as to why I feel it goes against what I'm trying. If it's something I'm not sure about, I note that I'll think about it.

Nine times out of ten, the issues are places I've already internally flagged as potential problems.

Chase
05-31-2011, 06:15 PM
If I don't agree with a suggestion, I give a short explanation as to why I feel it goes against what I'm trying.

I'm with Bufty: Always thanks for critiquing my stuff, and unclear suggestions should be addressed.

However, I'm more take-it-or-leave it about using suggestions, both mine or my exchange partner's. Because I don't rebut, too many rebuttals would tend to kill the partnership.

Barber
05-31-2011, 07:42 PM
I think this was a very good post to let people see what the general manners and expectations are when it comes to having someone beta your work.

Yes, you should thank them and be aware of how much work goes into beta reading.

I personally love beta reading for so many reasons and almost prefer the work not to be totally polished. That way I can learn from their writing on how to improve mine. In that sense, it's an exchange even when I don't need a beta.

Also, we're all here because we love to read, and through beta-ing, I get to read all kinds of books I wouldn't get to otherwise. I've read quite a few here that are among my favorites.

That way I get to take something from the giving process. And then I post my chapters in SYW and realize I haven't learned from it as much as I'd hoped... LOL

eqb
05-31-2011, 10:26 PM
I'm with Bufty: Always thanks for critiquing my stuff, and unclear suggestions should be addressed.

What Chase Said.

And yes, telling me what you accept or don't accept can be problematic. From my own experience, I know that sometimes I need days or weeks before I can figure out if "suggestion X" works for me.

Or sometimes, the suggestion doesn't work as stated, but it sparks a new inspiration on how to fix something. Or I hate the suggestion, but just seeing it shows me where I went wrong. Or...

Better to say thank-you right away and let the ideas percolate.

(Note: This is my reaction as a reader and a writer. YMMV.)

Bushrat
06-08-2011, 07:58 AM
It works both ways - I've beta read and my comments were really appreciated.
I've also had beta readers, half of whom were great and the other half never got back to me about my manuscript. Not even with a "that sucks" or "couldn't finish it". That really ticked me off - why offer then?

Literateparakeet
01-03-2012, 04:26 PM
I realize this is an old thread, and honesty I can't remember now how I stumbled on it (that was a good 5 minutes ago, you see...)

Anyway, I thought there was some great advice here for us newbies, so I'm giving it a bump.

Thanks Maryn.

Maryn
01-03-2012, 08:21 PM
Thanks right back. Recently I'm seeing what appears to be an uptick in people seeking beta readers when they don't even have the 50 posts required for Share Your Work. Some good-hearted soul(s) may well volunteer and benefit them greatly, but it won't be me. I at least need to see a bit of the person's writing first.

Maryn, who can tell pretty early if this could work

Bluestone
01-03-2012, 08:33 PM
Literateparakeet, you're off on the right foot if you see the value in this advice. I know Maryn as a very considerate, wise (and funny) person and she began this thread expressing the thoughts many of us have had about the to and from beta experience. It can be the best of times, it can be the worst of times...!

Good luck with your writing!

Anjasa
01-03-2012, 08:41 PM
Wow can I not believe that some people would ask a stranger to read over their novel and beta it... and not even send a thank you?

That's terrible! Even if you think the beta reader totally didn't understand your work and their tips were all wrong you still thank them for you input and the time and effort they put into trying to help you the best way they know how! That's just basic manner!

I thank people for holding the door open for me when they were going in ahead of me! That's an extra 2 seconds of their day that I thank them for! I'd sure expect a thankyou when trying to help someone for an hour or more.

Sorry for typos, I'm on my tablet and realizing my nails are too long to type properly...

Literateparakeet
01-03-2012, 08:57 PM
Recently I'm seeing what appears to be an uptick in people seeking beta readers when they don't even have the 50 posts required for Share Your Work.

Yes, I've noticed the same in the short time I have been here.


Literateparakeet, you're off on the right foot if you see the value in this advice...Good luck with your writing!

Thanks!


I thank people for holding the door open for me when they were going in ahead of me! That's an extra 2 seconds of their day that I thank them for! I'd sure expect a thankyou when trying to help someone for an hour or more.

Now that you mention it...I think holding a door open deserves a thank you, and spending a couple hours being a beta reader deserves a Starbucks card (or should a say a giftcard to a bookstore?) :)

Chekurtab
01-03-2012, 09:04 PM
It's good the thread had been brought up - there is some valuable info. Maryn makes very good points. I will be looking for betas when I'm done polishing my MS. It's an interesting symbiosis, but I'm a bit apprehensive. How do you know if the person is right for your work?

Brindle Chase
01-03-2012, 09:25 PM
Well said Maryn!!! I've been so blessed by the help I have received here at AW, including the beta readers. My philosophy has been the pay it forward. I've beta read a dozen books since joining here and chipped in when I can in the query hell... that has earned me willing aid when I need it for one of my own books. Give more than you take!

Raula
01-03-2012, 09:35 PM
I'm guilty of some of the criticisms you mention here, Maryn. I've had the benefit of three wonderful Beta readers through AW without contributing to the forum community. I used to Beta read but then found it too time-consuming whilst pursuing my own works, so I understand the level of dedication it takes, especially since it's on account of my beta readers that I was able to iron out style and grammar errors. I'd like to think I've always given more than just 'yea thanks' answers to their feedback; often I like to discuss things in more detail anyway and have always felt indebted to them.

AW is a big forum - I'm trying to become more active without getting lost in a sea of names. I do a lot of browsing and reading of threads. Thanks for the tip about the 'Submit Your Work' forum - I will go ahead and do that as a step in the right direction.

Maryn
01-03-2012, 09:44 PM
That's the spirit!

I also like the idea of taking what you need and making sure you give a bit more, even if it's not to the same recipients.

How do you know if a potential beta is right for your work? Well, there are lots of things which might help.
Find their reply posts in Share Your Work and see what you think of their critique skills.
Find their work posted for critique at SYW and see how well they write.
Find their other AW posts and see if you like them well enough, share opinions on some things, have a similar sense of humor, and simply 'click.' There are people here I admire greatly but don't click with, and I bet they'd be poor choices as my beta reader, and vice versa.
Take a test drive of one another. Ask that they beta read your first two chapters and get back to you with feedback by a specific date. This will let them know if they like your work well enough to read a bunch more, and lets you know if they offer decent feedback in a timely fashion.
Any other suggestions for knowing who's going to be a good beta?

Maryn, who hasn't beta read anything long in a while

Brindle Chase
01-03-2012, 10:26 PM
Another thought came to mind. I sure hope those who have beta read for me are not mistaken for "takers". I conduct business with my beta readers in private, not in the open, so it would not be seen by members here that they have given to the forum... I wonder now about my own presence. My conscious is clear, but others might not always see my own contributions. I dunno... I guess I'm saying, don't be hasty to judge. I always ask my beta readers if they have beta read before. When I beta read for others, I mention some of the books I have contributed too. It helps define your experience as well as your contributions to other members here. But I don't grandstand it publically... hey look at me, I scored another contribution point!!! Hehehe. Anywho... on a personal note, Maryn has beta read for me in the past and gives excellent feedback. For what it's worth!

NicoleJLeBoeuf
01-03-2012, 10:30 PM
Reading this thread put me in mind of my own pet peeves about those who don't seem to have even the simplest understanding of manuscript critique etiquette. The funny thing is, pretty much all of them showed up in a single writer.

The writer I'm thinking about, we were both part of the same class/critique circle. The group met twice monthly, usually to critique a member's manuscript.

Here are the things that convinced me to just not attend the meeting when his manuscript was up:

Me: "[some specific critique or other]"
Him: "Oh, I've already fixed that."

Which is to say: He would perform a manuscript revision after sending the manuscript out for critique. Please don't do that. It is immensely frustrating to find out that I've wasted my time closely critiquing an outdated version.

Me: "That doesn't seem like an internally consistent thing for this character to do."
Him: "Oh, but you don't know the person I've based that character on!"

Which is to say: He would argue with critiques based on special knowledge he had that his readers couldn't possibly have. Don't do that. Your work has to stand on its own. It doesn't come with a teeny tiny version of you to stand on readers' shoulders and tour guide them through the story.

Which is also to say: He would argue with critiques, full stop. Don't do that, ever. You're not here to defend your thesis; you're here to accept feedback. Emphasis on accept. You don't have to accept that the critique is right; you have to accept that the critique represents a reader's current reaction to the current version of your manuscript. You can't argue a reader out of their opinion. Either change the story based on that feedback or don't, but you can't argue me out of my reaction to the words on the page. It is not pleasant for me when you try.

Me: "This female character strikes me as a bit two-dimensional for [specific reason]."
Him: "You know, you say something like this every time. OK, I know you have a problem with my female characters. I get it. You can stop saying it now."

Which is to say: He had no intention of doing anything about this recurring problem. And that's absolutely his right. His stories -- his decision. I get that. But if I keep critiquing his stories, I'm going to keep pointing out what I think are serious problems. Telling me he doesn't want to hear it anymore is a clear signal that this will be a waste of time for both of us.

Which is also to say: In his stories, female characters weren't people; they were the vector by which he rewarded his male protagonists or affirmed the rightness of the male protagonists' viewpoints/feelings/reactions. This was consistent from story to story, as was his dismissal of my pointing out that it was a problem. Being a woman myself, I began to wonder to what extent he maybe didn't see me as a person. *shudder*

It's the last point that killed the critique relationship for me.

Dani
01-03-2012, 11:22 PM
I found a lovely beta here at AW. She's pretty dang amazing. I didn't even bother looking for a beta until I'd self-edited (somewhere around 15 times at least) and had a professional edit done (twice! once he edited, sent it back, I edited it and returned it to him).

I do have another beta reader that looks over the story before it's gone through tons of edits, but I still wouldn't send it to her without self-editing at least twice, preferably three times.

Different betas require different things =0), but I wholeheartedly agree that you should like the person you're beta'ing for and you should at least like the genre.

And... wow this thread is old.

Bluestone
01-03-2012, 11:27 PM
Nicole, your post should be very helpful, as an explicit illustration, to anyone who is contemplating either being a beta or looking for one. It must have been excruiating to actually experience though! What a clueless guy. His loss.

Paul
01-03-2012, 11:43 PM
I just can't fathom how someone wouldn't profusely thank a beta reader. Dont they understand the time and commitment involved?


(yes, i will be seeking one, in a month or so, :D)


But seriously a thank you is the bare minimum

(an offer of accommodation, alcohol and guide touring duties if they visit the Emerald Isle being the second...)

Karen Junker
01-04-2012, 12:08 AM
I just realized something. What really bothers me is not knowing what happens with a story.

It's not that most writers don't thank me. It's that I never hear from them again and I don't get to know the evolution of their work--I don't get to know where it ends up being published. I want to know the happy ending, even if my crits were only somewhere along the line and other critters ended up being more helpful.

I'd love to know, if someone simply drops off the face of the earth, *why*. What about my crits are bad or not helpful? What about other critters makes them more helpful?

Williebee
01-04-2012, 12:24 AM
Give more than you take!

That sums it up, for me. It applies to crits, betas, SYW in general and writing as a whole.

It's not a 50-50 deal. It's 60-40, 40-60, 90-5 and a nap. But, if giving more than taking is the goal, it will work out.

Thanks!

Filigree
01-04-2012, 01:02 AM
I am profoundly grateful to my beta readers. I beta for other people when I have time. In fact, I have to search some old databases to find a beta I did back in September, which bounced in email form from its intended recipient.

If the act of inviting strangers into your world is intimidating, think of how alien and unnerving it can be for them! They don't know your characters, your world, your great story arc. I'm thrilled any time a beta reader emails me with a comment other than 'what in the bloody hell are you rambling on about, woman?'

Because some of my betas are either wicked fast or have as little a life as I do, they can respond quickly to a mms. The later betas might be critical of an issue that's already been spotted and fixed. I have three big screens and keep all versions, so I can compare notes. Everybody's contributions get the same weight.

Sea Witch
01-16-2012, 06:38 PM
Super interesting thread. Thanks, Maryn.

I thought I'd add my $0.02. I'm relatively new here, and I volunteered to beta the work of 3 different people--I'm in the middle of that now.

I view this as part of my being a good "AW" citizen. I agree that it's a lot of work, and I don't plan on doing 3 all the time on an ongoing basis. I also agree that the people whose works I'm doing now are not necessarily the ones that I would have beta my own work. I figure if I don't like the interaction I'm having with the other person, then I just wouldn't do another of their works again.

I typically do the first few pages and then send it back to them and show them how I work to make sure they'll be satisfied before I do hundreds of pages. I save the doc under a different name, and then I make comments on everything as I go along in a different color.

The one thing I want to stress is that it's a lot of work going over someone's work line by line. A) I have a life B) I'm trying to write myself and C) I'm working on more than one Beta. So "how fast can you do it?" does not inspire me. I don't get through more than 20-25 pages per day. If you're looking for a beta, and you want it fast, then don't come to me. That irritates me more than anything.

But otherwise, I don't mind doing it at all. In fact, I think being a beta gives me insight into potential problems in my own work.

Maryn
01-16-2012, 07:26 PM
Sea Witch, I'm all in favor of people eager to be good AW citizens. I'm curious, are these people for whom you are beta reading brand new here or those who are also good AW citizens with a few hundred posts under their belts?

You certainly don't have to say if you'd rather not. I'm just nosy.

Maryn, who needs a bigger belt

quicklime
01-16-2012, 08:11 PM
Some people here retain their basic trust in the goodness of humanity. Time permitting, they will beta read for anyone who asks. This is wonderful, of course, and I like to imagine fine beta-for-beta arrangements stemming from their generous spirits.

But there are plenty of AWers like me who have beta read entire novels, written up five or ten thousand words of commentary we hoped was both insightful and useful, and never heard a word back. Or heard a single word, Thanks, or in one memorable instance, Asshole!


On behalf of those who have been similarly burned, here's why I won't beta read your book:

You may know me from lurking, but I don't know you. A beta read takes many hours, at a minimum. A book which has 'issues' takes much longer. Pretty huge favor to ask of a stranger, don't you think?
You're new and already have your hand out, asking for a lot without having given one damned thing to the AW community in general. Me, me, me is not cool.
I don't like you. This can happen even if I've never interacted with you. I've observed you here at AW, and I didn't like what I saw. Bummer, huh? This is what your mom meant when she said, "What goes around, comes around."
I like you well enough, but I don't share your politics, your taste in reading, or your sense of humor. Something essential about you and me does not mesh, and I'd be willing to bet that extends to your book.
You and I may get along splendidly, but I don't read your genre because I don't care for it. That probably includes your book. Plus, if I don't read the genre, I will not be able to tell if you've written something wonderfully original or retold Eat, Pray, Love or A is for Alibi.
It seems you don't need a beta read so much as reassurance that your work is pretty good, or that you're on the right path. You can get that without asking others to invest so much of themselves.
You've never put a scene, chapter, or story up at your genre's Share Your Work board. I need to see your writing to know if you've mastered basic mechanics, can string together coherent sentences, know the difference between show and tell, can pare away unnecessary words, etc. Show me something which suggests you've got the goods.
I have no reason to believe your novel has been rewritten, revised, edited, and polished until I need sunglasses to look at its brilliance. If it hasn't, it's not ready for a beta. No matter how good you may be, your first draft is not good enough.
.....
Maryn, earning her Curmudgeonette badge


OMFG; I am tempted to sheep-marry you.

In addition to the very valid reasons above, I tend to have difficulty getting to stuff as quickly as I should (not fair to a pertner) and I figure if I have the time, I will spend it writing, assuming I ever get off this site. But most of the above is also at play. Is the potential beta going to help me in return? Are they invested, instead of seeking a handout? Do we get along? is it a genre I'm comfortable taking on? Do I believe they can keep their shit together if I say "this needs lots of work?" All very valid considerations that leave me pretty leery.

For anyone reading this hoping to FIND a beta, look at the negatives, and ask yourself, honestly, how many you may be guilty of. Fix them. Then, find a few possible partners, with care, and ask nicely. Remember, the "nice" part continues even after the answer, even if the answer is no. Even if they did your whole book and didn't love it. Even if you thought they were useless. Because the board is big, but people talk. Always, always, always be courteous and make sure you don't appear to just be here to strip-mine talent.

Sea Witch
01-16-2012, 09:36 PM
Sea Witch, I'm all in favor of people eager to be good AW citizens. I'm curious, are these people for whom you are beta reading brand new here or those who are also good AW citizens with a few hundred posts under their belts?

You certainly don't have to say if you'd rather not. I'm just nosy.

Maryn, who needs a bigger belt

Hi Maryn,

one has 1000 posts, one has 300, and one is new with 15. Interestingly enough, the newb here has been very gracious about what I do for her. We have a very good, albeit business relationship. Listen, maybe I shouldn't have offered so fast--I just felt it was the right thing to do. I think of it as a public service. My writing may be crap, but I think I'm very good at beta-ing. And it doesn't bother me a bit if the other person doesn't want to incorporate my corrections or suggestions. I always preface a crit or beta with "my advice is free, and you are free to disregard it." What I don't say is "at your peril".

and quicklime, I want to sheep-marry her first.

Maryn
01-16-2012, 10:34 PM
Sheep do flock in groups, you all may recall. Just don't mess up my 'do.

quicklime
01-16-2012, 10:48 PM
no, we both agreed to marry YOU.

We shall all meet in Utah, devise a plan to spring that Jeffords guy from prison, and he can deliver our ceremony as thanks

geagar
01-17-2012, 12:35 AM
I was wondering if there is a reward for having the most Beta horrors stories about oneself. I look back in shame at some of the rough garbage I had my beloved Beta’s read. I could see by their comments where the frustration began. “I take it that English is not your first language.”

In another week I will have a manuscript ready for some more unsuspecting victimsJ

Maryn
01-17-2012, 12:40 AM
And then you'll... POUNCE!

We were all unknowing at some point. Only a few of us kept plugging away without learning a damned thing. I just aim not to be one of those, you know?

Maryn, laughing at your last line

Filigree
01-17-2012, 02:44 AM
Beta readers arrive in all forms and skill levels. There's the woman with 30 years of experience in sf&f editing who just *shredded* my darling book and showed me places to make it into a superstar. And the stranger who offered a random comment on a logline-and-first-page contest: "I don't read fantasy, but you've hooked me with this. I'd like to read more!"

That's a lot better than my very first beta reader in 1990, who handed back two hundred pages and said, "I'm sorry. I can't go on. Do you realize that you've written what may be the most ludicrous sex scene in fantasy history?" And since she had the chops to judge, I trunked that novel and went off to learn some things.

I've put my beta readers through hell over the last 20 years. I can only offer my admission of guilt, and my thanks.

Sea Witch
01-17-2012, 07:09 AM
I take it that English is not your first language.


That's the funniest thing I've heard in a while. :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: Yes, I can imagine it would have been difficult for the beta to get through that manuscript.......

Karen Junker
01-17-2012, 07:47 AM
Laugh if you will :), but I once beta'd an entire 145K word manuscript for someone for whom English was not his first language. It was a brilliant thriller and I think I helped him get things worked around so that each character had a distinct voice.

Chumplet
01-17-2012, 08:21 AM
I have beta read for a couple of fellow writers, gave my feedback within a month and received grateful thanks. After much hesitation, I asked a couple of writers to beta my last book and after several months have not received any feedback.

I know it shouldn't, but it makes me feel like my work is unreadable. I want to let them off the hook, but they are too nice to say, "Okay. It's not my cup of tea so I'll just let it go."

This beta reading thing is hard! Next time I'll try the partial manuscript route.

Sea Witch
01-17-2012, 08:26 AM
Laugh if you will :), but I once beta'd an entire 145K word manuscript for someone for whom English was not his first language. It was a brilliant thriller and I think I helped him get things worked around so that each character had a distinct voice.

Karen, I respect you IMMENSELY for doing that--I would do it too--but I can imagine what a long slog it would be if, aside from any other issues, the English wasn't very good to start with.

yoghurtelf
01-17-2012, 05:52 PM
Considering how long it takes me personally to read an actual book, let alone a book where I'm then having to write up often substantial feedback for the writer, I find it kind of outrageous that often times beta readers don't even get a simple thank you, much less a long paragraph showing some appreciation for the time they gave.

Raula
01-18-2012, 11:46 PM
Since I posted here a few weeks ago, I've tried to become more 'active' in the forum, as far as my busy life will take me. It'll be a long time before I have over 100 posts, but I'd like to think the quality of feedback I provide is better than quantity. I like the SYW forums especially, so thanks for the tip, Maryn.

I am too polite to provide feedback to a Beta reader. I think every beta looks for different things and I take the view that any constructive feedback is better than no feedback. I've never had a Beta come back with an outright slating of my work - I would hate this to happen, though in that case I would perhaps question the reasons behind their judgement so as to better understand why they disliked it. I would never openly challenge the judgement, though :-)

Karen_Junker, I admit, I do lose contact with my betas but that's mainly because all my former projects have been trashed. I have higher hopes for my current one, which is a story I've promised myself I'd write for five years.

Maryn
01-19-2012, 01:31 AM
Raula, if anyone gets anything from this thread (not counting offense), then I'm delighted.

Remember, though, you need 50 posts for Share Your Work, not 100. You're pretty close already!

Maryn, aware of the chill today

Pyekett
01-22-2012, 10:00 PM
Maryn, I always forget how draining I find it to offer feedback that disappears into the great void. I keep telling myself "never again," but some masochistic impulse drives me back. (I think it's that I like the sound of my own voice, er, writing.)

Regardless, I've had one great experience here as a beta-ish reader, though the writer disappeared afterward. Not due to me, I assure you. I think.

I'm still polishing my own stuff. It's too rough to send out. But when I do, whether in SYW or privately, I swear by all my teeth any readers will get thanked for their time and interest. It's just such an energy suck for other people when one doesn't even do the basics. Maybe that's a lesson you don't learn except from being on the other side, and it may be relatively rare for those who ask for help to have been giving it routinely.

Bufty
02-26-2012, 05:13 PM
'bumped'

underthecity
02-29-2012, 05:43 PM
It's been a while since I read this thread, so I don't know if this has been covered or not.

Does anyone balk at beta-reading anyone's work if that person's post count is below fifty? Reason is, and maryn mentioned it in the first post (quoted above), "you're new here." I personally would rather beta-read someone who's been around AW for a while, posted in other forums (besides Announcements), and has possibly posted and critted in SYW already. There's nothing much more aggravating than beta-reading someone's manuscript and then having that person disappear from AW forever. I don't want to sound selfish, but if I beta-read someone's book, then I feel I am just a little vested in the work and would like to see where it and/or that person goes next.

Maryn
02-29-2012, 05:59 PM
My own rule--and I'm the Grinch here--is that either I have to feel that I know the person, like someone who visits the same threads I do several times a day, or they need several hundred posts.

500 is a nice number.

It suggests they're intent on being a part of AW, take their writing seriously, and have probably witnessed critique which borders on harsh. They're not as likely to lash out or disappear if I fail to see the genius in every golden word.

Someone who's invested that much of himself or herself is probably worth my investing so much of myself in improving their work.

Maryn, all about 'me'

LJD
02-29-2012, 07:28 PM
Does anyone balk at beta-reading anyone's work if that person's post count is below fifty? Reason is, and maryn mentioned it in the first post (quoted above), "you're new here." I personally would rather beta-read someone who's been around AW for a while, posted in other forums (besides Announcements), and has possibly posted and critted in SYW already. There's nothing much more aggravating than beta-reading someone's manuscript and then having that person disappear from AW forever. I don't want to sound selfish, but if I beta-read someone's book, then I feel I am just a little vested in the work and would like to see where it and/or that person goes next.

If someone doesn't have 50 posts, I won't even consider it.
And there seems to be a number of posts in this forum from such people.

quicklime
02-29-2012, 07:49 PM
If someone doesn't have 50 posts, I won't even consider it.
And there seems to be a number of posts in this forum from such people.


most of them don't read the stickies though either..... :cry:


in qlh it is the same....the folks who are newest are least likely to have checked them. part of that is sort of intuitive, they were here the least amount of time, part is they are in a different mindset--a lot of the time people just getting started want to grab a beta/query and get the hell out, and haven't quite settled into the notion writing is a long-term craft and marathon, rather than a sprint to publication and riches.

I don't see a way to avoid this, other than gentle suggestions to read the stickies.

Friendly Frog
03-02-2012, 02:37 AM
A question, purely out curiosity, if you don't mind. :)

Do most of the members here who beta-read scrutinise people's posting history before even considering to beta for them? While I understand that people with a higher postcount have better chances of finding a beta-reader, it is awefully easy to bump up postcounts by posting a welcome to every new member for instance.

quicklime
03-02-2012, 04:40 AM
A question, purely out curiosity, if you don't mind. :)

Do most of the members here who beta-read scrutinise people's posting history before even considering to beta for them? While I understand that people with a higher postcount have better chances of finding a beta-reader, it is awefully easy to bump up postcounts by posting a welcome to every new member for instance.


i'm sure it varies, but in general I think people start to recognize screen names, rather than looking to see there's 1000 posts, and deciding from that....

i don't really beta, but even in checking queries and things, if I recognize someone as the PITA from another section for example, I tend to be much more likely to leave the thread

Maryn
03-02-2012, 06:14 AM
Same here. It's not like I look and think, Oh, he's got 76 posts, he's sticking around. It's more like I look and think, Oh, it's that Friendly Frog person who's so nice/funny/helpful at Board X. Yeah, what the heck, let me give it a look.

The names of people who race toward a high-enough post count don't register with me at all, not until they've got a whole lot of posts anyway. And then, when I know that name but know nothing about who they are, I'm likely to realize this is a person who just posted a bunch of one-word replies to get that number up.

But someone who's been kind and thoughtful, who's attempted to engage? Whole different story.

The same is true of someone who's been nasty. If I think they're a jerk, any name recognition is entirely negative.

Maryn, who doesn't beta as much as she could or should

LJD
03-02-2012, 08:21 AM
A question, purely out curiosity, if you don't mind. :)

Do most of the members here who beta-read scrutinise people's posting history before even considering to beta for them? While I understand that people with a higher postcount have better chances of finding a beta-reader, it is awefully easy to bump up postcounts by posting a welcome to every new member for instance.

I generally have a quick look at someone's recent post history. Takes all of 2-3 minutes. Sometimes I am familiar enough with the person from the boards that I don't need to do this.

The main reason I don't beta a great deal, despite being off work right now and having a ton of time, is that there are very few requests for betas for things I'm interested in reading. So if I see one of these rare requests for a genre of interest, I do a quick look at the person's recent history, look at any of his/her threads in SYW, and sent a message. I'm not too picky, but I don't promise to read beyond 3 chapters if I haven't seen a sample of the person's work before. I do have a post in the willing beta readers thread, but I haven't gotten many messages based on that post lately, perhaps because it's several pages back. And when I do have someone message me, it's usually on the fringe of what I'm interested in.

Edit: I wanted to add that I have never responded to someone asking for a mentor. Not only because I'm not experienced enough to be a "mentor", but because most of the posts asking for mentors usually rub me the wrong way. Just something I've ntoiced.

K.B.R.
03-02-2012, 08:26 AM
I had a question similar to Friendly Frog's...I was all set to ask for 1, 2, or even 3 beta readers to take a look at my urban fantasy novel (I'm thinking of self-publishing later this year) but I got a little scared off after finding this thread and reading a few posts. I've been a member of AW for years, but I don't post much because... well, I only post when I think I have something to say or add to the discussion, but that doesn't mean I don't take my writing seriously. I often just read posts to learn, and I really don't see the point of submitting a reply to simply say "yeah, I agree with so-and-so" or "hey! how're you doing?" In other words, I do consider myself a good AW citizen, but I don't have a hundred, or even fifty, AW posts under my belt. I've been critiqued before--sometimes harshly--but I always consider what people have to say. And even when I disagree, I always thank a person for their time. Hell, it takes less than half a minute to type "thank you for your time." It doesn't shock, but it does sadden me to read the posts of some of you who have beta-read for dozens but only received one or two thank-you's in return. I guess I can't blame you for being extra-extra-careful when choosing for whom to beta-read next, if anyone.

Beatrice Dunne
03-02-2012, 10:54 AM
Why I don't want you to beta-read my novel:

Because you'll expect me to read yours, it'll begin as advertised but turn into something so off the wall strange that I have no idea what I'm reading -- let alone how to critique it -- you'll expect quid pro quo and in fact tally the results as someone would keep score of a baseball game, and disappear when you perceive that you didn't get what you gave. Published authors are especially good at this. And I don't like someone to whom I've just given a completed ms, who has connections in the writing/publishing community, turning me into an unperson. For all these reasons, I will never again share a complete, stand-alone work with anyone who isn't a literary agent.

poetinahat
03-02-2012, 11:07 AM
Welcome to AW.

Polenth
03-02-2012, 11:23 AM
I had a question similar to Friendly Frog's...I was all set to ask for 1, 2, or even 3 beta readers to take a look at my urban fantasy novel (I'm thinking of self-publishing later this year) but I got a little scared off after finding this thread and reading a few posts. I've been a member of AW for years, but I don't post much because... well, I only post when I think I have something to say or add to the discussion, but that doesn't mean I don't take my writing seriously.

Most times, I could tell you who has a low post count from reading the content of the post. If a low post person avoids the mistakes, I'll assume they've been lurking. If a longer-term poster makes those same mistakes, I'm putting them in the 'flee now, while you have the chance' category. So don't feel you shouldn't post because your post count is low. But do make sure you have a feel for the best way to ask and take a little time over drafting your request.

Some danger signs I look for...

* Failing to describe the manuscript. There are different levels of detail that work, but failing to provide even a genre and word count is not a good sign.

* Using poor grammar and spelling in the post. This implies the manuscript will be just as bad.

* Saying they want validation, encouragement and other warm fuzzies. Betaing is about getting up to publication standard. It's not recommended for anyone who needs a boost, because the truth may not be nice.

* Asking for mentors rather than betas. Most people here are beginners, and those who aren't will want to get to know someone before anything that serious.

* Asking for writing partners rather than betas. Another role where you really want to know a person before offering. Also, writing something with someone has legal implications.

* Asking for a full-time forever relationship rather than a once-off read. Again, this is something you do with someone you've got to know a bit.

* Wanting someone they can contact constantly about the manuscript. Most people are looking to go through the manuscript once. They don't want to sign up as someone's BFF.

* Not offering to beta anything in exchange. There's more than one way to give back to the community. Others include critiquing in SYW and being an active community member. But at one post, a person hasn't done that.... so it's nice if they show a willingness to give something too.

* Posting 'witty' things that insult potential betas. Jokes are generally best avoided in beta requests, especially if they're aimed at any particular group of people.

mccardey
03-02-2012, 11:23 AM
Why I don't want you to beta-read my novel:

Because you'll expect me to read yours, it'll begin as advertised but turn into something so off the wall strange that I have no idea what I'm reading -- let alone how to critique it -- you'll expect quid pro quo and in fact tally the results as someone would keep score of a baseball game, and disappear when you perceive that you didn't get what you gave. Published authors are especially good at this. And I don't like someone to whom I've just given a completed ms, who has connections in the writing/publishing community, turning me into an unperson. For all these reasons, I will never again share a complete, stand-alone work with anyone who isn't a literary agent.
Oh, I'm so subscribing to this thread now :evil

Bufty
03-02-2012, 04:03 PM
Welcome, Beatrice.

If a genuinely commercially published author offered to beta read your manuscript you should consider yourself lucky - and I doubt such a beta reader would be seeking or expecting reciprocity from an beginner or unpublished writer.

We are talking about beta readers obtained via the request thread.



Why I don't want you to beta-read my novel:

Because you'll expect me to read yours, it'll begin as advertised but turn into something so off the wall strange that I have no idea what I'm reading -- let alone how to critique it -- you'll expect quid pro quo and in fact tally the results as someone would keep score of a baseball game, and disappear when you perceive that you didn't get what you gave. Published authors are especially good at this. And I don't like someone to whom I've just given a completed ms, who has connections in the writing/publishing community, turning me into an unperson. For all these reasons, I will never again share a complete, stand-alone work with anyone who isn't a literary agent.

quicklime
03-02-2012, 04:56 PM
Why I don't want you to beta-read my novel:

Because you'll expect me to read yours, it'll begin as advertised but turn into something so off the wall strange that I have no idea what I'm reading -- let alone how to critique it -- you'll expect quid pro quo and in fact tally the results as someone would keep score of a baseball game, and disappear when you perceive that you didn't get what you gave. Published authors are especially good at this. And I don't like someone to whom I've just given a completed ms, who has connections in the writing/publishing community, turning me into an unperson. For all these reasons, I will never again share a complete, stand-alone work with anyone who isn't a literary agent.


"especially good"? So, in other words, you have not just one, but several experiences where this has happened? Enough with both pubbed authors and unpubbed that you can start to make statistical generalizations?

Minus some additional information, call me dubious.

Amadan
03-02-2012, 05:21 PM
Why I don't want you to beta-read my novel:

Because you'll expect me to read yours, it'll begin as advertised but turn into something so off the wall strange that I have no idea what I'm reading -- let alone how to critique it -- you'll expect quid pro quo and in fact tally the results as someone would keep score of a baseball game, and disappear when you perceive that you didn't get what you gave. Published authors are especially good at this. And I don't like someone to whom I've just given a completed ms, who has connections in the writing/publishing community, turning me into an unperson. For all these reasons, I will never again share a complete, stand-alone work with anyone who isn't a literary agent.


Huh. One post, just to post that. Me smells a grudge.

K.B.R.
03-02-2012, 06:58 PM
Most times, I could tell you who has a low post count from reading the content of the post. If a low post person avoids the mistakes, I'll assume they've been lurking. If a longer-term poster makes those same mistakes, I'm putting them in the 'flee now, while you have the chance' category. So don't feel you shouldn't post because your post count is low. But do make sure you have a feel for the best way to ask and take a little time over drafting your request.

Thank you, Polenth -- That's helpful, and makes me feel better about asking.

Ari Meermans
03-02-2012, 07:26 PM
Huh. One post, just to post that. Me smells a grudge.

It looks that way.


When I reached the post requirement for SYW, I didn't have anything to share. (I'm also shy about showing my dreck.) I really wanted to contribute and be a part of the community, though. So, I answered a few calls for betas. I'll just say it was an eye-opening experience. At the time, I didn't think their being new to the forum mattered. I still don't, but the experience taught me to check post histories to see how folks interact within the community before offering to beta or offering crits in SYW.

Now, when I see a piece in SYW I love and the authors have responded well to all critters--whether or not I was one--I offer to beta when the work is ready. I've made two offers and they've both been received gratefully and enthusiastically. I am looking forward to reading those novels. Yes, I am.

I've been a voracious reader for more than 50 years, and I'd love to beta your (general "your") work if you've got the professional attitude to go along with an amazing story. But, here's the thing, the first exhibition of hubris--no matter how long you've been a member--will see me exiting your threads in record time.

Beatrice Dunne
03-03-2012, 11:26 PM
Excuse me? I haven't posted, or lurked in almost a year, because I've had other tasks at hand besides contributing to the world's oversupply of unsellable fiction. I see things haven't changed. Shoot first, don't ask questions, and wait for the drama to play out. That's another reason why I don't want you to read my novel. The sniping, and the guilty until proven guilty presumptions, dilute the value of any criticism that might be offered.

mccardey
03-03-2012, 11:33 PM
Why I don't want you to beta-read my novel:

Because you'll expect me to read yours, it'll begin as advertised but turn into something so off the wall strange that I have no idea what I'm reading -- let alone how to critique it -- you'll expect quid pro quo and in fact tally the results as someone would keep score of a baseball game, and disappear when you perceive that you didn't get what you gave. Published authors are especially good at this. And I don't like someone to whom I've just given a completed ms, who has connections in the writing/publishing community, turning me into an unperson. For all these reasons, I will never again share a complete, stand-alone work with anyone who isn't a literary agent.
Don't you think that initial post of yours was just a teensy bit of the
guilty until proven guilty ilk? Sure, this thread sometimes gets a bit of a snarky tone - but most of the people posting in it have already proven themselves to be generally kind, thoughtful and positive and committed to AW. You've come in a little bit out-of-nowhere and, well, cross-sounding.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. :evil


ETA: 7:09. That ended fast. And I'd just made a cup of coffee and everything.

firedrake
03-03-2012, 11:39 PM
Excuse me? I haven't posted, or lurked in almost a year, because I've had other tasks at hand besides contributing to the world's oversupply of unsellable fiction. I see things haven't changed. Shoot first, don't ask questions, and wait for the drama to play out. That's another reason why I don't want you to read my novel. The sniping, and the guilty until proven guilty presumptions, dilute the value of any criticism that might be offered.


I kinda get the impression I wouldn't want to beta read for someone with a major chip on their shoulder anyway.

Have a nice day.

Sophia
03-03-2012, 11:42 PM
Excuse me? I haven't posted, or lurked in almost a year, because I've had other tasks at hand besides contributing to the world's oversupply of unsellable fiction.

Meaning that now, you don't have those other tasks at hand, and so can concentrate on contributing to the world's oversupply of unsellable fiction, right? Right? Because, obviously, you've read the Newbie Guide and know that the other interpretation of your comment is not going to fly, here?

KatieJ
03-03-2012, 11:53 PM
Oh, I'm so subscribing to this thread now :evil

It will probably fizzle out. *sigh* It seems whenever I find a potentially interesting thread with fireworks and all, it either fizzles out or gets locked.

*scuffing my Keds in the sand* I miss out on all the fun.

regdog
03-04-2012, 12:04 AM
Excuse me? I haven't posted, or lurked in almost a year, because I've had other tasks at hand besides contributing to the world's oversupply of unsellable fiction. I see things haven't changed. Shoot first, don't ask questions, and wait for the drama to play out. That's another reason why I don't want you to read my novel. The sniping, and the guilty until proven guilty presumptions, dilute the value of any criticism that might be offered.

You may be a member her for more than a year but you truly need to read the Newbie's Guide (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66315) and you also need to remember the first rule of Absolute Write is to Respect Your Fellow Writer.

Pyekett
03-04-2012, 12:07 AM
KatieJ, I can be controversial for you.

Peas on a knife? Yes. Drink out of the orange juice container? Yes. Toilet seat cover up or down? Rip it off.

Hah. Sparks will fly.



(I also advocate for waiting to merge until the point of cleavage.)

MacAllister
03-04-2012, 12:09 AM
It will probably fizzle out. *sigh* It seems whenever I find a potentially interesting thread with fireworks and all, it either fizzles out or gets locked.

*scuffing my Keds in the sand* I miss out on all the fun.

Oh, LOOK! Our antagonistic new arrival shares an IP with someone already banned for trolling, once before (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5688555#post5688555)!

Quelle surprise.

KatieJ
03-04-2012, 12:12 AM
Peas on a knife, only with honey.

Drink out of orange juice container, absolutely. The milk container.... *Yuck*

Toilet seat up or down, you have obviously never sat in a toilet in the middle of the night because you trusted somebody to put it down...

*ding, ding, ding* Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!:D

Ari Meermans
03-04-2012, 12:14 AM
Oh, LOOK! Our antagonistic new arrival shares an IP with someone already banned for trolling, once before (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5688555#post5688555)!

Quelle surprise.

*le sigh* I'm usually better at seeing that coming.

Pyekett
03-04-2012, 12:15 AM
I can debate the lack of a relevant or consistent definition of "natural" in regards to the depth and breadth of human sexuality?


*poking at the tinderbox hopefully*

...
*sigh*


ADDED: AHA!

Pyekett
03-04-2012, 12:25 AM
KatieJ, tarnation, the problem is right there with "trusting people." You have to learn to get out of that habit. I do believe the best way to do this is not only to rip the damn thing off to begin with, but to leave a carefully prepared and hermetically sealed tinderbox in a cubbyhole next to the toilet. This, my friend, is for you and yours to set your own arse on fire afore you commence to any bidness in the previously referenced recepticle.

Honestly, any untoward and unexpected ablutions won't have nearly the element of shock and surprise so much as blessed and exquisite relief.

(I have used this approach to much good effect throughout a long and illustrious life. Can't get anyone to live with me for long, though. Can't sit down, neither.)


Added: My point being: trust nobody. Not even yourself. For god's sake, if you'd do that to yourself, what on earth or the heavens above is someone else likely to do to you?

Here contentment lies.




This post dedicated to the AW Western Contest (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=238953), where there are many such tales of derring-do. Go sit a spell--or not, if one is afire with the true grit of the Way of No Lid--and have a read.

KatieJ
03-04-2012, 02:23 AM
Derail


....to leave a carefully prepared and hermetically sealed tinderbox in a cubbyhole next to the toilet. This, my friend, is for you and yours to set your own arse on fire.... You know, I froze to a toilet seat in Iceland when I was eight years old. You may have triggered a relapse to that black night. But my sides hurt too much from laughing to be sure.


(I have used this approach to much good effect throughout a long and illustrious life. Can't get anyone to live with me for long, though. Can't sit down, neither.) Can't imagine that :D


This post dedicated to the AW Western Contest (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=238953), where there are many such tales of derring-do. Go sit a spell--or not, if one is afire with the true grit of the Way of No Lid--and have a read. Yes! and three cheers for Harry!

/derail